By on January 23, 2010

Today’s Nikkei [sub] says that the latest Toyota recall “is seen as a major dent in the side of the leading Japanese automaker’s reputation as a builder of reliable automobiles.”

Financially, the recall “is not expected to have a major impact on Toyota’s earnings for the current year through March 31 because the company had more than 400 billion yen in reserves for dealing with recall costs at the end of the previous fiscal year.”

However, the matter will most likely snowball: “The company is still investigating whether similar problems exist for models sold in other countries. But because the same accelerator pedal mechanism has been used in some European models, the recall may be expanded.”

That’s the Nikkei in Tokyo. Not a bunch of posters on message boards.  Note: Audi’s “unintended acceleration” set the brand back by nearly a decade in the USA, never mind that the NHTSA concluded that the majority of unintended acceleration cases were caused by driver error. A truly sticky accelerator can have more serious consequences, especially in the current environment, in which everybody fights for his own survival.

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136 Comments on “Nikkei: Toyota Recall Ruins Reputation...”


  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    I really think that the Nikkei are being alarmist here. Like I mentioned in a previous post, the NHTSA is investigating Ford for F-150 where the airbags aren’t deploying. I really, really doubt it will affect sales of F-150′s.

    I’m not saying this isn’t bad, because it is, but let’s keep this in perspective. I bet you when the engine sludge issue (you know, that matter which Toyota haters keep bringing every single flipping time, when Toyota’s reliability or customer service comes into question) came about, what the betting that loads of anti-Toyota people said that “this’ll kill Toyota’s reliability image and their customer service”?

    • 0 avatar

      I folllowed the Audi saga closely. The tactless Audi exec who spoke the ill-advised truth when he said “those Americans just can’t drive” was a friend of mine. He was demoted back to Wolfsburg and put in charge of advertising….

      The matter only died after a priest drove a Town Car into a K-Mart and killed a few people. It took a long time for Audi to recover.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not really aware of the ‘engine sludge’ issue having a body count (I don’t think the Audis killed anyone). Toyota behaved the way that ANY large company would, when they started receiving reports of wild acceleration, they covered their own *sses. They owned up to it finally, and are trying to fix the issue (what’s to guarantee their drive by wire won’t get buggier with age, regardless of the shape of the pedal arm?).

      It’s very damaging to their reputation, and given the fact that when the news keeps reporting something (rare) we, as humans, jump to the conclusion that it’s probably happening all around us, they could be looking at a good size dip in sales.

    • 0 avatar

      SexCpotatoes:
      (what’s to guarantee their drive by wire won’t get buggier with age, regardless of the shape of the pedal arm?).

      Is there any proof this problem has anything to do with DBW code? From what I’ve read, floor mat interference is the problem, nothing more.

      I get Bertel’s point about Toyota, perhaps because I vividly remember 60 Minutes trashing Audi’s response in the ’80s. Perception is reality, and if it becomes fashionable for the media to pile on to Toyota, it will impact NA sales, just like what happened to Audi. Given everything to this point, imagine what would happen if the mighty Prius takes a quality/safety hit. That’s all it will take for Toyota’s sales to tank. I hope Toyota’s new management addresses the real engineering issues and hires the right people to address the perception problem, too.

    • 0 avatar

      Toasty: Sorry, I don’t have a link, but Thursday night, I think, the Cleveland Channel 5 news had a segment about the Toyotas, where it had just happened to a local guy, and he got off the freeway, and by popping it in and out of neutral and drive, got it to the dealer.

      The dealer sent someone out, and it WAS NOT the floor mat, and tugging on the pedal did nothing to stop the car revving full on. From the news report, apparently the pedal had a range of motion, and pulling it up did nothing to calm down the engine, so yeah, that is 100% proof in front of a service employee that it’s not “just the floor mats” being an issue.

      (edit: I remember now, and went to the local news station, it was on NIGHTLINE) Check out 2:43 in, it was an owner in NJ: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhXbl132SAA

    • 0 avatar

      Taters:
      That’s interesting. I’m surprised Toyota didn’t replace that car and bring it in for a full exam. I’m still not convinced it’s DBW code, but it sounds like there’s cause for more investigation into whatever is going on.

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      toasty,

      Prius is also involved in unintended acceleration. Search YouTube for ‘Runaway Prius’ or watch this video at 2:29:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-wD9MkaL3Q&NR=1

    • 0 avatar

      Warning: Some posters to this thread have introduced references to war atrocities. These references are utterly tasteless and contribute nothing useful to this thread. These references are disallowed. Violators will be banned without further warning. No discussion of this ruling is desired.

    • 0 avatar
      mpresley

      I drove an ’89 Audi 90 I bought a couple of years after the 60 Minutes hit piece. The dealer was happy to sell it to me. The 90 was a lovely (but somewhat underpowered) car. Back then, Audi was a hard sell; U-A really shut them down. At the time the Orlando dealer sold them alongside Mercs and Porsches, but a year or two later off-loaded the franchise to a Mazda dealership located in a bad part of town. Obviously the new owners had no idea how to sell Audis. I don’t know the details of the sell, but now, many years later (and with a new stand-alone dealership in a better part of town) it appears that Audi is booming. I see them all the time, probably at the expense of MB.

    • 0 avatar
      Len_A

      The engine sludge didn’t have the kind of negative effect this issue could have for two reasons: One, the automotive industry press caught th e story, but it was roundly ignored by the mainstream media UNTIL the settlement of the class action lawsuit. Even the lawsuits initial filing was roundly ignored by the mainstream press.

      Second, this issue could hurt Toyota more now, than the engine sludge issue did, because this is an actual recall involving both more cars and trucks, and more recent model years.

    • 0 avatar

      Len_A:

      Three, people died. IMO, that’s the trump card in the impact of any recall.

    • 0 avatar
      Len_A

      toasty:

      That’s true, plus I think it’s more than three people now. I had heard as high as eight – two more fatal incidents.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    We can’t wait, can we? Waiting for the mighty to fall seems to be the new American sport in my lifetime, along with attack lawyers. There’s a big difference between gas pedals sticking and reliability, for the informed and rational (and yeah, we usually can’t call much of the general public that, can we). Funny, this is one example of one benefit of the Big-3′s incessant design changes; a turkey design isn’t around long (nor are the good ones). I look forward to the accurate-equalization of reputations among the automakers. The imports have had way too much undeserved momentum, for too long.

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      “Big 3′s incessant design changes” ???? Quite the opposite: the continuing complaint about the Big 3 has been that they don’t change often enough keeping crappy designs in production till even the fleets won’t buy them.

      Unless by the Big Three you meant Toyota Nissan and Honda…..

      BTW: waiting for the mighty to fall is nothing new. It’s an old sport covering centuries, perhaps since the beginning of mankind. One of the deadly sins: “envy”.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-X

      By design changes I mean on the little stuff, like accelerator pedals. Toyota uses these mundane, utilitarian parts far and wide, and the Big-3 find it necessary to change them every model cycle as if they’re strokes on a Picasso. Remember the 50+ varieties of lighter plugs, etc? And yes, Detroit’s model cycle is slow, but worse, disorganized. Historically, they don’t build on the good, and they don’t correct their mistakes.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    “That’s the Nikkei in Tokyo. Not a bunch of posters on message boards. ”

    You say that like we’re supposed to be impressed.

    Toyo’s rep has taken a hit but it’s not “ruined”. Toyo is actively doing something about the problem – that will make all the difference.

  • avatar

    The Nikkei is a very pro-business publication. Think of it as the WSJ squared. It is rare that the paper makes statements such as tne above. Usually, they treat Toyota like royalty. Guess you had to have lived in usually highly polite Japan to understand the impact.

    • 0 avatar

      Do not underestimate how many weaboos read this blog.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I’m with you Bertel.

      I was in Japan during the Mitsubishi recall cover-up fiasco (blaming drivers for their own fatalities, hiding accident reports in the company locker room, dragging their feet on identifying, accepting and resolving serious safety issues) … the normally circumspect and demure local papers were using more direct language to report the issue (papers like Nikkei are not geared to sell based on sensationalism.)

      When the locals become “alarmist” in their reporting, there is something worth paying attention to going on.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    If owners perceive Toyota engineering and quality lapses are rare and diligently rectified no harm will be done. Not from engine sludge, nor bad 5-speed and 6-speed transmissions, broken camshafts, rusted out truck frames, not even uncontrolled acceleration.

    The constant Chinese water torture drip, drip, drip of negative publicity is reducing public perception of Toyota to near-GM levels. The snowball rolling downhill, getting bigger and bigger, and picking up speed may be unstoppable. Toyota’s current issues were preordained by shortsighted value engineering and decontenting decisions made years ago.

