Poor communication in the wake of crisis can quickly lead to catastrophe
Takata, the company behind the faulty airbags that have led to widespread vehicle recalls, was already taking serious heat from its clients. Now, allegations from former employees that executives ordered technicians to destroy the results of tests conducted on the airbags after a 2004 accident really has Takata under the microscope.
Allegations such as these require a rapid response, or stakeholders will quickly assume your guilt. Takata failed to offer even a holding statement to major media outlets, and share price took a quick hit.
After nearly a week, Takata finally began showing signs of a crisis management effort, but it was far from ideal. Try wading through this wordy statement:
We regret that Al Bernat, a Senior Vice President of Quality Assurance at the Takata Corporation, has had his integrity unfairly questioned on the basis of two anonymous sources in a New York Times November 6, 2014 article by reporter Hiroko Tabuchi. Despite the New York Times’ claim that Mr. Bernat is no longer employed by Takata, he remains an important member of our engineering team. Moreover, while the Company will not comment on the details of anonymous allegations, the allegations contained in the article are fundamentally inaccurate, including those made concerning Mr. Bernat.
Mr. Bernat has been with Takata for over 23 years and has been active in the automotive industry for 44 years. For three decades Mr. Bernat has served as an executive in the field of automotive safety and has been a senior member of the Automotive Safety Council (ASC). Mr. Bernat is recognized as an authority in automotive safety and has been a member of the Industry Blue Ribbon Committee made up of experts in safety systems focusing on impaired driver technologies.
Takata takes very seriously the accusations made in this article and we are cooperating and participating fully with the government investigation now underway. The company continues to work closely with automakers and federal regulators to address the issues related to airbags and to provide the replacements needed.
For over 80 years, Takata has manufactured products aimed at keeping people safe. Our innovations in automotive safety are responsible for saving thousands of lives each year. Our company is determined to correct any product issues that have arisen and to continue improving our technologies to keep the driving and riding public safe.
Considering the public narrative up until now has been one of incompetence and lack of cooperation, this self-congratulating statement, completely lacking compassion for those injured or killed as a result of their product malfunctioning, didn’t do much to change stakeholder’s minds.
U.S. officials and lawmakers are already clamoring for an investigation, but the real test will come in the court of public opinion, where a failure to communicate properly could easily put the company’s future in jeopardy.
The BCM Blogging Team