The Fix Isn’t In at Toyota

Discussion
Mar 04, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Are things going from bad to worse at Toyota? Not only has the automaker’s
reputation taken a hit with a massive recall of models representing 57 percent
of its sales, but now at least 15 consumers who thought their cars’ sudden
acceleration problems were fixed, say they were not.

Stewart Stogel, a freelance journalist, filed a complaint with the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) when finding problems with his
2009 Camry persisted after he brought the car in to be fixed.

“At first the brakes didn’t engage at all,” he told The Associated Press. “Just
as I approached Terrace Avenue, the wheels were able to get some traction,
and all of the sudden the engine did disengage."

The NHTSA has reported that as many as 52 people have died from injuries suffered
in crashes resulting from sudden acceleration in Toyota models. The company
has blamed the problem on sticky accelerator pedals, floor mat issues and driver
error. It has been suggested that the real issue may be a result of software
or electronic glitches in the vehicles.

“Anybody who has reviewed the complaints and reviewed what’s going on here
has to reach a conclusion that there’s more going on than sticky pedals, floor
mats and drivers,” Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies Inc.,
told the AP.

A new USA Today/Gallup survey found 31 percent believe Toyota and Lexus
vehicles are unsafe to drive while 55 percent believe the Japanese automaker
dragged its heels in reacting to the problems with its cars and trucks.

“We aren’t surprised by the poll results, given the intense focus on our recalls
and speculation about causes,” Mike Michels, a spokesperson for Toyota, told USA
Today
. “We are working hard to earn public trust, to complete the recalls
as quickly and conveniently as possible.”

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), who was Agriculture Secretary in the Bush administration
when Japan banned all imports of U.S. beef over concerns about mad cow disease,
questioned whether a similar ban should be placed on Japanese-made cars “until
the Japanese government can assure us that all of the defects are out of these
vehicles.”

Discussion Questions: What is your assessment of Toyota’s response to the
problems with its vehicles? What should it do now that cars that were supposed
to be fixed appear as though they have not? Do you think the U.S. government
should ban the import and sale of Japanese vehicles until they are proven
safe?

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11 Comments on "The Fix Isn’t In at Toyota"


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Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 2 months ago
This Toyota issue is prime material for a branding case study. Not 6 months ago, Toyota was a brand that was synonymous with quality, reliability and honesty. In my circle, I can count on 2 hands the families that own a Sienna and a Camry. You had a kid, you needed a mini van, you bought or leased a Sienna. That’s it. Here we are today with Toyota executives before the US government answering questions about the safety of their products. Complaints about safety are piling up. Even their steady Lexus brand has taken huge hits to their reputation. I have to say that the response from Toyota is surprising. Here they have a chance to fix their broken reputation but, like most automakers, their size is working against them. They are unable to complete necessary repairs and, as time progresses, new problems crop up. I just don’t think they were prepared for the onslaught of fixes coming through. This issue could cause permanent damage to Toyota. It has been suggested that they knew about… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
11 years 2 months ago

Those cars were probably fixed. There are always going to be some extremists that will find fault, no matter what. Perhaps they would feel safer in a used Ford Pinto.

I think this Toyota situation has just been overblown. Toyota did what they needed to do, went along with the game, but there will always be some who just can’t move on. Anytime a company excels to the top, whether it be Toyota or Wal-Mart, the jealous enemies come out with claims about how evil these companies are. But think about it. Would you rather own a high quality Toyota with some minor recall issues or would you rather take your chances on a bankrupt car company run by the government?

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 2 months ago

This is a classic example of how NOT to handle a corporate crisis. This story will live on in textbooks forever. Bottom line, Toyota has absolutely NO IDEA what the problem(s) may be with their cars. It is software and until they physically replace the ECUs in all their cars over the past decade with ones that have rock-solid software code, there will continue to be “glitches.” Hearing the woman’s story about the car moving forward at full speed, AFTER she put it in neutral, reverse, and stepped on the brakes with both feet AND turned off the ignition, makes me say they have REAL problems with their software.