    If large numbers of people get thinking Toyota isn’t really that much different than other scumbag auto manufacturers that crapify their products to death it will hurt over the long term. I won’t pay a price premium to acquire a new or used Toyota. How many others have or will reach the same conclusion?

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      “Toyota’s current issues were preordained by shortsighted value engineering and decontenting decisions made years ago.”

      Bingo! Many a company has trashed a brand by cost reductions. For awhile, people keep buying the brand on the assumption that the product they are buying today meets up to the brand’s reputation which was established in the past. Eventually, however, the reputation slides if the product slides.

      In general, today’s Toyotas are not as finely engineering and well made as those of fifteen years ago where. Endless rounds of cost reductions have taken their toll.

      Conversely, today’s Fords are generally better made than their ancestors of fifteen years ago were.

    • 0 avatar
      npbheights

      John – +1

      I bought an 09 Corolla in the summer of 2008 simply because I had an 89 Camry when I was a teenager and figured they would be similar. The Corolla is nothing like my 10 year old memories of that twenty year old car. (I had the Camry in 1997-1999) The Corolla feels a lot cheaper than the Camry did, has way more road noise than I remember. I remember the Camry for its crisp steering feel and the new Corolla is nothing like this. This will probably be my last Toyota.

      On the other end of the spectrum, my mother bought a Lincoln MKZ, and that thing is rock solid, unlike any Ford or Lincoln product we’ve had before. (and we’ve had quite a few over the years)

      I am interested to drive a Fusion, I wonder if they feel as solid as the MKZ’s

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      @John: Except for the 15 year old Fords that are still being produced. The same decontenting disease is at work. Compare a 1998 Ranger with a 2008 Ranger, same trim level. No cargo lamps, no carpet in some cases, no cargo shades, no rear seat cupholders, no map lights, the wheel controls aren’t backlit any longer, and the sunvisors are now made of mouse fur covered cardboard. Tail lamps have two bulbs rather than three.

      It sort of makes sense since Ford needs to keep the Ranger cheaper than the F150, but the economy of scale is working against them.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Meanwhile, Chrysler is recalling 24,000 vehicles for a potential brake failure problem:
    Chrysler Recall

    And GM has some issues with Corvette roofs:
    Corvette Recall

    The general public forgets about this stuff pretty quickly. They’re more concerned about where Tiger Woods is hiding out. As auto enthusiasts, we’re aware of every automotive issue that crops up. We’re not the same as the rest of the population.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      A Chrysler or GM or Ford recall is hardly news. After all, they only produce “crap”. So it’s kinda “normal”. Is like another stripe in a tiger.

      Toyota on the other side, is the holy manufacturer of the absolutely best quality cars, the sacred machines forged by the Mount Fuji gods, so a recall on their cars is a tragedy, of major proportions.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    An old Toyota may be worth purchasing, a 93-98 Corolla exudes quality everywhere. Of course, many of them have more kms in their odometers than the space shuttle.

    The quality slide is evident since for example the 98+ Corolla (round headlamps here and Europe). The current Hilux is another place you can see and touch the quality decline.

    However, as long as their reliability don’t suffer much, their image won’t get tarnished. In a Toyota car quality=reliability. You can sell a sub-standard, ugly, decently powered, yesterday tech (save for he HSD), craptastic simple and cheap interior, expensive car to people, and they’ll buy them, because it’s as reliable as the home’s refrigerator (and just as exciting). People will happily pay for the appliance. The moment reliability is lost, they’ll start to suffer.

    A poorly designed accelerator pedal doesn’t avoid the car to start in the mornings. Not even the band-aid they did last year for the carpets. I used the recall to show my engineers at the time how a recall should be issued and how NOT to solve a problem (they still couldn’t believe it was Toyota).

    Here in Venezuela, they’re regarded as the BEST money can purchase. You can tell people about sludge, recalls and still they stay at their position.

    • 0 avatar

      “A poorly designed accelerator pedal doesn’t avoid the car to start in the mornings. Not even the band-aid they did last year for the carpets. I used the recall to show my engineers at the time how a recall should be issued and how NOT to solve a problem (they still couldn’t believe it was Toyota).”

      How important is reliability if a car is going to unintendedly accelerate its occupants into potentially life threaten situations. Toyota did not properly handle this situation and I think that ruins their reputation. I don’t feel like detail the floor mat debate but it seems like a very parallel situation to that which almost killed Audi.

  • avatar
    ConejoZing

    “(I don’t think the Audis killed anyone).”

    My original, first car was… an Audi 5000, complete with maid hairband headrests and absurdly long silver trim. Learned how to drive manual with that car. Despite any characters that might have been inspired from it, the car itself never killed anybody (at least while I was driving it lol).

    And for the Nikkei to make such a statement about Toyota is pretty serious. The Japanese have a very high standard and can be very critical of a Japanese company when it does not perform to expectations.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Neighbor had an (IIRC) ’85 5000 blue, and by the late 80′s, it had never killed anyone either … esp. since by then it seemed to be broken a good portion of the time …

  • avatar

    Re: “But because the same accelerator pedal mechanism has been used in some European models, the recall may be expanded.”

    As far as I know, there were no “unintended acceleration” reports in Europe, so far. These incidents seem to be restricted to the US. Induced by US litigation law, perhaps?

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      One factor might be manual transmissions. As far as I’m aware, there are no unintended acceleration reports for manual transmission vehicles. Every driver of a manual transmission vehicle knows how to instantly disconnect the engine from the drivetrain. Yes, Toyota sells auto-tranny vehicles in Europe, but their market share is much smaller and of what cars they do sell in Europe, the percentage with manual transmission is much bigger, the percentage with grossly oversized engines is much much smaller, and the percentage with diesels (which have a mechanical vacuum pump – they’re not subject to loss of brake booster vacuum loss if the brakes are pumped) is non-zero (by a lot).

    • 0 avatar

      “As far as I’m aware, there are no unintended acceleration reports for manual transmission vehicles. Every driver of a manual transmission vehicle knows how to instantly disconnect the engine from the drivetrain.”

      +1

      Like I’ve always said: Drive a stick, save a life.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Something to think about: Just because the Audi issue was largely bogus doesn’t mean that the Toyota one is.

    It is nice to see that even Nikkei is catching up with us amateur posters :).

    • 0 avatar

      Good point.

      As has been said, this isn’t like the rust or sludge issues; it’s Toyota’s Katrina. People have died, and the perception is that they’ve been slow to respond to the problem, and their response hasn’t been appropriate. Maybe the Nikkei’s rebuke will galvanize Toyota into action, but serious damage has already been done.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    1. Americans don’t read Nikkei.

    2. Most Americans haven’t heard of the throttle issue on Toyotas.

    3. Audi’s reputation for quality in the ’80s wasn’t nearly as high as Toyota’s is today.

    4. Unless the evening news shows a Toyota exploding as a result of this problem, nobody will care.

    5. Floormat misalignment and stuck throttles have the feel of owner error (your feet have something to do with it, i.e. no victims), whereas an exploding Pinto is beyond anyone’s control (victims).

    Of course, a stuck throttle is a bad thing, but until it is conveyed as something totally uncontrollable (“Christine”), the issue will never gain traction with the American public.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The interesting issue is that this appears to be more than just owner error and stuck floor mats. There are now documented cases where the floor mat was removed and the vehicle was still stuck accelerating.

    • 0 avatar

      2. Most Americans haven’t heard of the throttle issue on Toyotas.

      Really? At least one radio show in our town discussed it. And not a talk show, one of those cheesy shows usually focused on celebrity gossip and the like.

      This is like Tiger Woods getting caught with all those women. It’s getting tabloid-style “fallen hero” media attention.

  • avatar
    Odomeater

    OK so Toyota has a nice fit and finish. And they have a defect that can kill you. Not alarmist. Stop cutting these idiots so much slack.

  • avatar

    @ Brian P.: That’s a good explanation.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    People have died, and the perception is that they’ve been slow to respond to the problem, and their response hasn’t been appropriate.

    I was only aware of the one fatal accident that sadly killed the police officer and family members. Wasn’t that due to the dealership putting 4Runner floor mats in a loaner Lexus ES or something? Have there been other fatalities tied to UA?

  • avatar

    Fans of manual transmissions really need to get a reality check. I don’t know a single person who was affected by the supposed “sudden” and “unintended” acceleration of a Toyota, but I PERSONALLY know TWO whose vives crashed their cars WITH MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS by stepping on the gas pedal AND HOLDING it because they confused it with the brake pedal. Jeez.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Um, let’s see. First it was the floormats jamming, now the accelerator pedal is “sticking”. If you read any of the accounts of the owners who have experienced this sudden acceleration problem, it seems to be more a a mechanical issue that Toyota is deeply afraid to admit to. I’m not buying the floormat/pedal story.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100118/RETAIL/301189913/1117

      As late as the 18th, this article appeared in Automotive News, and quoted Toyota’s top Qualtiy Guy … very interesting article … read between the lines…

      In other postings, I spoke of ToMoCo’s apparent ignorance of its customer’s usage profiles … this is now verified by Toyota’s own statements.

