GM’s Crisis Management

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    High marks for the automaker’s crisis management

    Late last month, General Motors sparked comparisons to Toyota’s recent troubles when it announced that small electrical fires had occurred in some Chevy Volts during the course of testing. Unlike Toyota, however, GM quickly got out in front of the story, as described in this quote from an LA Times article by Jerry Hirsch:

    As federal safety officials began investigating the cause of fires that followed test crashes of its Chevrolet Volt electric vehicles, GM shifted into communications overdrive, trotting out senior executives and engineers to talk about the issue and launching a customer-care initiative.

    Analysts say the Detroit automaker wants to be sure it is not seen as sitting on its hands and downplaying a safety issue — a trap Toyota fell into after a deadly 2009 car crash killed four people and set off fears of sudden uncontrolled acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

    Although the fires were found only in test vehicles that had been partially destroyed, GM’s crisis management strategy included not only a comprehensive communications plan that gave members of the media access to company insiders, but also extended an offer to Volt owners that entitled them to a free GM loaner vehicle until the problem was located and resolved.

    Given the almost-nonexistent negative impact, combined with the good PR gained from a solid response, this is one crisis I would label a success.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is a writer, publicist and SEO associate for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]