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Anatomy of crisis management: lessons from the infamous Toyota Case

Victor L. Heller (University of Texas‐San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas, USA)
John R. Darling (University of Texas‐San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas, USA)

European Business Review

ISSN: 0955-534X

Article publication date: 2 March 2012




The purpose of this paper is to explore the issue of crisis management within the Toyota Corporation's series of worldwide recalls for multiple malfunctions on a number of different Toyota brands of vehicles. The analysis relates to the difficulty now faced by Toyota, previously recognized as the world's leading manufacturer of automotive vehicles. The crisis became so great that Toyota corporate leaders even traveled from Japan to testify before a US Congressional Committee hearing.


A crisis, typically considered to be a negative issue, can be a positive event in the life of a business firm, such as Toyota, if the management involved seizes the opportunity to make appropriate changes in its operations to facilitate continuing positive growth and development. However, this opportunity was not initially addressed by Toyota in a meaningful way, and the crisis continued to evolve through subsequent stages, bringing a vast array of negative international criticism. The crisis management paradigm that is the focus for this case identifies four stages of a crisis – the preliminary (pre‐) crisis, acute crisis, chronic crisis, and crisis resolution. The present crisis deals with several different malfunctions that were identified, apparently by customers, in various Toyota brands, but publically ignored by Toyota's management. Therefore, the pre‐crisis stage was not appropriately dealt with by Toyota, and the firm was thrust into an acute crisis that has now evolved into a chronic crisis. A brief overview of the historical development of Toyota is presented, and an analysis of the present crisis situation in which the firm found itself is presented in some detail.


It was concluded that Toyota is now in a very difficult position in the chronic crisis stage due to the failure of its management to facilitate a timely response to the malfunctions of its vehicles.


The paper presents an excellent example of crisis mismanagement by a previously recognized world leader.



Heller, V.L. and Darling, J.R. (2012), "Anatomy of crisis management: lessons from the infamous Toyota Case", European Business Review, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 151-168.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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