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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Competitor Websites Respond to Toyota Recall Woes



Toyota is gearing up for a March rebound with 0% financing and aggressive lease pricing after taking a 9% hit in year-over-year sales last February due to their very public recalls. Meanwhile everyone is trying to capitalize on Toyota's quality troubles. Late night sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live poked fun at Toyota's issues by putting two people in an unattended accelerating Toyota Prius with the fake ad saying "Ford: We make hybrids too."

Comedic marketing spoofs aside, it is interesting to see how Toyota's competitors are responding to the recalls at their manufacturer websites.

The strongest marketing message comes from General Motors. For example, their Chevy homepage features a promotion tile reading "Special information for Toyota owners/lessses" that is in the most prominent position in the promotion banner ribbon on the page (I say most prominent because users tend to click mostly on links to the far the left as American consumers read left to right.)

Ford also features a nod to the Toyota quality issues but in a more tempered way by promoting a quality claim the brand has been using since last year after a major quality report put Ford on par with Toyota and Honda. The message is more about Ford and less about their competitor Toyota. The promo reads "Learn more about why Ford quality can't be beat by Honda or Toyota."

The only other manufacture website I found promoting a strong quality message on their homepage is Hyundai. Hyundai uses an image from their recent Sonata campaign, "Hyundai Quality: Hyundai Held to a Higher Standard." This approach uses no competitor call-outs, but it certainly can be read as a strategic message to appeal to people cross-shopping Hyundai with Toyota.

The home teams in Japan - Honda, Mazda, and Nissan - make no mention of quality or Toyota on their home pages. Seems local support is strong for the time being.
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