Guests and business leaders at the recent Tokyo Motor Show were treated to a unique sight recently. Daniele Schillaci, Nissan Executive Vice President, stopped for several seconds to deeply bow, as an apology for the company’s inspection scandal.
As reported in the Associated Press, Schillaci said: “I would like to take this opportunity to express a sincere apology for our recent issues… We sincerely regret any inconvenience and concern this has caused our valued customers.”
It was a brief moment of honest reflection during the event, which showcased cutting-edge car tech boasting all-new entertainment, connectivity and safety features.
Of course, the steady stream of scandals coming out of the auto industry in recent years overshadowed some of the major accomplishments. From dysfunctional airbags to late recalls to multiple emission scandals, the auto industry has some catching up to do in the PR department.
Schillaci tried to make up some of that ground by introducing consumers and buyers to some of Nissan’s latest innovations.
One of those safety features is a special “beep” equipped on Nissan’s electric cars, which is meant to warn pedestrians of their approach. In the past, people have complained that electric cars are “too quiet,” so they don’t hear them coming. It’s definitely true that electric cars are much quieter than combustion engine vehicles, so this new feature should help people … once they learn to connect the “beep” with a vehicle.
But that was not the feature that drew the most excitement for Nissan at the show. The company unveiled its zero-emission electric concept car, which it is describing as “Nissan Intelligent Mobility.”
The core concept behind the car is melding radar, cameras, and lasers to create an accident-free driving experience. Nissan says the car will stop, even when the driver does not. That, of course, is not ready for prime time quite yet, and the scandals still loom over the industry.
While automakers are trying to get customers excited about hybrids, electric cars, automation and modern tech, customers are still trying to get past the messy recalls and other scandals. Volkswagen left many customers holding the bag as they have vehicles that won’t pass inspection. The company is trying to sort through that, but it’s taking a long time. Then there’s the disastrous Takata airbag debacle that forced the airbag manufacturer out of business and has many thousands of customers wondering if their cars are safe enough to drive.
While the emissions scandals at Volkswagen and Nissan are not overt safety concerns, they are major inconveniences for the customers, and they do damage the reputation of these brands in the market. They will need more than beepers and self-driving future cars to win back their image.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.