Daihatsu lied about the safety of their cars by falsifying crash tests – across 64 models, going back more than three decades.

A proud Japanese brand

In 2017 Daihatsu (a fully owned subsidiary of Toyota) launched its new group slogan and brand essence: “Light you up”. What does this mean you may ask? Here’s the (somewhat long-winded) strategic rationale. 

The slogan is intended to express Daihatsu’s unchanging determination and resolve to continue striving to achieve its two missions of illuminating each and every one of its customers by offering them a bright and shining lifestyle, through the provision of finely tuned products and services, and lightening their emotional load through the provision of compact cars that place minimal burden on their lifestyles, and on the environment.

<<Brand vision>>
The Daihatsu Group
Broadening life’s mobility
to support various lifestyles around the world
in freely enjoying brilliant individual lives.

<<Brand Mission>>
 Creating small cars loved by people the world over.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?! The promise of me freely enjoying my brilliant individual life in my Daihatsu. But a brand promise is a promise made and a promise kept. It must be. And yet, Daihatsu broke its promise in a massive way. 

They falsified their car safety crash tests

Daihatsu lied about the safety of their cars by falsifying crash tests – across 64 models, going back more than three decades.

“We betrayed the trust of our customers,” said Daihatsu CEO Soichiro Okudaira at a Tokyo press conference last week. “All the blame is on the management.”

On 20 December the company announced it would halt shipments of all models. Production is suspended at its factories across Japan until at least the end of January. 

Initial investigations have found that the shortening of vehicle development time was likely the main cause of corners being cut on safety checks. Yep, we’ve all heard that one before.

This is what the landing page of the Daihatsu company website looks like:

Will you ever buy a Daihatsu again?

Daihatsu is no small car company. They produced 870,000 vehicles in Japan last year, a supply chain worth approximately 2.2tn yen (US$15bn). 

But let me ask you this question: Will you ever buy a Daihatsu again? What about for your daughter or son? Because it seems to be that no matter what, when you buy a car the “safety” side of things must be … well, safe. 

Volvo built a brand on being “the safest”. But, with technology and progress most new cars on the road today are a lot safer than say cars in the 1980s. Add to that the “lack of safety” brand perception that Daihatsu has created through its actions, I can’t but help think they’re going to have big issues that no PR agency can help them out of.

Companies must walk their talk

Here again is another example of the disconnect between a company’s brand (who they say they are and what they SAY they do) and the company’s actions (who they really are and what they really DO). 

We’ve seen it in Australia with the findings of The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. Despite that, not one of the Big 4 banks has rebranded. They’re all running the same taglines and brand promises they were running before the Commission released its findings in 2019. What audacity and arrogance! 

Richard Sauerman
Richard Sauerman
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