Mitsubishi quick to confront concerns

CYPRESS, CA: Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America had a full-scale PR

response ready last week when Consumers Union (CU) announced it had

found safety problems with the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited SUV.

Given advance notice of the CU report, Mitsubishi worked with PR firm

Fleishman-Hillard to prepare b-roll footage of tests it performed to

show that the vehicle was safe; issued a statement from its president

and COO Pierre Gagnon; and held a press conference featuring Gagnon on

the same day that CU publicly announced its findings.

Key Mitsubishi message points included attacking the validity of CU

testing and stressing that the company and government regulators had no

reports of problems with Monteros on the road today.

The automaker's next PR moves will include contacting customers to

assure them the vehicle is safe and reaching out to key audiences such

as dealers.

Fleishman again finds itself in an auto crisis. It was hired by

Bridgestone/Firestone last year just before the controversy involving

Ford and Firestone erupted.

Fleishman eventually dropped the tire maker, unhappy with its

unwillingness to mount an active PR response. This time, observers said,

Fleishman has a client much more willing to respond to charges.

"They did all they could," said Bill Patterson of Reputation Management

Associates in Columbus, OH, speaking of Mitsubishi's efforts.

CU, handling PR in-house, held its own press conference last Wednesday

following Mitsubishi's press conference to address the company's


CU had used James E. Arnold, a management consulting firm that

specializes in communications issues, to review its PR operations prior

to the Mitsubishi announcement, said Linda Wagner, senior director in

CU's office of public information. It also used Middleberg Euro RSCG to

compile a media list.

CU had six staffers handling media calls after its announcement.

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