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Toyota plans media blitz after stockholders lose $21B

  From BloombergFebruary 01, 2010

Toyota Motor Corp.'s head of U.S. sales plans to make U.S. television appearances today, starting with NBC Universal's "Today" show, as the world's largest automaker works to resolve its biggest recall crisis.

Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, is to speak on the morning news and talk program before holding a conference call with other media organizations, said a company official who declined to be identified because the plan isn't public. Lentz may also appear on Bloomberg Television.

The TV appearances will be the first for a U.S. audience after the automaker ran an informational ad in newspapers today and President Akio Toyoda gave a 75-second apology last week in Davos, Switzerland, in contrast with other Japanese companies that have held news conferences after recalls.

"They have wasted too much time without doing anything," said Tatsuya Mizuno, director of Mizuno Credit Advisory. "Toyota used to be a company with foresight, always ready to take action, but now they have fallen very far behind the curve."

The company's stock plummeted 14 percent last week, the worst five-day performance since October 2008, wiping out 1.9 trillion yen ($21 billion) in market value.

Toyoda's remarks contrast with press conferences by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Panasonic Corp. where executives bowed deeply to express contrition for recalls. Toyota has caused "anxiety" in drivers and investors as top management hasn't been more forthcoming, Mizuno said before the U.S. television appearances were announced.

Week Late

"This has been the problem: There really hasn't been a face of Toyota for the consumer," said Rebecca Lindland, a forecaster at IHS Global Insight Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts. "It's great that they are doing the 'Today' show this week, but last week would have been better."

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