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The different reactions to automotive recalls.

An automotive maker, concerned about its image following another large product recall, tracks popular social media, automotive blogs and forums to see how people are responding.

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Do people from different countries react differently to news of a product recall? A major automobile manufacturer wanted to find out.

Dealing with bad news

Following another in a long line of product recalls, a major automotive manufacturer wanted to know how its brand was being perceived online. In particular, amongst car aficionados as they tend to be "tastemakers" and can be very influential in driving public opinion.

Social media outlets as well as fifty blogs and forums were identified as target sites for extracting content. Content was crawled routinely and then analyzed via Repustate's sentiment analysis engine. Interestingly, as this brand is a multinational, multiple languages were analyzed, not just English. Arabic, German, and Spanish language sites were monitored for their opinions as well to see if any regional differences existed in how people responded to the recalls.

The automotive company also enlisted the services of a PR crisis management company to help manage the mass media and get a message out that the company was taking all steps necessary to prevent any future problems. Repustate measured any changes in sentiment before and after each PR campaign.


To aid in visualizing the sentiment trends, a net sentiment score was derived by simply taking the percentage of positive blocks of text and subtracting the percentage of negative ones.

A few things stand out

  1. How negative German speakers continued to be throughout the measurement period. Clearly the PR push had no effect on their opinions.
  2. The English speaking audience did change its opinions greatly after the first PR push and slowly kept on having a more positive outlook on things as time went on.
  3. The Arabic and Spanish speaking markets were close to neutral throughout the period with the Arabic market actually being positive throughout. Clearly the recalls have not damaged the brand's reputation in the Arabic speaking markets.