      Some snips from the Auto News article:
      “…last year’s floor mat recall underscored a need for engineers to account for a variety of use patterns. Some customers prefer to use nonfactory floor mats or lay down all-weather mats on top of the original carpets — two practices that could lead to entrapment of the accelerator and sudden unwanted acceleration.

      “We learned to be more sensitive of the way the customer uses the product,” Yokoyama said.

      Toyota warns against putting one carpet on top of another or using mats designed for a different vehicle but says people do that anyway.

      To what degree should Toyota be held responsible for designing around such behavior?

      “If we put too much emphasis on the efforts we are making to accommodate different usages, then the awareness of the customer of the need to use the product properly could deteriorate,” Yokoyama said. “The balance is very difficult.”

      (Note: I found the preceding paragraph very hard to understand … too much emphasis on accomodating leading to deterioration … customer education, intelligence, and experience aside, products needs to be designed to the customer, not the other way around. Which, in the following quotes, he seems to do a 180° turn.)

      A key element in this will be getting more in tune with customers’ needs and peeves.

      “Generally speaking, we are selling 80 percent of our vehicles overseas, and the network of collecting information is weaker in overseas markets than in Japan,” Yokoyama said. “So there are areas where we can make improvements in the information-gathering network.”

      Last fall’s recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles was a nadir for the Japanese automaker. It was Toyota’s worst ever in the United States and the sixth-biggest on record at NHTSA.

      It also opened the door to accusations that Toyota was trotting out floor mats to cover up more serious safety lapses, such as ill-conceived start-stop buttons or faulty electronic throttle control systems.

      More important, the Toyota vehicles lacked a brake override system as an additional backup — a technology long ago adopted by some European brands that also use drive-by-wire throttle controls.

      Yokoyama said the vast majority of unintended-acceleration cases are caused by human error and floor mat interference. But he disputed allegations that the company’s electronic throttle control was faulty. He did not address other potential causes of unintended accelerations.

      The electronic throttle-control system has dual sensors backstopping each other in monitoring the accelerator pedal’s position, along with two more sensors double-checking the throttle position. Meanwhile, there is a control computer actuating the throttle and a monitoring computer surveying all the computer signals in the circuit. If any abnormal signals are detected, the engine is immediately returned to idle, Yokoyama said.

      Furthermore, Toyota says, the throttle control is reliable under extreme conditions of electromagnetic waves, temperature and vibration.”

      I don’t have time to go into each paragraph, but anyone with experience can ask critical questions about nearly every paragraph and really wonder if Toyota has lost some of it’s Kaizen/Safety Mojo …

      (key question is, if the AbW system is so good, and designed for extreme usage situations for complex issues like temp, RFI, NVH, what simple usage situation, or DFMEA, or PFMEA items did they forget or inappropriately rank RPN-wise???)

      IMHO, Mr. Yokahama’s interview is interesting, but he is not entirely forthcoming.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Unintended acceleration was just an excuse for Audi’s real failings.

    Audi always faced an uphill battle as a poor man’s BMW or Mercedes, except not that much cheaper and with horrible build quality.

    If anything set back Audi more than a decade it was the introduction of Lexus, Infiniti and Acura in the late ’80s: finally alternatives to BMW and Mercedes that were cheaper and built better, not built worse.

    And Audi’s still don’t sell in decent numbers.

    This should serve as a wakeup call to Toyota, but this is nothing like the Audi situation, where the first time most Americans heard of a crappy, poorly built brand was with an unintended acceleration scare.

    Toyota is very established in the US, so this is more like the Dateline GM pickup gas tank debacle. GM is so established in full size pickups that it didn’t even feel a slight impact from that scare.

    And not too many Americans read the Nikkei, and the rabidly xenophobic polite Japanese that do read the Nikkei would rather die in a Toyota than buy a foreign car.

    Toyota has a lot to fear from Hyundai, but only because Hyundai makes less expensive cars that are as good if not better, not because of this one scare.

  • avatar

    @ Robert.Walter:

    That’s what I mean by the perception problem. There are deaths associated with this story in some manner, and there appear to be continuing problems (and more deaths) not solved by Toyota’s solution. Unlike myriad other problems, once deaths occur, the story has legs. It isn’t going away without a swift, direct, correct response to the problem and the associated perceptions. As Bertel said, the Audi exec may have been right, but he handled the problem badly. It sounds like the Nikkei is trying to wake Toyota up to their problematic response.

    If Toyota’s issue is tied to engineering/production or even worse, they appear to have covered it up, all bets are off.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Decisions Toyota managers made the past half-dozen years have led to fires being started in several rooms in their house.

    Have they unwittingly charted a course leading directly to GM-level respect in the market place? Has “The Toyota Way” (Jeffrey Liker) been replaced with “Crash Course” (Paul Ingrassia)?

    The sinking reviews on the newsstands and now the Nikkei adding credence and coverage to the issue will fuel the main stream media (msm) throwing the spotlight on it, giving it increasingly wider broadcast like ripples on a pond.

    Those who say bad, bad, bad things will happen unless they put out the existing fires and stop starting new ones have clarity of vision beyond that of the current Toyota management.

  • avatar

    One problem with the toyota/audi comparison is that when the audi flap hit, audi was new in the US. No-one knew it. Toyota has decades of excellent reliability, and there are millions of Toyota owners out there, most of whom are not having the accelerator problem, and most of whom will buy toyotas again. The best thing toyota can do, of course, is swift recalls to minimize the number of accelerator incidents.

    That said, I would love to hear some details from John Horner (or anyone else, but he brought this up) as to how Toyota’s standards have fallen over the last 15 years. My best friend’s 04 Corolla seems like a far better car than his ’94 Geo Prizm. And the Prions are, of course, doing superbly.

    • 0 avatar

      The other side of the Toyota/Audi coin is that their popularity will help propagate the story. The obvious question for any Toyota owner or prospective buyer is, “Will my family be the next one that dies in a flaming Toyota crash?”

      Toyota can fix this problem, just like Audi could have. Their next moves will be important.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      “Prions”, as in BSE, David? Maybe that is the answer BSE Kobe Beef leads to UA? Maybe as cars become more organic people have to start looking out for those waacky folding proteins (aka Prions.) GM was laid low by a kind of sclerotic acretion of bad practices, perhaps Toyota will be laid low by a similar kind of ameloid plaque build-up. ;OD

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The steady drip, drip, drip drumbeat of high profile Toyota recalls, safety issues and its reduced standing in CR’s reports is all taking a real toll on the company. Once upon a time “everyone knew” that Toyota made “the best” cars. We have not yet reached a tipping point where mass opinion goes completely negative on Toyota, but the teeter totter is in motion.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      Phrased differently than I did above, but exactly the same view.

      The situation is on the move and Toyota is far from controlling the message. They better get their best and brightest on it before it spins further out of control and they find they are on the other side of the tipping point.

      It’s a whole lot harder to claw your way back from a freefall in public disgrace.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    In addition to these recalls, Toyota in the US is vulnerable to union inroads as it gets larger. Toyota’s labor practices in Japan and elsewhere would shock many Americans especially Prius owners who think they are being socially-conscious. I’ll be buying UAW/CAW assembled cars from the Big 3 from now on.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      Be diligent with what you read. All too often it’s written from a point of view to influence rather than inform the reader. Critical reading skills advised.

    • 0 avatar
      Len_A

      It wouldn’t shock me. I’m already well aware of it. I wonder how many of these posters realize that, when Toyota laid off their contract and temp (more like perma-temp) employees a year ago, that their labor costs took a sharp swing upward, and even surpassed the Detroit 3′s UAW/CAW level wages. With some plants, prior to January. 2009, running as high as 30% contract and perma-temp employees, losing them during the 2009 calender year was a big factor in Toyota’s trip to the red ink swimming pool.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    I would wager that the predictions of Toyota’s early death are rather premature. It is fun in grearhead land to slag Toyota and Honda. Yet both brands consistently rate at the top of reliability, CSI and owner retention. Oh and they sell gazillions of them.

    Will this affect the people who actually drive the cars? Hardly as Toyota dealers will take the recalled cars and give them a nice wash and vacuum and said dealers will be told on pain of death not to upsell a recall, which we did at Chrysler all the time.

    The fact is Toyota owners love their cars. They are comfortable, reliable and have good resale.All the web board slagging in the world world will not change that. Fact is, Toyota and Honda slaggers don’t actually buy Toyotas or Hondas so it is all blowing smoke anyway. Now, if people get stranded in their Toyotas, had to wait days for warranty repairs and fight with Toyota to get their cars fixed under warranty that might change things.

