IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Liability of Good Reputation: A Study of Product Recalls in the U.S. Automobile Industry


  • Mooweon Rhee

    (College of Business Administration, University of Hawaii, 2404 Maile Way, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822)

  • Pamela R. Haunschild

    (McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin, CBA 4.202/B6300, Austin, Texas 78712-0210)


In this paper, we explore opposing theoretical claims about how organizational reputation affects market reactions to product defects. On the one hand, good reputation could be a disadvantage because expectations about product quality are more likely to be violated by defects in highly reputed products. On the other hand, a good reputation could be an advantage because of strong inertial effects on reputation orderings. We empirically test these competing hypotheses using data on product recalls in the U.S. automobile industry from 1975 to 1999. Our results support for the idea that reputation can be an organizational liability in that highly reputed firms suffer more market penalty as a result of their product recalls. We also propose that the reputational effects are moderated by two important factors: substitutability and generalism/specialism. Our results show that having few substitutes with an equivalent level of reputation, or a focused product identity stemming from specialism, buffers the negative market reactions to product recalls. We conclude with a discussion on the implications of these results for institutional, reputation, and status theories.

Suggested Citation

  • Mooweon Rhee & Pamela R. Haunschild, 2006. "The Liability of Good Reputation: A Study of Product Recalls in the U.S. Automobile Industry," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 17(1), pages 101-117, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:17:y:2006:i:1:p:101-117
    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1050.0175

