My car has a malfunction – The importance of a PR agency

By Vanessa Assis

Controversies, problems and crisis are facts that cause fear in most companies, but also can be effectively overcome with a good PR consultancy. But what about when companies choose not to consult an agency, or do the complete opposite of what is expected in a crisis management situation? Well, a disaster is possibly ahead.

That’s what happened to Renault in the case “My car has a malfunction”. In 2011, a Brazilian costumer of the brand, outraged by the service provided by the company, created the website www.meucarrofalha.com.br (translated www.mycarhasamalfunction.com.br). On the page, she narrated the story of her Renault Mégane, that, since acquisition (four years before), presented a number of malfunctions. After unprogressive comings and goings from repair and requests for an exchange of the car denied by the company, the costumer prosecuted Renault and reported the case on social network and through her website.

Renault, that despite the chances hadn’t solved the costumer’s problem before getting to this point, chose to sue the costumer and request a liminal ordering her to remove the page from the web and the posts from social media in 48 hours. The result? Disaster. The costumer published the liminal on the website and the case was considered a form of censorship.

Several outlets published articles about the case, like ExameCarta Capital and Uol. www.meucarrofalha.com.br received over 700 thousand visits in a month. The crisis faced by the automobile manufacturer became an ethical crisis.

After all the negative repercussion, Renault made a deal with the costumer and returned the money spent with the car, besides donating an automobile for charity.  The accordance was published on www.meucarrofalha.com.br and the page was deleted a few years later.

Where did Renault fail?

The case “My car has a malfunction” became an example of what shouldn’t be done by a company in order to contain a crisis. In times of Customer Service Center 2.0, having a respectful and thoughtful relationship with the consumer is the key for a good reputation.

Renault failed in their customer service, which turned into a serious crisis for the company, and failed in their strategy to contain it. Trying to suppress the case backfired. Even the late deal done with the costumer was negatively perceived by the public.

A public relations agency with a good strategic plan could have prevented such a damage. From the start a professional team could have managed the crisis, which would have diminished the negative impact on the brand. All the company had to do is search this solution.