  • avatar
    bigbadbill

    This Toyota recall is a tempest in a teapot. Or a pimple on the ass of an elephant. But don’t get me wrong, I would NEVER buy a Japanese car for other, more sublime reasons. Why??….well, I have a long memory (12/07/41) and other wartime atrocities… such as the Rape of Nanking and the Bataan Death March. If you’re interested, buy or borrow the book: “FIRST INTO NAGASAKI” by George Weller,edited by his son Anthony Weller and with a Forward by Walter Cronkite. Absolutely scary and thank goodness we won!

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not interested in promoting 70 year old stereotypes. I seriously doubt many living Japanese take any more pride in those incidents than say, the allied crews that firebombed Dresden. It happened, it sucked, and no one wants to see it happen again. I don’t know what any of that has to do with Toyota’s current problems.

      I’ve enjoyed this discussion, but the atrocity angle needs to go elsewhere. That said, buy whatever car you want for whatever reasons you deem important.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      What toasty said. I guess this also means you don’t buy German cars ’cause of that Hitler guy. And, oh btw, the German arms of GM and Ford were fully complicit, so there goes 2/3rds of the Big 3 (am glad the “Big 2.whatever” seems to have run its course here). Who’s innocent here? Well, Churchill helped push the USA into getting involved in WW2, so write off British cars from your list. Guess you have to wait for the Chinese cars to make it ashore… but then there’s that Mao guy, not a nice fella.

      Good luck finding your next car.

  • avatar
    Monty

    It’s funny that we sit at our computers and prognosticate the downfall of Toyota, while the vast majority of consumers have no idea what’s going on in the autoworld.

    I have raised this subject at various times over the past several weeks with friends, family members and co-workers. Out of a sampling of some 40 or so people, only one other person (a fellow enthusiast) was aware of this issue. Every other person I spoke with, several of whom own Toyota products, were completely in the dark, and swore their undying allegiance to Toyota.

    It does seem as if the company is being far more proactive than the Detroit 3 ever were dealing with a potentially disastrous public relations nightmare.

    Whether or not Toyota’s quality has eroded over the past decade, as has been alleged, it took GM et al three decades to erode their customer base to the point of no return; I’m fairly certain that Toyota will take the necessary steps to turn this situation around and avoid the same fate.

    Admittedly, I’m no longer the fanboy I once was, but a ToMoCo product will always be on the short list every time we start car shopping.

    • 0 avatar

      Monty:

      The general public may not be aware of Toyota’s woes _now_, but give it time. Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, Edmunds, car mags, mainstream media, and enthusiast sites are all aware, watching, and reporting. Those articles will be available online for years, possibly affecting new car sales and resale values. Any non-Toyota salesperson would be a fool not to bring this up with their customers. This can only hurt sales; it’s up to management to limit the damage.

      Exceeding Big 3 responses isn’t saying much, and time is compressed compared to the ’70s. Toyota probably will put this to rest shortly, but management needs to learn from the experience.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      I agree with Monty. Not many people know about it, and Toyota is now actively recalling the cars “voluntarily” and fixing the problem, a fact that should play well for them.

      Their rep may have taken a hit, but it is not “ruined”.

  • avatar

    no_slushbox: and the rabidly xenophobic polite Japanese that do read the Nikkei would rather die in a Toyota than buy a foreign car

    You are out of this discussion. You just invoked the Japanese version of Godwin’s law by making a tasteless reference to the Nanjing massacre. Any further posts from you to this thread will be deleted, and you will be banned.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      Bertel, is the above correct or did you intend to direct that to Bigbadbill?

      People having lingering feelings against a country the U.S once fought is not uncommon.

      When Macy’s started buying up major department stores and putting a huge red star all over them, my feet refused to go inside.

      If they were smart, they’d change it to green and claim to be earth friendly.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      In truth, since this is “The Truth About Cars”, I have been into Macy’s since they bought the chain I used to frequent, but it does make me uneasy walking under that big red star.

    • 0 avatar

      The above is correct. It goes for BigBadBill also. It furthermore applies to anyone who makes references to war atrocities, or racist remarks. No discussion of this decision is desired. All offenders will be banned if this does not stop IMMEDIATELY.

    • 0 avatar
      criminalenterprise

      After Mr. Tepes’ rule in the 15th century I simply cannot stomach the thought of buying a Dacia

    • 0 avatar

      Bertel,

      Let’s say someone actually fought in the Pacific, on Okinawa or Iwo Jima, or worse, was a POW in a Japanese prison camp. Would you object if he boycotted Japanese products?

      If someone or their family members were slaves in a factory operated by Daimler, Porsche or the Quandt family, can you understand why they might avoid buying a M-B, BMW or VW?

    • 0 avatar

      Ronnie:

      1.) I said no further discussion desired.

      2.) If you insist, I may have a rare, multifaceted view. I had an uncle who was a tank commander in the Waffen SS and who was one of the last POWs to come home from Russia. I listened to his stories. He hated the war and all that led to it. I had a father in law who was actually in Honolulu on 12/7/41 as a young Lieutenant, who was shipped off to Guadalcanal a few weeks later, and who fought island to island until the war was over. I listened to his stories, and there were many he did not want to tell. I now have a father in law who is Japanese, 72 years old. He was an 8 year old kid when Tokyo was firebombed, and more than 100,000 people died in one night, more than the immediate deaths of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. I listen to his stories when he wants to tell them. He usually doesn’t want to talk.

      3.) The young Lieutenant passed away in 2007 at age 90. The tank commander died some 30 years ago. I strongly doubt that many of the people you mention are amongst our readership or the posters.

      4.) I respect any person’s desires and wishes when it comes to the choice of vehicles, friends, and world views. If someone doesn’t want to buy a car because of what happened in WW 2, WW1 or whenever – all power to him. Free country.

      5.) I will not tolerate racism or hate propaganda of any kind. The people who make cars today were not involved in any aspect of WW II. Even Bob Lutz wasn’t. You and I are not responsible for the sins of our forbears. You and I especially are not responsible for the sins committed by the military of a country long before we happened to have been born into that country.

      6.) The decision stands. If someone wants to test it, be my guest. And that’s it. Case closed.

    • 0 avatar

      No_slushbox has been banned. Reason: Violation of cease & desist order.

    • 0 avatar
      reclusive_in_nature

      I expect the same level of vigilance in banning posters who make racist comments about owners of *insert domestic product here* as “rednecks”, “trailer trash” etc. I’d also like to see anti-American comments removed as well. Racism and bigotry go both ways.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’ll be buying UAW/CAW assembled cars from the Big 3 from now on.

    After reading several books about life on the UAW assembly line and militant sabotage, I’m targeting my next purchase for an US-made vehicle outside the union realm.

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    One critical difference between the Toyota problem and the Audi problem a generation ago is that the Audi “unintended acceleration” problem was typically a launch from stop story. A parked driver slips the auto lever into gear, jams the throttle instead of the brake and away we go. The implementation of interlocks seemed to cure this problem.

    The Toyota problem isn’t the same at all. This is a runaway car problem that seems to be happening when the vehicle is already at speed, when pedal confusion is much less likely.

    The sad thing is that this doesn’t have to be happening. Many other DBW systems already map for if A+B then idle

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      This is a runaway car problem that seems to be happening when the vehicle is already at speed, when pedal confusion is much less likely.

      To quote wikipedia, “Citation needed.”

      Furthermore, if the driver in such a case is crushing the brake pedal, where is the evidence of brake failure? Brakes are never mentioned in these cases.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      IIRC brakes were mentioned. In the case of the Lexus driven by the late-CHP officer … the brake rotors were examined and displayed evidence of extreme overheating …

    • 0 avatar
      criminalenterprise

      ihatetrees: If you’ve been keeping up with the entries posted here and the links posted in comments in those threads you will know that these cases have not had that familiar “I put the car into gear and it went through the front of the convenience store” theme.

      I won’t be an errand boy who runs around collecting links that no one ever never clicks through anyway. This isn’t Wikipedia (thank God). If you have a specific point to refute, please feel free to cite from sources or memory, which hopefully will be accurate (cf. Robert.Walter’s comment).

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      @ Robert Walker:
      In the case of the Lexus driven by the late-CHP officer … the brake rotors were examined and displayed evidence of extreme overheating …

      Ok. My bad. From what I remember of the 911 audio and story, there was no mention of brakes. They’re often an overlooked point on this issue by so-called reporters.

      I concede the point based on your history here. Overheated rotors are solid evidence the CHP-officer tried his brakes and did not have enough braking power at WOT at highway speed.

