Two of the world's major auto makers' extremely poor judgment and delayed responses to car troubles have turned out to be deadly decisions.
Both Toyota and GM cast a spotlight on just how bad crisis management can get when large corporations are dealing with tough decisions involving money versus public safety.
In Toyota's case, the car maker knowingly deceived the public and regulators while handling customer complaints about unintentional acceleration due to two reported safety issues years ago.
In 2009 the car maker issued a limited recall in order to address what was supposed to be the root problem of inadvertent acceleration due to a mismatched floor mat that was prone to trapping the gas pedal.
However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims it was deceived by Toyota since the company did not disclose there were other vehicles with similar design features making them prone to the same problem.
Later that year a family of four died in a car crash caused by that problem. Toyota Motors recently agreed to pay penalties amounting to $1.2 billion as settlement for a four-year criminal probe that stemmed from safety issues of its vehicles in that incident.
With General Motors, the company knew about an ignition switch problem initially discovered in 2004, but it was not until 2007 that the company redesigned the faulty switch. However, the company did not recall any of its vehicles affected by this issue until February of this year - recalling a total of 1.37 million vehicles. The automaker later admitted 12 deaths and 31 frontal crashes were linked to the faulty ignition switch.
Crisis management is where the rubber meets the road for big companies and where CEOs oftentimes really earn their big paychecks. In the two aforementioned cases, and many more just like them, putting profit before people, savings before safety and ultimately a company's brand name and bottom line over the truth, is a recipe for disaster.
In the end the damage done to auto manufacturers, and to the industry as a whole, winds up being far greater than any loss endured if they had they tackled the problems at their root. And more important is that lives lost would have been saved.
Here's to hoping the auto industry is paying close attention to the cases involving Toyota and GM and the lessons learned are taken to heart