They did this by stressing the engineering expertise that the company is well-known for, coupling it with their well-respected Toyota Production System (TPS) which unifies suppliers to their internal supplier quality management standards. It is common knowledge that the TPS is a complex set of processes for coordinating with suppliers, and often requires up to a year of coordination between Toyota and a given supplier before a single product is shipped. The rigorous nature of supplier qualification and the very visible processes in the Japanese auto industry trade media and press presented many potential challenges to the public relations strategies surrounding the launch of hybrid autos globally. To have taken a more controlled approach to public relations on the development of their hybrid assemblies and components supply chain would have been a major strategic error. Instead, Toyota concentrated on being open on all information not confidential and critical to their hybrids' competitive advantage (Rupp, 2007).
This was carefully managed from an organizational public relations standpoint, both to ensure that Toyota emerged as the thought leader for the development of supply chains specifically focused on hybrid technologies, yet also the business acumen of developing reliable suppliers over time to ramp up with anticipated demand. Not surprisingly, the level of openness in the U.S. versus the traditional closed approaches in Japan created cultural challenges within Toyota Motor Company globally during this time.
Both the American and Japanese public relations teams however agreed that the societal implications of Toyota's strategy to launch hybrid automobiles and the extensive development of supply chains, patents, production processes specific to the new technology, and even the development of entirely new factories had to be balanced with societal concerns regarding hybrid vehicle safety and true contribution to the environment. Toyota had the explicit ethical requirement of treating the new product pre-announcement as a promise to be kept to suppliers, channel partners, dealers and most of all, loyal Toyota customers who had been anticipating and asking for a hybrid vehicle. As research has shown, the fulfillment of new product pre-announcements with more than was promised actually has much stronger financial returns that overcomitting and under-delivering (Walker, 1990). Toyota, from a societal standpoint, had to manage expectations very carefully to make sure that once the hybrid vehicles were launched they in fact delivered the MPG ratings promised, and also were capable of being serviced reliably throughout the company's thousands of dealer and service centers in the U.S. And Europe where the initial hybrids were launched. As the hybrids were close to initial production, several dozen were produced and sent to reviewers, auto experts, and to a select group of customers for testing. It was found that the fuel line was very close to the converter and would occasionally smoke, and in one instance, caught on fire. Instead of covering this up, Toyota posted blog entries and even issued a directive to all dealers explaining the design flaw and what they intended to do to fix it. Once fixed, the revised procedures for doing a recall on the several dozen first hybrids were made public. The result was that Toyota's credibility was greatly enhanced and they have since become the most trusted source of hybrid vehicles globally. Only through the combining of organizational public relations programs and strategies with those that were societal and very strategic to Toyota being perceived as trustworthy. The results of these strategies can be seen today in their thought and sales leadership in the area of hybrid cars and SUVs.
The development of an innovative and socially responsible auto by Toyota, relying on their expertise in hybrid technology, shows how critical it is for public relations and communications strategies to be tightly integrated into the overall process. The challenges culturally Toyota had from a global standpoint were overcome due to the need for greater openness and the overcoming of any potential legislation citing monopolistic activity or intentions. By practicing a more concerted and open approach to public relations strategies, Toyota actually made Web 2.0-based technologies including social networking work to their advantage.
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Sarbanes-Oxley Act (2002) - U.S. Senators Sarbanes and Oxley. Passed in 2002 by both U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.…