As is his want, today U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, testifying before Congress on the Toyota recall, said that if anyone owned a Toyota, they should “stop driving it.” Immediately afterward, Toyota’s stock price fell nearly 8%, adding to the almost $30 billion hit the carmaker has taken since the recall on faulty gas pedals began.
Toyota has been under an amazing swarm of bad press and it’ll be a long, hard road back to redemption and better image reputation. What’s different about today’s mini-crisis public relations drama, though, is that Toyota quickly shored up its position, and in a way that may have pivoted LaHood to be more sensitive when he speaks about the carmaker.
To Toyota’s benefit, LaHood clarified his remarks and said he meant to refer only to recalled models, not the entire Toyota fleet. Toyota smartly followed up with its own statement that struck the right tone, which thanked LaHood for the clarification. Instead of being combative and harsh, Toyota took the high road, and by doing so let LaHood save face. This simple, delicate move by Toyota will keep LaHood from going off-script in his public statements, making it unlikely that the nation’s top transportation official is going to attack the company any time soon.