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February 1, 2010
Toyota's Lentz Takes the Heat, but Lots of Time Passed

How did Jim Lentz do?

Matt Lauer's "Today" interview with Jim Lentz, president and CEO of Toyota USA left us with a queasy feeling that Toyota has a ways to go to "get ahead" of its sticky accelerator issues. Yes, issues. Lentz said there were two of them: entrapment of pedals with floor mats and unintended acceleration.

The latter, and the scariest sounding, was first signaled to the company last October, Lentz said. It's taken a goodly amount of time to understand the problem, establish a fix, train Toyota dealers to provide it, and start shipping the necessary parts (today).  

Toyota's full-out customer relations process begins today. What might have been done sooner, if anything, is for crisis management pros to judge. 

Lentz stayed reasonably unflappable during the "Today" interview, but he finally fell back on a questionable refrain: "I drive Toyotas, my family members drive Toyotas, my friends and neighbors drive Toyotas. I would not have them in products that I knew were not safe."

It's a PR nightmare, to be sure. If you haven't yet seen the "Today" interview, don't miss it. A question in our mind is, Even though a fix wasn't ready, was the announcement of an acceleration problem and guidance on the issue timely enough?


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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