      @criminalenterprise:
      If you’ve been keeping up with the entries posted here and the links posted in comments in those threads you will know that these cases have not had that familiar “I put the car into gear and it went through the front of the convenience store” theme.

      My point is that “pedal confusion” is independent of speed. People commonly mix pedals. At speed, when there’s an obstruction to trap a pedal down (accelerator) or stop a pedal from depressing (brakes), it can be horribly confusing. You can’t look down because you’re steering.

      You think the above is uncommon. I don’t. We disagree.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      @ihatetrees

      I would hate to assume that people are just not hitting the brakes. It is happening far to often for it to be pedal confusion. Either way, the problem isn’t brake failure, but rather UA. If you are surprised by the UA, you could be in an accident before you hit the brakes, or when releasing the brakes, the car could UA and run into someone. I have heard stories, I don’t have the references now, but this happening from a stop, hitting someone in front of the, putting it into reverse and hitting someone behind them as well. Could be brake confusion, could be UA, and we know that UA is a problem.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Why do I get the feeling that most of the fan boys defending Toyota aren’t so much fan boys as they are extreme GM (or other domestic) haters? I’m picking up a lot of “the competitor of my enemy is my friend” mentality here. Then again, there’s no shortage of zealots that come out of the woodwork whenever an import’s quality/reliability comes into question. Sort of like walking into a church and saying, “Jesus might have been a good guy, but that’s about it.”

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    I must have read the same books as Dave M and that will also effect my next purchase. Management has been the (enemy) of the UAW for so long it will be tough to change.

  • avatar

    Back on topic:

    To those of you that think Toyota has a problem, what should they do about it?

    Transparency and concern are paramount. I’d recommend working directly with NHTSA, and making sure that NHTSA is offered a spot at every Toyota press conference on the matter. Start a new website specific to this and every recall (toyotarecalls.com is already taken), and post regular updates directly from the manager responsible for addressing the issue. Make it extremely clear that Toyota is a company of people that make excellent products, and that they stand with their customers throughout any problems until they’re resolved. State that there will always be problems with any product, but unlike some competitors, Toyota will always be ready to fix them. Do all of that now and in the future, and public perception of Toyota can only improve.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      For existing vehicles already in the field, they should reflash the ECU on every affected vehicle that does *not* cut throttle input with brake application so that it does (my understanding is that this is all of them), and on all vehicles with push-button start, they should reflash the ECU so that it does not require a 3-second sustained push to turn the engine off, then provide an information pamphlet to owners instructing that the engine can be turned off at any time by pressing the “stop/start” button.

      Going forward, the throttle-cut with brake application should be built into the design with redundant brake-switch inputs (same as VW/Audi), the keyless push-button-start should be replaced with a rotary selector switch with the same positions as a normal keyswitch and with a *hard-wired* “off” position that is not reliant on any software, and vacuum to the power brakes should be maintained by using a mechanical vacuum pump (same as diesels already use) so that pumping the brakes in a situation where there is no vacuum (i.e. full throttle) won’t cause loss of power assistance.

    • 0 avatar
      Gardiner Westbound

      “the keyless push-button-start should be replaced with a rotary selector switch with the same positions as a normal keyswitch and with a *hard-wired* “off” position that is not reliant on any software” – Brian P

      Our 2007 Infiniti FX35 has this style keyless ignition switch. What it lacks in trendiness it makes up for in safety.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    What should they do?

    Buy enough of “The Toyota Way” books (still available) for the top three levels of management, have them read it, and report progress on getting back onto that track.

  • avatar
    dartman

    I have some “skin in this game” as they say. I bought a new 2007 5.7 Tundra Crewmax in March of 2008, primarily because of the awesome performance of the engine/transmission combination. A 5800 pound truck that pulls as effortlessly as my wife’s 328i and never manages to drop below 15 mpg is addictive. That being said the drive by wire throttle has always seemed very non-linear, you get the same acceleration from a quick 65% throttle input as you do from a quick 100% stab. When you start the vehicle initially rpm’s climb quickly to 2500-3000 rpm with no throttle input at all; then slowly drop closer to idle as the engine warms up. Clearly the ECU can easily control the fuel/air/throttle opening on its own–thank you very much! I have no problem believing that a glitch could cause the ECU to direct the engine to run at WOT all on it’s own. FWIW, my original factory mats are still in place with the plastic clips preventing them from moving forward. I do not believe they are in the least bit dangerous; however, I do allow others to drive the vehicle, and if anything was to happen I would hate for some lawyer or TMC to have an easy “out” so I guess I will remove it for the time being. The last Toyota I owned before this one was an 82 Supra—It had defective camshafts that TMC refused to warranty, and I swore at the time to never buy another Toyota; I should have listened to my wife who still refuses to drive a Toyota. IMO this is a big problem that will not go away.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      Clearly the ECU can easily control the fuel/air/throttle opening on its own–thank you very much! I have no problem believing that a glitch could cause the ECU to direct the engine to run at WOT all on it’s own.

      Unless the ECU causes the brakes to fail at the same time, you’ll be able to slow down. Sure, it’ll take longer and be a bit smokey and messy but you will slow.

      And since there are no reports/videos/tweets of WOT Toyotas slowing, engine revving and brakes smoking, I remain skeptical of so-called sudden acceleration.

    • 0 avatar
      dartman

      “Unless the ECU causes the brakes to fail at the same time, you’ll be able to slow down. Sure, it’ll take longer and be a bit smokey and messy but you will slow.”

      No argument from me here on that point. I have plenty of experience with stuck throttles—69 Roadrunner, 81 Ford F150, and most notably a GMC Semi-Tractor with 6V-71 2-Stroke Driproit Diesel (Now THAT”S one that will make the old sphincter pucker!!) I lived to tell the tale on all; the gas burners were easy: turn off the key come to a stop, once the engine stopped “dieseling” find problem-usually a cable kink issue, your done. On the Detroit, put in neutral come to a stop, get out and run a safe distance away and hope it stops on its own before the engine decides to pretend its a 5,000 lb hand grenade!! (It stopped). But…what if your 16 year old daughter borrows mom’s Avalon and this happens? Will the brakes hold out long enough to come to a safe stop? …Bad things can happen to inexperienced people…

      For those of you not familiar with 2-stroke diesels, here’s a “Screaming Jimmy” for your viewing enjoyment:
      http://videos.streetfire.net/video/GMC-grain-truck-with-2_79493.htm?ref=

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      Bad things can happen to inexperienced people…

      +1. For me, a bad thing was an obstruction (beer can/ coke bottle) behind the brake. That’s a check-your-shorts moment.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    Just put under the dash big red ‘Kill Engine’ flip switch like on a race car.

  • avatar
    YotaCarFan

    I think Nikkei article’s conclusion is valid. The Toyota SUA complaints (valid or not) have been out there for a few years, and an actual defect has been announced by Toyota (c.f. sticky gas pedal article on TTAC a couple of days back). If covered extensively by the media, people may get the impression (accurately or not) that either Toyota knew about a dangerous defect and did nothing about it or Toyota has not exercised due diligence in investigating SUA complaints and should’ve discovered the defect earlier. When Mitsubishi wheels fell off of cars in Japan, their reputation was demolished and the company is now on life support much like some of the drivers of their defective cars.

    It’s no secret that Toyota’s quality has dropped and their cars have been decontented (at least USA versions) over the past decade. This surely will weaken their base of loyal repeat customers. The SUA problem, if it develops legs of its own and takes off (bad pun) in the media, will further weaken this base, and will decrease the number of new customers. To make things worse for them, Hyundai now is perceived by customers and media as producing cars of equal/better quality than Toyota, and this, coupled with the weak economy and Hyundai’s lower price tags, could be the perfect storm that knocks Toyota down from its perch. Anecdotal note: I mentioned my Lexus ES’ clunky transmission and piston slap to a friend at lunch today, and his comment was “Trade it for a hyundai! Toyota and Honda aren’t that great anymore. Hyundai used to be junk, but now they’re better than Toyota and Honda!” He and his wife currently drive Hondas.

