The Volkswagen #Dieselgate scandal might be ruling the automotive news now, but it is far from the first time an automaker has been at the heart of a fiasco. Audi, Ford, and Toyota have all been in the news for all the wrong reasons in the past. How they handled their crisis in the past can teach VW a lot about what they should do today.
Take a trip back to the 1970s and the news was full of outrage over the Ford Pinto’s fuel tank. It had a nasty tendency to explode when the car was rear-ended. The scandal came when it was revealed that they new about the problem and decided it was cheaper to settle lawsuits for death and injuries rather than execute repairs. The public was none too happy with Ford.
Fast forward to 1986 and Audi was in the news for unintended acceleration, which was a problem Toyota would face in 2002. According to BestRide, the Audis were found to have a gas and brake pedal that were close together causing human error. It lead to today’s shift interlocks which require a foot on the brake to put a car in gear. Toyota’s problem came down to floor mats getting caught in the accelerator, but their cover-up of the facts got them a $1.2 billion fine and another $1.2 billion class action lawsuit settlement.
Ford was in the news again in 2000 for the propensity of its Explorer to roll over on a whim. The problem came down to tread separation in 15-inch Firestone Wilderness tires, but the damage was done. Tire pressure monitoring systems, rollover standards, and vehicle stability control standards all came to rise because of the Explorer. Ford’s long relationship with Firestone also came to an end.
The lesson? Admit the screw up, don’t make excuses, and fix the problem as quickly as possible. Let’s see if VW learns from history.