Quality Problems Still Not Fixed
Has Toyota sacrificed quality for quantity?
That’s the question being asked as Toyota Motor Corp. announces its unprecedented decision to stop selling its most popular models in the U.S. market.
The sales suspension follows a 2.3 million vehicle recall announced last week to correct a problem with a stuck accelerator pedal.
Dealers in the U.S. and Canada have been told to stop selling the popular Camry and Corolla sedans. The U.S. will halt production of the models because of a concern that possible defects may cause a sudden acceleration.
The models represent 57 % of Toyota’s 2009 U.S. sales reports the Wall Street Journal.
Besides Corolla and Camry, dealers will temporarily stop selling 2009-2010 RAV4, 2010 Highlander and 2008-2010 Sequoia SUV, 2005-2010 Avalon and Matrix 2005-2010 cars and 2007-2010 Tundra pickups.
Beginning February 1, assembly lines in five North American plants will be idled. Workers at Toyota lines in Kentucky, Indiana, Texas, and Ontario and a factory in Indiana will not be laid off as a result, a concept that is generally loathed in Japan, despite pressure from shareholders.
The president of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, is facing pressure not only to restore the company’s reputation after the recall of a record 4.3 million vehicles, but to head off a surge by South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co.
Due to product liability lawsuits, Toyota said last week it would recall vehicles in the U.S. and Canada over a flawed part made by CTS Corp. that could “in rare instances, mechanically stick in a depressed position or return slowly to the idle position,” reports Business Week.
About 1.7 million vehicles fall under that recall as well as a November recall to reshape the accelerator pedal to prevent it from being wedged beneath floor mats. The company still hasn’t determined the precise fix.
Toyota’s sudden acceleration problem was confirmed by research from Consumer Reports. The group looked at 6,000 complaints of unintended acceleration among all 2008 vehicles; the group finds that 41 percent of complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) came from Toyota owners.
Toyota may be trying to get ahead of a problem they blamed on floor mats for too long.
“Helping ensure the safety of our customers and restoring confidence in Toyota are very important to our company,” Bob Carter, group vice president of Toyota’s U.S. sales unit, said in a statement. “This action is necessary until a remedy is finalized.”
Some of the problems are blamed on the rapid expansion by the Japan-based company in the past decade which may have led to production and design glitches.
The shutdown could cost the company $500 million a week, reports Deutsche Bank. Toyota expects a $2.19 billion loss for the current fiscal year through March says the company.
What Consumers Can Do
Statistically speaking, Consumer Reports reminds consumers that the likelihood of experiencing sudden acceleration is low, but if applying the brakes does not stop a car, putting the vehicle in Neutral will stop the acceleration allowing you to pull to the side of the road.
Killing the engine during uncontrolled acceleration is not recommended, says Consumer Reports, because you can also lose the power steering.
Practice shifting into neutral in your own vehicle, the consumer group recommends. #