    As I’ve posted elsewhere, the claims that Toyota’s quality has dropped over the years are valid. With the exception of two Priuses and my wife’s new Hybrid Camry, which have been impeccable quality wise, the Toyotas and Lexuses I’ve gotten have gotten worse:

    1992 Camry: Perfect
    2001 Camry: Horrible build quality. Alleged sludge issue.
    I got rid of it in 3 months due to bad build quality.
    2002 Camry: Radio in dash different from that specified on Monroney sticker.
    Rattles. Plastic trim pieces falling off all over the place. Alleged sludge issue.
    2003 Prius: No problems
    2004 Lexus ES: Transmission downshift lag defect
    2004 Lexus ES: Same transmission problem
    2005 Prius: No problems
    2007 Camry: Horrible interior build quality. Rattles. Transmission slipped & clunked.
    Car in dealer all the time for something. Transmission completely failed after car 2 months old.
    Toyota told me to pound sand when I asked for buy back after botched transmission replacement,
    but gave me $1K if I’d trade it for another Toyota. Traded for 07 Lexus ES350.
    2007 Lexus ES: Total lemon. Transmission slipped & thunked on way home from dealer.
    Radio failed. Nav system defective, but refused replacement. Rattles galore. Two faulty
    headlamps. Defective gear shift. Defective button pilot lights. Bad steering column that
    clicks. Defective telescoping steering column that groans. Defective active motor mount.
    Other things I’ve forgotten by now.
    Very loud piston slap. Proof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tN0VA5L1b1w
    2009 Camry Hybrid: No problems

    Each day that I drive my ES and experience the lingering engine, transmission, steering, and gearshift problems (“normal operating characteristics” per Lexus Corp when I requested a buy back), I am less likely to buy another Toyota and more likely to get an ’11 Sonata or Azera. And, I’m a Toyota/Lexus fan. So, yes, Toyota does have a problem on its hands as the Nikkei says.

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      Wow! Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice… you still bought a Toyota or ‘fancy Toyota’.

    • 0 avatar
      npbheights

      Seems like they take extra time to get their Hybrids right.

      Really sad story overall. There are other automakers out there. It’s okay to try someone new.

    • 0 avatar
      Gardiner Westbound

      Bad news travels faster these days. Toyota/Lexus Internet owner forums have been filled with horror stories for several years, though few bought as many as YotaCarFan. Notwithstanding our Toyota was excellent we passed on buying a new Lexus choosing an Infiniti instead. So far it’s been great!

      Toyota’s ass isn’t in a sling already because the mainstream media (MSM) were slow to run with the story, and Detroit-3 vehicles are perceived as being even worse. But it’s out there big time now. It won’t be long before Toyota is unable to command premium new and used prices and sales slow.

      Honda has no room to be smug. Similarly, we liked our Honda so much we bought an Acura. We won’t buy another. The MSM is publishing stories confirming Honda’s quality has also fallen off a cliff. http://tinyurl.com/yceh89y

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      After all that you can still call yourself “yotacarfan”? Your faith must be strong, or you are a real glutton for punishment, Wow!

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      My supposedly “crappy” Dodge Stratus (the sedan – not the Mitsu based coupe) has given me a lot less problems than any of your troublesome Toyo/Lexus vehicles. With so many folks on here saying that one or two bad experiences with American cars soured them forever, at what point are you going to stop cutting these guys some slack and move on?

    • 0 avatar

      BigBadBill has been banned. Reason: Violation of cease & desist order.

    • 0 avatar
      Len_A

      Good grief! If my Ford’s ever gave me anything even close to that much trouble, I don’t think I could ever go back to them, not even with a family member’s employee discount. More over, the one’s we’ve had from Ford (five total in my family) since 1996 have been quite good.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    You can find horror stories about any brand on the internet. People who are happy with their cars tend not to whine much. People who are unhappy tend to do a lot of that. Like I said before, Honda/Toyota slaggers don’t own, want to own or buy said products. I have no idea what their role in life is to be honest.

    The link above that slags the Accord is on fact related to the 2003 model. It is seven years out of date. Why would anyone bother to write an article about a seven year old car? Honda sells loads of Accords, it is like the #2 selling sedan in America.

    Silly nonsense.

  • avatar
    YotaCarFan

    Interesting post. I do not automatically consider historical facts or potentially incorrect cultural stereotypes to be racist or hate propaganda, although the latter is sometimes the case depending on the speaker’s intentions. I also totally agree that people should not be blamed for what their ancestors did or be assumed to have the same views as their ancestors. IMHO, not wanting to buy a car built by Japanese workers born after ~1970 because of what happened in the 1940s is irrational, but car purchasing decisions are often based on emotions, not logic. While history may be painful or result in bias in some people, the reality is that it did and to a lesser extent today has some influence on the car buying preferences of some Americans. I grew up in an American neighborhood with a significant Korean and Japanese immigrant population, and back then (30+ years ago), not one of the Koreans I knew/saw drove a Japanese car because of their own painful memories. And, none of the Japanese drove Japanese cars because they wanted to be seen as Americans and not associated with what others had done in the past. Ironically, today, pretty much every Korean-American and Japanese-American I know drives a Japanese car, due to their or their parents’ bad experiences with American brand cars. To them, getting something of quality is more important than historical things that happened before they were born. Similarly, although my wife is from Nanjing China and has an irrational dislike of Japanese, every car she’s ever owned has had a “T” or “L” on the hood. And, while I am very fond of Japanese & Korean cultures due to my childhood experiences and as a geek have a habit of spending too much money on the latest toys made there, I do respect the way many Americans, particularly service men/women, choose to express their patriotism by buying American brand cars.

  • avatar
    BDB

    EDIT:

    Changed my mind..I’m not touching this subject with a ten foot pole.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    “Past quality, reliability and durability is generally the best predictor of future satisfaction.”

    Indeed. Honda and Toyota are still top of all their classes. Show me a bad rating on any one.

    As per claiming that one country is bad in one past war or another, it is interesting how we are blind to what we did to the Native Indians in North America. The US Army waged a war of genocide on them. In Canada we made treaties with them we had no intention of honouring leading to the starvation of most of them.

    Conveniently forgotten.

    • 0 avatar
      reclusive_in_nature

      We’re always going to be ‘inconveniently reminded’ not so much by the people we may have wronged in the past (most are intelligent enough to not blame people and countries for their ancestors mistakes), but by those who believe that patriotism is beneath them and their country needs taken down a peg. Thank goodness for freedom of speech, huh?

  • avatar

    IMHO, the pinnacle of Toyota quality lies with the 1992 Camry. From the 1995-96 refresh onward, things just took a turn for the cheap. Compare a 92 with a 02 and a 09 and you’ll see how far down the drain the subjective quality has gone.

    Hopefully Toyota can refocus on the whole quality aspect before their customers notice and write it off as another GM in the making.

    BTW, some of the other issues in this blog post have damn-near turned me off from posting. I’ve only done as to not feel as though the general discussion is being completely stifled. I think I’ll just stick with the Curbside Classics posts from now on.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      I don’t have much experiance with the Camry outside of my neighbor’s 92 which is still running fairly well. I am however familar with Corollas. My Aunt’s 91 was a great car it ran ok considering it wasn’t taken care of at all and had a great, albeit dated interior.

      My mom’s Matrix is considerably mediocre not just to the 91 but other comparable cars, the fit and finish is poor, the belt chatters, theres a draft. I’ve been in the sedan Corollas and outside of slightly better fit and finish they also feel sub-par.

      Its seems to me Toyota expects people to buy their cars on the grounds that their Toyotas, and while that may work for the moment if they continue to build sub-par products people will eventually ditch them for better products just like they ditched the domestics for Toyotas in the first place.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    Name me a single ethnic group that has not been mistreated at one time or another. It is all nonsense. The website is about cars.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    Back to the topic…ahem…

    Regarding the issue of Toyota and Honda’s slipping quality, I’m reminded of the old joke about two campers who stumble upon an angry grizzly bear. It’s not so important to out run the bear, as it is important to outrun the other campers.

    From the mid-1990s until recently, it seems as though nearly all manufacturers were de-contenting their vehicles or using lower-quality materials, with the possible exceptions of GM and Ford.

    The flaw with this this logic is thinking that buyers would only compare the latest model to competing models from other manufacturers, and the hope that buyers would somehow be oblivious to the noticeably better materials used in the previous Camry or Accord.

    This business model probably works well for building market share, but if taken too far there’s a risk of tarnishing the loyalty of repeat buyers, which Camry and Accord have in legion. Also a factor was that, by the mid-1990s, Toyota and Honda were hoping that there would be less repeat Camry and Accord owners, as they would be “trading up” to Lexus or Acura (which didn’t suffer as much from the cost-sutting measures).

    Part of what made this backfire is that during this timeframe, GM and Ford narrowed the gap quite a bit, particularly in the quality of interior materials. One could argue that the seeds of this entire issue lie in the mid-1960s, when the Big 3 started using cheaper materials, while at the same time overlapping the price, quality and equipment levels between a top-of-the-line Chevrolet Caprice and and an entry-level Cadillac Calais.

