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Will we Witness Toyota Gain or Lose Trust?

Toyota is curiously sitting at no. 7 in Millward Brown’s top-10 list of most trusted brands as Congress spent the better half of the week giving Toyota a tongue-lashing for its handling and mishandling of the automaker’s quality control crisis.

The study’s authors readily point out that the data was collected over the course of 2009 and doesn’t reflect Toyota’s current dilemma as it unfurled at the beginning of this year.  The authors also note the automaker could learn from Tylenol, which in 1982 recalled 31 million bottles of pills after seven people were killed in the tampering scare.  That brand, which was forced to recall children’s liquid medicine last year, sits at no. 6 in the study.

Tylenol maker Johnson & Johnson has a history of effectively managing crisis situations, though the FDA earlier this year ridiculed the company for being slow to respond in its most recent crisis.  What this goes to show you, however, is a history of doing the right thing and acting aggressively in a crisis situation can maintain and build trust among stakeholders, consumers in particular.  Trust is fragile, and how you respond in a crisis situation can build and maintain trust, the authors state.

Toyota started off this week with public apologies before Congress.  How it fixes its problems, communicates with stakeholders and develops systems to prevent further lapses will determine if the automaker regains or builds trust, and where it will stand in next year’s report.

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