Class Helps Toyota With Airbag Recall

by Karna Small

“And we thought all we were getting were swag bags,” says recent alumna Liza Buss. Dr. Eaddy announced that her crisis management class would be partnering with Toyota for the semester. However, no student imagined becoming $1,000 richer in the process.

Dr. Eaddy’s crisis communication class spent the last two months of Spring 2019 semester creating crisis management campaigns for Toyota. Their task was to create a DFW focused campaign about the Takata Airbag recall. Then the class broke into three teams in order to work on campaigns that targeted unrepaired vehicle owners according to age groups, ethnicities and zip codes.

On the final day of the course, Toyota invited the class to its new headquarters in Plano, TX. Upon arrival, students practiced their presentations on the stage of the headquarter’s new museum. After lunch and rehearsal, each group presented to a panel of Toyota executives including members from Public Relations, Crisis Management, and Sales.

Once presentations ended, students toured the new campus while the panel discussed which team would win the challenge. They gawked at the sushi bar, rock climbing wall, doctor’s office, and outdoor spaces that Toyota employees have access to daily.

Crisis Management Class

CCPA Crisis Class presenting at Toyota HQ
Karna Small presenting with Liza Buss

After testing out Toyota’s virtual reality goggles and other new gadgets, students returned to their seats to see which group would be announced the winner of Toyota North America’s Public Safety Crisis Campaign competition. Chief Quality Officer, Chris Nielsen, thanked the students for all of their help and planned to use the students’ ideas. Students knew that the winning group received three extra credit points on their final, but gasps and cheers echoed throughout the museum as Nielsen announced that each member of the winning group received $1,000!

At the end of the day, the students drove back to SMU thankful for the opportunity. Because of the experience they received, they felt ready to take on their next adventure. “What a way to end my undergraduate career! Thank you Tania, Lee, and LaShonda for this amazing opportunity!” says recent alumna Emma Flores on her LinkedIn post announcing her success.

On behalf of myself and the rest of the crisis management students, I want to thank Toyota’s team and Dr. Eaddy for an amazing experience that the ten of us will truly never forget.

Lastly, a final plug from the experience with Toyota, if you are curious if your car is included in the recall, download the Airbag Recall App and scan your license plate to check the safety of your vehicle.