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Now that Toyota is facing even more recalls, how will the American people react?  More importantly, why do we tend to be a bit more lenient towards the automaker when it seems the nation as a whole is out for blood with the folks from BP, who’s being held accountable for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?  Both are facing PR nightmares and the lawsuit potential continues to grow as more facts about both companies begin to surface.  We asked A. Harrison Barnes, lawyer and founder why we see these two foreign companies from very different perspectives.
The founder says in many ways, it comes down to the attitudes and efforts of both companies.  One, specifically BP, immediately went on the defense while Toyota opted for a more humble approach.  Could it really be that simple, though?
There’s no denying Toyota’s presence on the cutting edge of technology.  It stays connected to its customers via social networking sites and interactive websites.  It keeps its thumb on the public’s pulse and responds in kind.  It immediately went into a proactive mode; unfortunately, BP became reactive and some say even aggressive. Toyota wasted no time in getting its CEO front and center.  Jim Lentz quickly became the face of the crisis, much the way BP’s Tony Hayward did.  Toyota anticipated and wasted no time in its efforts of acknowledging responsibility; however, not so much with BP and its leaders, says A. Harrison Barnes.  Tony Hayward, BP’s face, immediately began complaining of all the sacrifices he was being forced to make and the fact that he wished he could get his life back, too.  Unfortunately, there were eleven families who he insulted with this comment; they had just memorialized the loss of their loved ones during the April 20 explosion.  Further, Hayward was more interested in downplaying the disaster and went so far as to say that he expected a minimal impact on the environment and residents of the Gulf Coast.
Placing blame is never the right choice for a company that’s working to maintain its public image.  Toyota gets it.  BP does not.  As the founder reflects, “These initial approaches will determine how each company is remembered throughout history”.
Toyota wasted no time in its efforts of picking up the pieces.  The company also stepped up its efforts and kept the American public aware, at all times, of every decision it was making and how it would benefit those most affected.  After all, there were millions of recalls of vehicles.  Toyota’s CEO Jim Lentz began taking interviews and was forthcoming in every questioned asked of him.  The transparency, the public approach and the willingness to answer questions during these live interviews as they came in showed a level of commitment we’ve yet to see from BP.  Both can expect heavy legal repercussions for their errors in judgment, says A. Harrison Barnes; it’s what’s left that will determine if they continue to have a respected presence in the American public’s eyes.
Both BP and Toyota are model lessons for those future companies that find themselves in deep water.  One’s example you want to follow and the other’s methods should be part of every company’s manual of what not to do when a company is facing a disaster.

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