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Toyota Will Push Safety in New Ad Campaign

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On: Thu, Sep 9, 2010 at 10:09AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Toyota Will Push Safety in New Ad Campaign

Toyota Motor Corp. has decided to completely revise its marketing philosophy to focus on safety “in a big way,” according to top company executives. With its image still damaged and sales declining by 34% in August (down 1% for the year), Toyota is the only automaker posting overall declining sales numbers this year.

Executives at Toyota report that they believe the number one problem that consumers are having is focused on safety issues, so the company plans to overcome that negative perception with a new advertising campaign.

Toyota was considered number one when it came to safety and reliability, as well as value, but many loyal Toyota buyers and others are now skeptical as to whether or not the Toyota brand is really deserving of the label of “safety first.”

According to Bob Carter, Toyota General Manager: "What we're dealing with is a perception issue, and brand perceptions are not brand realities." Carter also stated: "If a customer has removed us from their consideration list, it was because of a perception of Toyota safety."

Over 12 million vehicles have been recalled since November of 2009—10.5 million of those in the U.S., mostly for complaints of unintended acceleration or “sticky gas pedals.”

This past January, 8 models were suspended as a result of allegations of sticky throttle pedals, incorrectly installed floor mats, and other issues concerning unintended acceleration. Although federal regulators have reported that they cannot find any evidence of an electronic problem in Toyota vehicles, consumers continue to doubt the safety of Toyota and Lexus cars, trucks, and SUVs

Carter said, "If you look at various attributes of cars—performance, handling, and value—those are set like a volume knob [on a stereo] by consumers." Carter also stated in an interview, "But safety, that's a light switch. Either you have it or you don't."

The only details that have been released about the contents of the safety ads are that the “Star Safety System” will be featured. This system includes the enhanced VSC, vehicle stability control, and traction control systems, along with antilock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, and brake assist.

Bill Fay, who took over in May as Toyota group vice president of marketing, stated: "We're going to evolve from kind-of apologizing to being a bit more confident and reassuring in the QDR [quality, durability and reliability] that got us this far."

Analysts say that Toyota’s percentage of customers that shop only for Toyota has remained the same, but those shopping for consideration of a Toyota purchase that were not historically brand loyal, show significantly lower sales numbers this year.

"We need to make an emotional connection with people who own or are considering our product. We need to address the concerns of the customer, based on what we've been through this year," said Fay regarding the new ad campaign.

Fay reports that the safety campaign would most likely run well into 2011: "This is not a short-term thing where we run an execution or two." Fay said, "We still have QDR. We just have to assure customers that's the case."


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