Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn

Nissan’s PR snafu during a Reddit Q&A session

One of the biggest complaints about major companies is that they aren’t transparent enough, so it was refreshing this past week when Nissan attempted to do just that; spoiler alert: it backfired.

On Monday, from the Detroit Auto Show, the car manufacturer hosted a real-time AMA (Ask Me Anything) Q&A session on Reddit, where people could ask Nissan and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn, well, anything. However, during the Q&A, Reddit users began accusing Ghosn of “cherrypicking” easy to answer, or “softball” questions. The questions in question spoke very specifically about some of the projects Nissan is working on, allowing Ghosn to easily respond in a favorable way, and plug the brands products. He evaded many of the tougher, hardball questions. Even more suspicious was the fact that several of the usernames posting these questions came from accounts that had been created only hours before the session. This led many to question the Q&A’s authenticity, calling it a staged public relations stunt on Nissan’s part, also known as astroturfing.

Nissan has publicly disputed these accusations, claiming that the Reddit audience was “pure”. A Nissan rep acknowledge that it wasn’t the smoothest Q&A session, due to time constraints, the fact that English isn’t Ghosn’s first language, and that he was answering from a busy event.

To Nissan’s defense, Reddit looked into the matter, and couldn’t find any proof of wrongdoing, noting that the percentage of new accounts asking questions was within normal range for a Q&A. Given that Nissan promoted the event heavily on social media, this is certainly reasonable.

Regardless of whether the Q&A session was done authentically or not, the damage has already been done to Nissan. Yet, despite the negativity, the company called the event a success, even saying that they would be open to Ghosn doing another AMA. Should that be the case, you can bet that it will be a lot less controversial next time around.

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Giovanna Torres