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Toyota: "We're Sorry. Have a Donut."

Posted: Feb 02, 2010 10:53 a.m.

Toyota has a PR problem.  And a solution.  Krispy Kremes. Mmmmmmmm. 

Toyota executives are on a mission to limit fallout from the company’s high-profile decision to halt sales of eight models and recall more than 4 million cars due to a possible problem with unintended acceleration.  The Detroit News reports, “On Sunday, Toyota took out full-page ads in 20 major newspapers to reassure its customers.”  The ad, portraying the sales halt as “a temporary pause to put you first,” called the sales halt “the right thing to do for our customers.”

The company is also working around traditional media.  Toyota USA President Jim Lentz has posted an apology to customers on YouTube

In the message, Kicking Tires reports, “Jim Lentz talks about Toyota’s comprehensive plan for fixing the sticking pedal issues. While he does outline the steps Toyota is taking, the video is more notable for Lentz’s effusive apology.”

No move that could help restore trust is off the table.  In face, Edmunds Inside Line reports, “Lentz said that he and other top Toyota executives will make personal visits to dealerships as the fix is implemented to ‘take the temperature of the customer.’”  Lentz told reporters, “The stock of Krispy Kreme will go up, because we'll be handing out a lot of doughnuts.” 

Only time will tell if delicious glaze is enough to distract owners from their worries about a fiery death.  CBS News speculates, “Just as business school geeks study Toyota as the pinnacle of the Japanese industrial principle of kaizen for constant improvement of product and method, so they will soon study the company's response to this crisis and the technical and engineering causes beneath it.”

Toyota owners are watching, too…and their famous brand loyalty is on the line.

If you're in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars as well as this month's best car deals.