Toyota Safety Recall: Consumer Concern and Consumer Reaction

Goggle Trends and Google Insights Study
February 2010

  • Objectives: estimate consumer and competitor reactions to Toyota safety recall, using information circulated on the Web and in the news

  • Questions:

- Which of the Toyota safety problems was the cause for greatest concern among consumers?
- Which Toyota model leads to the greatest safety concern?
 How loyal are Toyota consumers? Do they switch to competitor models? Which competitor has the highest probability of acquiring dissatisfied Toyota customers?

  • Assumption:

- We assume that the search is made by a consumer (or potential consumer). Therefore, if a search share for the term “Camry recall” is greater than the search share for the term “Prius recall”, we interpret this as “Camry consumers had greater concern than Prius consumers”


Introduction: Toyota Safety Problems

  • Toyota has stopped selling most of its popular models
  • Toyota is the world’s No. 1 automaker
- The US government has received new complaints alleging 34 deaths in Toyota vehicles due to sudden acceleration since 2000
- When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened its investigation of Prius on February 3, the government had received 124 consumer complaints. By February 11, it had received 1120 complaints alleging 34 crashes with six injuries but no deaths. Therefore, the number of complaints about Toyota Prius grew by nearly 1000 in little more than a week 
- Three congressional hearings are planned on the Toyota recalls
- Toyota has recalled 8.5 million vehicles globally during the past four months because of problems with accelerator pedals, floor mats and brakes
- People intending to buy a new Toyota declined by 12% in January, 2010:

However, vehicle recall is not a rare event in automotive industry.
Over the last three years we've seen 23 million recalls, and the vast  majority were not Toyota:

Introduction: Toyota Safety Problems

  • Models involved Sticking accelerator pedal recall:
- Certain 2009-2010 RAV4*, Certain 2009-2010 Corolla*, 2009-2010 Matrix, 2005-2010 Avalon, Certain 2007-2010 Camry*, Certain 2010 Highlander*, 2007-2010 Tundra, 2008-2010 Sequoia

*Highlander hybrids and Camry hybrids are not involved.  Further, Camry, RAV 4, Corolla and Highlander  with VINs that begin with "J" are not involved too.

  • Floor mat pedal entrapment recall:
2007 - 2010 Camry, 2005 - 2010 Avalon, 2004 - 2009 Prius, 2005 - 2010 Tacoma, 2007 - 2010 Tundra, 2008 - 2010 Highlander, 2009 - 2010 Corolla, 2009 - 2010 Venza, 2009 - 2010 Matrix

  • Lexus:
2006 - 2010 IS 250 2006 - 2010 IS 350 2007 - 2010 ES 350

Worldwide Consumer Concern for the Last 12 Months

Google Trends for the search: Toyota recall, Day of search: February 20, 2010, Filters: Worldwide, Last 12 months:
Google Trends for the search: Toyota recall, Day of search: February 20, 2010, Filters: Worldwide, Last 12 months


Google Insights for the search: Toyota recall, Day of search: February 20, 2010, Filters: Worldwide, Last 30 days, Automotive Category
Above: Google Insights for the search: Toyota recall, Day of search: February 20, 2010, Filters: Worldwide, Last 30 days, Automotive Category

Toyota Recall vs. Honda Recall: Reflection in Search and News Reference Volumes

Google Trends: Toyota recall, Honda recall.  Day of search: February 20, 2010, Filters: All regions/USA, Last 30 days
Y-axis: Search Volume Index. It reflects the search volume on a relative scale: one unit corresponds to the total average search traffic of the first search phrase, Toyota recall, in the “last 30 days” time frame. The second search phrase, Honda recall, has approximately 14% of searches of  the first term.
Toyota Recall vs. Honda Recall

Search Interest Exhibits Only Short-Term Consumer Concern in 2010 and Interest Peaks Coincide with Dates of Recall/Problem Announcement

Toyota Recall Google Insights

Search Interest Exhibits Only Short-Term Consumer Concern


Consumer Reaction to Toyota Safety Recall by Type of Problem

Toyota Safety Recall

Competitor Action and Consumer Reaction     GM, Ford, and Hyundai Offer Incentives on Toyota Trade-Ins

Toyota Safety Recall

The Success of the Ford Campaign

Toyota Safety Recall

Conclusions: Google Trends and Google Insights are tools to study the past and present, but not the future

Toyota Safety Recall

  • Goggle Trends and Goggle Insights  have limited ability to answer formulated questions, and in particular, questions about loyalty of Toyota customers
  • The most informative terms like “Ford trade-ins assistance program for Toyota owners” as well as its curtailed counterpart like “Toyota trade-ins Ford” do not produce any search share info due to a small volume of search. Based on the search shares of the shortest possible but still meaningful terms “Toyota Ford”, “Toyota GM”, “Toyota Honda”, etc. the inference is restricted and unreliable
  • The dynamics of the search share is not robust and can be changed dramatically over several consecutive days. For example, on February 26th the share of terms "Ford Toyota trade", "Ford Toyota deals", "Ford Toyota financing“, and “Ford Toyota lease” had "Not enough search volume to show graphs" (message generated by Google Insights), but on February 28th it unexpectedly showed meaningful graphs for each of these terms. Therefore, the date of search is an important parameter for any search share
  • Predictability of the trend in search share can be very low – any significant market event can change the search share significantly. Therefore, the search share can be useful for evaluation of past and present, but not the future.

Conclusions: Toyota Safety Recall

  • Based on the assumption (a search is conducted by a consumer (or potential consumer), we can conclude:
- Spikes in search share and trends correspond to date of recall/problem announcement
- Corolla recall search share has two maxima: the first reflects the pedal recall (Jan 21st), and the second – the power steering problem announcement (Feb 17th).
Total average search traffic is a good measure of relative scale of recall: the ratio of recalled Honda cars to recalled Toyota cars is approximately the same as the ratio of the total average traffic of Honda recall to Toyota recall terms
- The highest concerns about safety recall in the USA were expressed by owners/consumers of Lexus, Camry and Prius
- Among Toyota safety problems, reflected by keywords entrapment, accelerator, mat, pedal, and  sticking the keyword  “Toyota entrapment” had the lowest interest/search share, and “Toyota pedal” had the highest interest/search share
Consumers of Camry, Prius, and Corolla exhibited the highest interest/concern about pedal problems among owners/consumers of all Toyota recalled model    
- Analysis of interest/concern by types of problem, initiated recalls (Floor mat pedal entrapment, Sticking accelerator pedal, and Braking system) suggest that consumers’ main concern is concentrated around the braking system
- The dynamics of search traffic supported the hypothesis that consumer concern was only short-term (two-three weeks) for all types of safety problems, initiated recalls
- The GM campaign to acquire Toyota customers is successful, especially for Chevrolet and GMC models
- Buick and Cadillac are the least attractive to Toyota consumers
- Ford implemented the most successful campaign to acquire Toyota customers among competitors running campaign in 2010. Ford has the highest chance to acquire Toyota customers