Rick Myers
Guest
Rick Myers
11 years 2 months ago

The testimonies I have heard recently make me really leery of buying a Toyota. It makes me think, that could have been me. I don’t believe that the company knows what is causing the problems in its cars. Think about how many times a day you see a Camry or a Prius or a Sienna and then think…their car may not be under control. How many people die before it gets fixed? I like my Sonata just fine, thanks.

Giacinta Shidler
Guest
Giacinta Shidler
11 years 2 months ago

These new reports cropping up may or may not be reliable, but the point is that there are people who think they are. It’s definitely a huge PR black eye for Toyota. The thing is, if there really is an electrical or computer glitch, those are notoriously hard to track down, and Toyota may simply be unable to guarantee that they have fixed the problem once and for all on existing models. This is going to be really hard for Toyota to come back from.

Mark Burr
Guest
11 years 2 months ago
Statistically, this was bound to happen with Toyota. They had gained their reputation for quality and service when they were building and selling fewer cars than one American car company division. Of course, now those numbers are way beyond that and they face the same issues that go along with the massive volumes of cars produced at those levels. They are also far more spread out today than they were when all of their vehicles came out of Toyota City. ]By the numbers and by dispersing production, it’s nearly impossible as American car makers have always found, to produce at the level of quality that they once did. Dealing with these issues is not new to them just as any other maker, however dealing with them at this magnitude is very new. Certainly their reputation has taken a bit of a hit. However, the majority of that may be with non-Toyota owners, media and critics. Most Toyota owners that I know are loyal and aren’t the least bit concerned that they will be taken care… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 2 months ago

I have lost my remaining iota
To feel safe in buying a Toyota;
Newer complaints about Lexus
Have punched my solar plexus.
When reputations get so high
Pedals sticking make customer fly.

The Moral: High quality control
Is a constant thing, never droll.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 2 months ago

Simple lesson here for all of us. It is a lot less expensive to fix the problem the first time we hear about it than to wait and see if it will go away or if any one else has the problem.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 2 months ago

“These new reports cropping up may or may not be reliable, but the point is that there are people who think they are.”

BINGO. Here we are in, I believe, the second month of this issue, and we still have people missing the point: of course with millions of cars on the road this issue may be nothing but statistical noise, but many millions of people do not believe this, and so far Toyota has done little to convince them they are wrong; even worse, it doesn’t appear to even have a plan to do so (other than being polite). Those proclaiming it’s “nothing,” or a conspiracy, or jealousy, or … are coming across as little more than apologists, and doing exactly what they say they oppose: making claims without documenting them.

Michael Boze
Guest
Michael Boze
11 years 2 months ago
A year ago I was reading stories about sudden acceleration with the Prius model. The problem has been around for some time while the response from Toyota has bee slow in coming. When the company announced its fix for the problem, I was struck by how quickly they jumped on a solution once the online world created the buzz of the story. I questioned in my own mind how comprehensive the solution was? It sounds like they had an 80% solution. I think the issue is corporate culture and structure at Toyota that was slow to recognize a problem. I also think corporate ego has played a role in the response. I believe Toyota has become an industry leader because of its quality. I do not see the difference between their response and the historic response of GM to the Corvair or other safety issues over the years. Being bigger and going global as a brand requires new thinking on addressing the squeaky wheel. Making the bigger synonymous with better remains a huge challenge for… Read more »
Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
11 years 2 months ago
Amidst all the “expert” opinions (code for no experience whatsoever in the auto industry), the obligatory posturing by politicians, the 24/7 sensationalism of the media bolstered by some very dubious personal accounts, the utterly predictable announcement of class action lawsuits, I still have not heard one thing–a definitive answer to what caused the sudden acceleration. I have read a very thoughtful piece by someone who has studied sudden acceleration at length for the NTSB. His findings, formed over years of research, were that the overwhelming cause of sudden acceleration was the driver trying to step on the brake and stepping on the accelerator mistakenly. But gee, that doesn’t sell newspapers or fill broadcast hours, does it? It definitely doesn’t turn on the clock for class action lawyers. I have owned and driven a Lexus since the first year they came out. I would not own another car. I have never had a single mechanical issue with the 8 models that I have owned. As far as I’m concerned, they are the safest vehicles on the… Read more »
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