Friday, February 12, 2010

Toyota Apology

I have been trying to find the full text of Toyota's apology for the safety problem that has finally resulted in a massive recall of their vehicles for repair of their accelerators.  Sadly, I fear the full text  consists of this:
“I offer my apologies for the worries,“ [Akio Toyoda] said. “Many customers are wondering whether their cars are OK.“ 
This is shockingly inadequate, as so may apologies these days are.  This lays the problem entirely on  the consumer -- consumer worries and wondering whether their cars are OK, not on Toyota's manufacturing defective cars and its failure to respond immediately to the problem once it was brought to their attention.

This is like the ubiquitous, "If I have offended you by [my saying that you are a fat cow], I am sorry."  This sort of aplogy does not apologize for calling the person a fat cow but for offending him or her, which is entirely different and is consistent with the idea that the listener's being offended is his or her problem, not the speaker's problem.  Mr. Toyoda could have said, "I am sorry that we made defective cars and put your lives in jeopardy," but he didn't.  What is worse, we have here a classic example of "too little; too late."  State Farm reported the problem to the NHTSA in 2007.  Even more disturbing is the fact that NHTSA was getting complaints about acceleration problems in Toyotas in 2003. I have to believe Toyota was the first to know about it but chose to put its head in the sand.  The recall is going to cost $900 million by one estimate.  And they are losing something like $1.55 million per week in sales.  No wonder putting their heads in the sand seemed attractive.

I own a 12-13 year old Toyota pick up that has served me well.  And my wife has a Rav4.  She is a little concerned that she will have accelerator problems.  Her fears are due entirely to the fact that Toyota has been totally unforthcoming about exactly what cars, made when are vulnerable to the problem.

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Blogger Rita said...

I stay away from cars AKA death machines. I consider it is how I've survived thus far.

10:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thx u very much, i learn a lot

4:58 AM

Blogger BackOrder said...


Many apologies nowadays are inadequate and done for all the wrong reasons. I wrote at length about apologies on my blog: Anatomy of an Apology, Contemptuous Apology, and Detecting Deception in an Apology.

I'd be delighted to get feedback from you, since you are a linguist. On Detecting Deception in an Apology in particular.

Best regards,

12:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good point, great writing.

10:42 AM


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