  • avatar
    CamaroKid

    [i]with the possible exceptions of GM and Ford.[/i]

    LOL! maybe with the exception of Ford… GM was slashing content from their car WORSE then ANY other manufacture. From Fake plastic wood in Cadillacs to the elimination of heated wiper fluid in Buicks to the elimination of adjustable pedals in Chevy’s

    My prediction, this will all come down to a cheap bearing or a failed return spring, some suppliers (likely American) will be crucified and within 6 months it will all be forgotten.

    edit… Oh I should also add that the NHSTA will freak out, over react and will basically outlaw all most all drive by wire systems… Just like the BS Audi SUA problem, which we all know was ALL media hype has left EVERY CAR on the road with a brake depress shifter lock, this incident will have safety authorities mandate yet another aspect of automobile production.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      I agree that GM was guilty of cheapening their interiors, but I contend that the quality of interior materials (particularly plastics) has actually improved overall in the last 10 years or so. Sure, you could find a bad apple or two, but the key word is overall.

      Cadillac began using fake wood in the 1960s, so that’s not in the timeframe to being discussed (mid-1990s to present). Adjustable pedals and and heated wiper fluid are not quite on par with the things I saw from the Japanese during this time period, such as the elimination of independent rear suspensions, standard ABS, alloy wheels and soft touch plastics from all but the highest trim levels…if you were lucky.

      If you do a search on the name I post under, you’ll definitely see that I’m NOT a GM fanboy – but they definitely deserve credit where credit is due.

      And thank goodness the comments are back on topic…

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      IIRC: Heated wiper fluid was dliminated due to a botch of design & manufacture which caused a safety recall (all these systems were pulled from vehicles in the field … this issue resulted in the bankruptcy of the supplier who made the systems.)

  • avatar
    mcs

    This is going to be off the publics radar screen very soon. There are rumors of a Brangelina split and that will pretty much shift their attention.

    My advice to Toyota is to keep their dealers in line and keep an eye on attempts at inflating service bills for fun little items like charging $100 to pour fuel system cleaner into the gas tank. I’m seeing that starting to occur and behavior like that can do a lot of damage.

    They also need to adopt the software development processes that are used in developing avionics software. A major part of those processes is exensive internal and external peer review of every line of code written.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Well….Some interesting reading on a Sunday afternoon while I wait for football.

    As a big domestic fan it would be easy to gloat over Toyotas latest misfortune. As an Ontario taxpayer, with two Toyota plants, keeping our devastated manufactoring base alive, I don’t find Toyota,s recent problems so entertaining.

    Toyota will survive this. The dent in thier teflon armour, is there to stay though. The reality is neither Toyota nor Honda, make perfect vehicles,as some would have you belive.

    On the other topic here..I bought GM products my whole life for one reason and one reason only. GM has paid my morgage,fed, me and my family,educated my kids,and provided me with a style of living a high school dropout could only dream of,and they still do.

    If I had worked for Ford I’d drive a Ford. If the Toyota logo were on my pay/pension check…I guess I would be buying Toyota.

    But I would still think the’re ugly.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Brian P and mcs, you are my kind of engineer. Maanufacturers should always keep asking “what could possibly go wrong”? The press-for-three-seconds “off” button is an appalling idea. If Toyota wants to see how to do things right, then should study my 1931 Model A’s foolproof safety technology. Not only is there an old fashioned key to cut the ignition, I can stop fuel from reaching the carburetor just by reaching under the dash and turning a little valve! (The dashboard, by the way, is also the wall of the gas tank. But what can go wrong with that?)

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The general public may not be aware of Toyota’s woes _now_, but give it time. Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, Edmunds, car mags, mainstream media, and enthusiast sites are all aware, watching, and reporting.

    And what they’re reporting is that Toyota was and is still at the top of just about every quality ranking you can name, and that the rate of problems has been steady or decreasing, some teething issues aside, for every model.

    I’d love to know where these horrible issues are, because objectively they’re not happening. The Tundra (otherwise known as the truck that supposedly can’t drive more than five feet without snapping a cam and having the bed fall off) is actually the most reliable truck you can get, save the (apparently rust-ridden) Tacoma. Similarly, the Avalon (the car that “everyone knows has serious problems”) is rock solid and one of the more reliable cars you can buy in any class.

    Until Toyotas start stranding people on the side of the road or earning their owners frequent and significant repair bills, all of this is wishful thinking on the part of brand fanatics fed by a story-hungry media.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      Going to work on a military base (not in Texas) where there are three Tundras for every F-150 of similar age, I agree that rumors of Toyota’s imminent collapse are greatly exaggerated.

    • 0 avatar
      Len_A

      Go read YotaCarFan’s post above, and then say that the problems are exaggerated.

      No one said Toyota is going to disappear, but they are developing problems, it’s not going away (because that’s how problem in big ticket consumer products like cars often run, with decisions made in the past showing up many years later), and it’s got people talking.

    • 0 avatar
      Len_A

      And as toasty pointed out above, people have died in some of these incidents. That’s what has people talking, and they’re not going to stop questioning.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Go read YotaCarFan’s post above, and then say that the problems are exaggerated.

      A sample containing one (1) car owner is not representative of the typical ownership experience.

    • 0 avatar
      Len_A

      And one owner having problems with six out of ten cars suggests the problems are not exaggerated. You have to wonder what some people would say if it were one of the Detroit car makers, that an owner had problems with six out of ten cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Since you plucked one of my lines…

      psarhjinian:
      “Until Toyotas start stranding people on the side of the road or earning their owners frequent and significant repair bills, all of this is wishful thinking on the part of brand fanatics fed by a story-hungry media.”

      How about crushing their bodies and roasting their remains? Does that count as stranded on the side of the road? Your opinion pales in comparison to the reality of the situation.

      In the last 10 years, I’ve owned Chevy, Ford, VW, Toyota, Honda, and Subaru. I also don’t like car crashes, so I’m not sure where I fall on the Psarhjinian Brand Fanatic Wishful Thinking Spectrum. This is a safety issue for everyone on the road, brand fanatics and agnostics alike.

      Even though Toyota said that this was all due to floor mat interference, there’s cause for concern that whatever happened with some Toyota products was caused by something else. At the very least, Toyota needs to address the 3 second Start button hold time so whatever an engine is doing can be stopped much faster and easier. Even without the deaths attributed to this issue, the current Start button behavior seems dangerous. Leaving the acceleration issue aside, the California crash might have been avoided or minimized had the driver been able to simply shut off the engine.

      I don’t care what manufacturer is having this problem, but I do care that it’s addressed properly. In fact, I hope the Start button issue leads to better regulation of ignition (or On/Off) system behavior in future vehicles. Toyota’s currently high ratings have no bearing because they don’t reflect the recent interest in this problem. Call me whatever you want; these deaths demand changes be made. Failing to investigate and implement necessary changes dishonors those that died, and yes, it may even harm Toyota’s reputation, just as the “story-hungry” Nikkei suggests.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      “Until Toyotas start stranding people on the side of the road or earning their owners frequent and significant repair bills, all of this is wishful thinking on the part of brand fanatics fed by a story-hungry media.”

      I said something similar to this above and got a similar answer from Toasty.

      And I’m not what you would call a Toyota fan.

      Basically, safety or not, this is not going to dent THAT much their image.

      Yes the safety issue must be addressed.

    • 0 avatar
      Len_A

      I disagree with you Stingray. The dent in Toyota’s image is going to be affect by how many more incidents with death or serious injury happen. That kind of bad press can hurt them much in the same way the Firestone tire incident hurt Ford, even more so for Toyota because of Toyota’s previous history of reliability. It’s a bigger potential fall for them than it was for Ford, because Ford’s reputation was already in decline at the time. For Toyota, there’s the chance for “the bigger they are, the harder than they fall”, and that’s what Nikkei, in Japan, is suggesting.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Leaving the acceleration issue aside, the California crash might have been avoided or minimized had the driver been able to simply shut off the engine.

      The same would have been the case if
      * The dealer had takent he first customer’s complaints about the floormats seriously
      * The driver has stood, hard, on the brakes.

      How about crushing their bodies and roasting their remains? Does that count as stranded on the side of the road? Your opinion pales in comparison to the reality of the situation.

      I think you’re being more than a little melodramatic.

      Toyota as a recall. They sell a lot of cars that share a lot of components. It’s going to be big, and it’s going to cost them a lot of money, which is one reason why the Nikkei is coming down on them. But it’s not necessarily worse than, eg, how Corvette steering column lockups used to happen, just more widespread and, honestly, Toyota is a juicy target.

      I’m bothered by the lack of critical analysis of the media’s role in this and by the lack of understanding by enthusiasts about how consumer perceptions actually work. There are safety recalls for all sorts of products, and many people are well and truly harmed on them, but by and large they aren’t quality issues. Unless you’re talking tens of recalls per year, consumers just don’t care, and they won’t start caring until the cars are breaking down.