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Barber, Brad M & Darrough, Masako N, 1996. "Product Reliability and Firm Value: The Experience of American and Japanese Automakers, 1973-1992," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 1084-1099, October.
    2. Andrew J. Hoffman & William Ocasio, 2001. "Not All Events Are Attended Equally: Toward a Middle-Range Theory of Industry Attention to External Events," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 12(4), pages 414-434, August.
    3. Crafton, Steven M & Hoffer, George E & Reilly, Robert J, 1981. "Testing the Impact of Recalls on the Demand for Automobiles," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 19(4), pages 694-703, October.
    4. Wesley David Sine & Scott Shane & Dante Di Gregorio, 2003. "The Halo Effect and Technology Licensing: The Influence of Institutional Prestige on the Licensing of University Inventions," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(4), pages 478-496, April.
    5. Timothy B. Heath & Subimal Chatterjee, 1995. "Asymmetric Decoy Effects on Lower-Quality Versus Higher-Quality Brands: Meta-Analytic and Experimental Evidence," Post-Print hal-00670480, HAL.
    6. Hayagreeva Rao, 1994. "The Social Construction of Reputation: Certification Contests, Legitimation, and the Survival of Organizations in the American Automobile Industry: 1895–1912," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(S1), pages 29-44, December.
    7. Reilly, Robert J & Hoffer, George E, 1983. "Will Retarding the Information Flow on Automobile Recalls Affect Consumer Demand?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 21(3), pages 444-447, July.
    8. Sujan, Mita, 1985. "Consumer Knowledge: Effects on Evaluation Strategies Mediating Consumer Judgments," Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Research Inc., vol. 12(1), pages 31-46, June.
    9. Podolny, Joel M & Phillips, Damon J, 1996. "The Dynamics of Organizational Status," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press and the Associazione ICC, vol. 5(2), pages 453-471.
    10. Keith Weigelt & Colin Camerer, 1988. "Reputation and corporate strategy: A review of recent theory and applications," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 9(5), pages 443-454, September.
    11. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1982. "Predation, reputation, and entry deterrence," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 280-312, August.
    12. Borenstein, Severin & Zimmerman, Martin B, 1988. "Market Incentives for Safe Commercial Airline Operation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 913-935, December.
    13. White, Halbert, 1982. "Maximum Likelihood Estimation of Misspecified Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 1-25, January.
    14. Heath, Timothy B & Chatterjee, Subimal, 1995. "Asymmetric Decoy Effects on Lower-Quality versus Higher-Quality Brands: Meta-analytic and Experimental Evidence," Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Research Inc., vol. 22(3), pages 268-284, December.
    15. Albert N. Link & John T. Scott, 2013. "Introduction," Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy, in: Bending the Arc of Innovation: Public Support of R&D in Small, Entrepreneurial Firms, chapter 1, pages 1-5, Palgrave Macmillan.
    16. Bruce G. S. Hardie & Eric J. Johnson & Peter S. Fader, 1993. "Modeling Loss Aversion and Reference Dependence Effects on Brand Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 12(4), pages 378-394.
    17. Carl Shapiro, 1983. "Premiums for High Quality Products as Returns to Reputations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 98(4), pages 659-679.
    18. Ezra W. Zuckerman & Tai-Young Kim, 2003. "The critical trade-off: identity assignment and box-office success in the feature film industry," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press and the Associazione ICC, vol. 12(1), pages 27-67, February.
    19. Pamela R. Haunschild & Mooweon Rhee, 2004. "The Role of Volition in Organizational Learning: The Case of Automotive Product Recalls," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(11), pages 1545-1560, November.
    20. Daniel Z. Levin, 2000. "Organizational Learning and the Transfer of Knowledge: An Investigation of Quality Improvement," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 11(6), pages 630-647, December.
    21. Tan, Ht, 1995. "Effects Of Expectations, Prior Involvement, And Review Awareness On Memory For Audit Evidence And Judgment," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(1), pages 113-135.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Mooweon Rhee, 2009. "Does Reputation Contribute to Reducing Organizational Errors? A Learning Approach," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(4), pages 676-703, June.
    2. Heewon Chae & Jaeyong Song & Donald Lange, 2021. "Basking in reflected glory: Reverse status transfer from foreign to home markets," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(4), pages 802-832, April.
    3. Omer N. Gokalp & Sami Keskek & Abdullah Kumas & Marshall A. Geiger, 2020. "Insider trading around auto recalls: Does investor attention matter?," Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting, Springer, vol. 55(3), pages 1003-1033, October.
    4. Bilian Ni Sullivan & Pamela Haunschild & Karen Page, 2007. "Organizations Non Gratae? The Impact of Unethical Corporate Acts on Interorganizational Networks," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 18(1), pages 55-70, February.
    5. Yan Liu & Venkatesh Shankar, 2015. "The Dynamic Impact of Product-Harm Crises on Brand Preference and Advertising Effectiveness: An Empirical Analysis of the Automobile Industry," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 61(10), pages 2514-2535, October.
    6. Yoseph, Nir Shlomo, 2018. "The Impact of Environmental Fraud on the Used Car Market: Evidence from Dieselgate," CEPR Discussion Papers 12899, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Schweizer, T.S., 2002. "Managing interactions between technological and stylistic innovation in the media industries, insights from the introduction of ebook technology in the publishing industry," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2002-16-ORG, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
    8. Sascha Raithel & Manfred Schwaiger, 2015. "The effects of corporate reputation perceptions of the general public on shareholder value," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(6), pages 945-956, June.
    9. Delgado García, Juan Bautista & De Quevedo Puente, Esther, 2016. "The complex link of city reputation and city performance. Results for fsQCA analysis," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(8), pages 2830-2839.
    10. Heechang Shin & Robert Richardson & Oredola Soluade, 2014. "Assessing sales loss from automobile recalls: a Toyota case study," International Journal of Business Continuity and Risk Management, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 5(1), pages 14-28.
    11. Davies, Antony & Cline, Thomas W., 2005. "A consumer behavior approach to modeling monopolistic competition," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 797-826, December.
    12. Kwamena K. Quagrainie & Jill J. McCluskey & Maria L. Loureiro, 2003. "A Latent Structure Approach to Measuring Reputation," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 69(4), pages 966-977, April.
    13. Timothy Werner, 2015. "Gaining Access by Doing Good: The Effect of Sociopolitical Reputation on Firm Participation in Public Policy Making," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 61(8), pages 1989-2011, August.
    14. Chih-Yi, Su & Bou-Wen, Lin, 2021. "Attack and defense in patent-based competition: A new paradigm of strategic decision-making in the era of the fourth industrial revolution," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 167(C).
    15. Devetag, M Giovanna, 1999. "From Utilities to Mental Models: A Critical Survey on Decision Rules and Cognition in Consumer Choice," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press and the Associazione ICC, vol. 8(2), pages 289-351, June.
    16. Maria-Gabriella Baldarelli & Sabrina Gigli, 2014. "Exploring the drivers of corporate reputation integrated with a corporate responsibility perspective: some reflections in theory and in praxis," Journal of Management & Governance, Springer;Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale (AIDEA), vol. 18(2), pages 589-613, May.
    17. A. Rebecca Reuber & Eileen Fischer, 2005. "The Company You Keep: How Young Firms in Different Competitive Contexts Signal Reputation through Their Customers," Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, , vol. 29(1), pages 57-78, January.
    18. Kher, Hemant V. & Kydd, Christine T. & O'Brien, Terrence M., 2017. "Evolution of product quality in European, Japanese and US automotive firms: An exploratory longitudinal analysis," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 29-36.
    19. Adriana Burlea‐Schiopoiu & Dragos Alexandru Balan, 2021. "Modelling the impact of corporate reputation on customers' behaviour," Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 28(3), pages 1142-1156, May.
    20. Andrew Cooke & Wendy Chapple, 1998. "Guilty by Association? The Case of The Karin B Scare," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 5-12, January.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:17:y:2006:i:1:p:101-117. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Chris Asher (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.