Safety Threat -- Here's an example of what can happen if an airbag's inflator explodes, and why it's critical that vehicles affected by the recall get repaired as soon as possible.
TMNA Quality Compliance has a big challenge on its hands. And it’s reaching out to you, and all of your fellow team members, for help.
Over the past few years, you’ve probably seen something in the news about problems with vehicles that rely on airbag inflators made by Takata. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that by the end of next year, 19 automakers — including Toyota — will issue recall notices for some 65-70 million vehicles that have this problematic device. Simply put, it’s the largest vehicle recall in U.S. history.
The potential threat to occupant safety, if left unaddressed, is also high. This is especially true as the vehicles age, and especially if they are operated in a hot and humid climate. If an airbag deploys in one of these vehicles, its inflator could explode — turning a device that’s been designed to protect the vehicle’s occupants into one that could inflict severe and possibly fatal injury.
Quality Compliance has been pulling out the stops to alert Toyota, Scion, and Lexus owners to this potential threat to their safety and to offer a free fix at their local dealerships. And the repair takes only about an hour for most models. The company has sent out dozens of communications pieces to the affected owners, focusing especially on those who live in higher risk areas. So far, about 60 percent of them have responded and brought their vehicles in for repair. That’s second only to Honda among the high-volume manufacturers.
But, given what’s at stake, Toyota is not about to rest on those laurels.
“If this were a recall of newer vehicles, owned by customers who purchased them recently and service them at Toyota or Lexus dealerships, we could expect to get well over 90 percent completion,” says Jason Kistner, manager of campaign administration in Quality Compliance. “But in this case, many of the vehicles are as much as 15 years old. They could easily be on their third or fourth owners — in many cases people who’ve never set foot in a Toyota dealership. That makes them much more difficult to find. And, when we do find them, it makes it more difficult to convince them that the repair really is free and it’s not some scheme to try to sell them other services.”
Spreading the Word -- TMNA Quality Compliance Field Information Manager Lee Smith (left) and FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) Vehicle Safety Field Operations Manager Kimberly Gendron greet attendees at the AVANCE-Dallas Latino Street Fair earlier this year, helping to raise awareness about the recall. Smith invited her counterpart to join forces at this grassroots event in the spirit of a collaborative response to this recall.
It’s a Matter of Trust
At its essence, then, continuing to make progress on this critical recall is a matter of trust. If people who the owners trust tell them that they really do need to get their vehicles fixed, they’ll be much more likely to act. That’s why Kistner and his team have begun to reach out to these owners’ social networks in hopes they can help spread the word.
For example, Quality Compliance recently began partnering with Social Innovation and its “Buckle Up for Life” program. This outreach effort provides child-passenger safety education and resources to families at various community events. Now, in addition to shining a spotlight on the fact that one in three children ride unrestrained, “Buckle Up for Life” representatives also ask participants if their vehicles’ airbags have been repaired.
Similarly, Quality Compliance— in collaboration with TODOS — sponsored a booth at this year’s AVANCE-Dallas Latino Street Fair that interacted with many of the event’s 15,000 attendees with giveaways of car safety items, gift cards, Toyota-branded sunscreen, recall handouts, and a balloon artist to engage families. Every two hours, Toyota’s recall message was conveyed in Spanish from the fair’s main stage.
“It was a great opportunity to help build our relationship with the Hispanic community,” says Lee Smith, Quality Compliance field information manager. “We learned a lot about how best to build trust through community events. That’s going to help us as we seek to engage with other community partners.”
In other words, this is just the beginning. Lee says the team has begun to enlist the help of Toyota dealers who are far better connected with groups and organizations — such as schools, churches, and the media — in their local communities. And they’re leveraging the power of social media, such as by delivering recall messaging through Facebook users’ newsfeeds.
Depending on the communications channel, vehicle owners are directed either to Toyota specific websites or to two digital resources for more information: an Airbag Recall App, that can be found by going to the Apple App Store or Google Play; and a website
that’s presented in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
You Have a Role to Play
This is where you and your fellow team members can also get into the act as ambassadors of the brand. Start by using the microsite to become better familiar with the key issues. Then actively share this vital information with friends and family in your social networks. Recommend they use the app to check their vehicles and, if needed, urge them to have the free repair performed immediately. And the app works for non-Toyota brand models as well. In this potential life-saving context, your direct personal connection really could make all the difference.
“The more you learn about this recall, the more compelled you become to do something about it,” says Kistner. “We really are exploring every means to reach out to people who might be at risk. But we, and they, can use all the help we can get. There are 37,000 team members in North America. If each of them shared this information with just a few of the people they know who might be affected, it could make a huge difference.”
By Dan Miller