Given Toyota’s frequent presence in the news, I thought it would be interesting to see what the chatter looks like online. It’s easy to trend the volume of Toyota-related conversations occurring on blog posts, message boards, and Twitter with freely available tools. In doing this analysis, I focused on three key dates (Source: Wikipedia):
November 2, 2009: 3.8M Toyotas and Lexuses recalled for driver’s side floor mats
January 21, 2010: 2.3M Toyotas recalled due to faulty accelerator pedals
January 27, 2010: 1.1M Toyota added to floor mat recall
Blog posts mentioning “toyota” spiked in late November, 2.5 weeks after the first major recall. The accelerator pedal recall in January caused toyota-related posts to rise to a consistently higher level.
On message boards, the amended floor mat recall seems to have been the catalyst to really get the chatter going. It also caused discussions regarding “toyota recall” and “toyota safety” to rise, reflecting perhaps more widespread anxiety.
Toyota-related volume on Twitter follows big news stories, with huge spikes that last one or two days. Lately, however, that chatter remains consistently higher than in the preceding six months.
Of course, this only shows that Toyota is being discussed. In order to gauge negative sentiment, we can use the phrase “Toyota sucks” to see how the company is faring against other brands. For this comparison, I chose General Motors, which had consumer image issues even before receiving the government bailout. The chart below shows that Toyota’s negative sentiment on blogs in late 2009 trailed that of GM, even after the initial floor mat recall. By January, however, as additional recalls were issued, Toyota’s negative sentiment matched that of GM.
The story get worse on message boards, where the phrase “Toyota sucks” has recently far exceeded that of “GM sucks.” This is astounding – GM’s negative sentiment was created over nearly two decades of poor product followed by the government bailout. In only a few months, the consumer vitriol leveled against Toyota has far exceeded that of the battered domestic company.
It wasn’t the first recall... It wasn’t even the second recall... It was continuous bad news emanating from Toyota that finally drove a groundswell of online conversation, some of which is clearly negative... If the company can truly get a handle of its issues, we will probably see the chatter die down as consumers move on to something else... But any more problems will keep everyone talking, both online and offline, and that’s not a good thing for Toyota.
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