      No matter how much the auto press and their advertisers (and certainly the legions or ambulance chasers who must be salivating at the idea of a class-action suit of this size) wishes it were otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      Len_A

      psarhjinian, first of all, this is NOT a floor mat issue anymore. Toyota’s spokesperson in the USA, last week, told AP that this is a defective gas pedal assembly issue, and that all the affected vehicles use the same part, from the same vendor. There’s no critical analysis for the media to perform when the manufacturer comes out says “It’s a defect part, from the same supplier, and we use it in all these vehicles.”

      Second of all, Nikkei is coming down on them for the dent this puts in their quality image, in addition to the cost of the recall.

      Third of all, Toyota’s own management in Japan has been acknowledging for the last four years that their design processes have a problem, which four years ago led then CEO Katsuaki Watanbe to publicly state they were slowing their process down by six months and dramatically increasing the amount of prototyping they would do. Anyone who has been in the Tier One or Tier Two auto parts business already knew years ago that Toyota was relying on more virtual testing and less physical prototyping than their competitors, and many of these people, including those working for Japanese owned suppliers questioned whether it would led to trouble down the road. It appears that it indeed may have, and as someone who has been in the business for twenty-five years, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that this won’t be the last issue for Toyota. Other will happen, perhaps not as large, but they will absolutely come up.

    • 0 avatar

      psarhjinian: I think you’re being more than a little melodramatic.

      I think you’re being more than a little smug and condescending. People died in a fiery car crash (no melodrama involved), and none of your deflections can change that. You can’t even concede that the current keyless start system might need some more attention from those “engineers who design fault-tolerant systems for a living”. See the European recall for more evidence that this isn’t a creation of “media parasites and the general public”.

      I’ve never said that Toyota’s reputation is ruined over this, but it certainly has been damaged, and the situation warrants further investigation. Your smug observations about sales numbers, the media, and the general public don’t change that.

    • 0 avatar
      Len_A

      And it’s 16 people who have died so far from this defect, which is why this has the potential to tarnish Toyota’s image.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    IMHO, the pinnacle of Toyota quality lies with the 1992 Camry. From the 1995-96 refresh onward, things just took a turn for the cheap. Compare a 92 with a 02 and a 09 and you’ll see how far down the drain the subjective quality has gone.

    And yet the actual problems per vehicle rate has gone down since then. Objective quality wins again.

    Tactile quality really is overrated, especially among the older edge of Gen-X and older. What older generations call “cheap” is what the current generation finds appealing, and I think that we really ought to realize that the soft plastic dash is going the way of the whitewalls, wire wheels and landau tops.

    • 0 avatar
      Len_A

      Objective quality wins again? May I suggest you go back and read Bertel Schmitt’s comments above: It’s the Nikkei in Tokyo suggesting that Toyota’s quality reputation is taking a hit. Not a bunch of posters on message boards.

      It’s amusing to watch the Toyota car fans react to any criticism of the car maker.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      So we should resign to having a craptastic hard dashboard, in ever increasing price cars, because younger generations are more conformist than older ones?

      I have one answer to you… NO.

      I’m 31 years old and will try as far as I can to not purchase a C-D segment car with a hard touch dash. For the cheap cars in A-B is ok, for the more expensive ones is not. Or you’re are willing to pay for a hard touch dash in an S-Class Benz just because is “fashionable”.

      Valid also for some very BIG SUVs

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It’s amusing to watch the Toyota car fans react to any criticism of the car maker.

      I’m not a Toyota fan as much as I’m a media critic. It’s true I do own one (a base-trim Sienna) but it really could have gone either way (Sienna, Oddy, Mazda5) and it was the price that got me. What I do have is an inherent distrust of the same media machine that made hay faking the Audi 5000 acceleration claims, as well as rigging GM half-tons with explosives to demonstrate their inherent tendency to explode.

      According to the NHTSA, the bulk of “unintended acceleration” claims are bogus, and generally the result of people confused about which pedal they’re currently pushing. I can vouch for this: my wife put our (manual transmission equipped, for you MT snobs) into a heavy iron pole because she didn’t know which was which; my mother in law has managed the same trick, and my old boss (a two-foot driver) rear-ended so many people he actually lost his license.

      You’ll forgive me if I don’t have a little more respect for engineers who design fault-tolerant systems for a living, and a little less for media parasites and the general public.

      The hard dash thing is something I’ve been harping on this site for months. To whit: I had a Saab 9-3 for a few years, and it had a nice, soft dash and stylish interior appointments, and I watched as the engine sludged, the HVAC system broke, the transmission started to chew parts and it ate brake discs yearly. None of this was subject to a recall (the sludging issue was convered under a secret warranty). But boy, was the dash nice and soft.

      People walk into a high-end A/V stores and cheerfully drop a few grand on a stereo looks very much like the IP of a modern car. Older appliances, trimmed with wood and leather, are a kind of retrograde joke. We’re seeing the same design cues in cars: dashboards and controls that look more like a high-end piece of AV equipment, both of which are “hard plastic”. It’s at it’s most striking in a modern Honda, but it’s not isolate to them, not by a longshot, and this is despite auto reviewers bemoaning how each new model is cheaper and harder. What is actually happening is that those same reviewers are getting more and more out of touch.

      The proof is in the sales numbers: people want cars that don’t cost them a lot of money to own and operate. Hard plastic dashes aren’t going to turn people off**, nor are large-scale recalls. The reaction, or lack thereof, among the public is more telling about how divorced from reality enthusiasts really are.

      As if the sales of Pontiac G8 and the constant clamouring for manual diesel wagons wasn’t proof enough.

      ** when GM was being lambasted for this, the problem wasn’t that the car was cheap inside, it’s that it broke down and cost money to fix. A Corolla of the same vintage as most Cavaliers was just as dour inside, but the Corolla didn’t cost you nearly as much to keep, nor be as likely to leave you stranded, nor come from a company that treated warranty obligations like a leper’s underpants.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    And one owner having problems with six out of ten cars suggests the problems are not exaggerated.

    It may suggest that he drives like a bat out of hell. Or his kids may abuse his cars without him knowing it. Or he has a crappy dealer.

    Not saying any of this is the case, but it’s why it’s foolish to base any manufacturer’s reputation on the experiences of one owner. That’s not my opinion; it’s something that’s taught in any freshman-level statistics class.

    And no, I’m not a Toyota loyalist…

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Your smug observations about sales numbers, the media, and the general public don’t change that.

    No, they don’t, nor was that my intent. That would be why Toyota issued a recall and/or why the NHTSA will mandate recalls, and why a lot of money is spent on both sides of the fence (government and industry) investigating this kind of thing.

    Where I get “smug” is about the media hysteria, partly in the autoblogosphere but in the MSM as well, especially around whether or not this will “destroy Toyota’s reputation” and how Toyotas are supposedly “falling in quality”.

    On one hand, we have objective reports that put Honda and Toyota models at or near the top of just about any quality ranking you can name. On the other hand, we have blogosphere wankery about how both manufacturers products are supposedly terrible, have gone downhill over the past ten years, indeed if they were ever that good at all.

    Again, on one hand: objective evidence. On the other: hearsay and, quite frankly, wishful thinking. I’m sorry that accepting the former over the latter is “smug”, but I guess that’s the nature of image politics: facts are “smug” but gut feelings based on anecdotes are indisputable.

    This recall episode is immaterial to their quality rankings because, as past experience tells us, consumers just don’t care about recall notices as a measure of quality. They honestly don’t. The companies that make cribs, carseats for children, toys and foodstuffs and such have seen recalls (and bodycounts) that would make executives in automobilia pale and yet, somehow, they’re still in business. The reason is that they’re not costing consumers, en masse, serious money for their mistakes. That’s what costs reputation: cost, not recalls.

    I’m sorry you find this condescending and smug. Guess what? It’s how the world actually works.

    Asking questions like “Will this destroy Toyota?” or blogging on it incessantly in search of page hits through the discussions it engenders**, I’d hazard, is far more self-serving than myself and others pointing out the reality of the market.

    ** hi, Autoblog!

    • 0 avatar

      Fair enough. I think we came at this from different angles more than anything else.

      I really don’t care about Toyota’s reputation, except that their response to this problem might be affected by the pressure they feel to get it right. I wasn’t involved in the discussion of Toyota’s decline in “quality”, as I find that to be a separate level of concern from safety issues like this. Market forces can deal with non-safety issues just fine, as GM is finally learning.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought of a variety of snarky, I-told-you-so posts, but decided against going that route.

      Whether self-initiated or government imposed, I’m glad Toyota halted sales and production of the affected vehicles and appears to be fixing the problem. It’ll hurt sales for a bit, and their rep has definitely taken a hit, but neither problems are unrecoverable. Toyota makes good vehicles, and this latest recall might provide exactly the motivation they need to reorganize before GM-itis reaches a terminal phase.

  • avatar
    rnc

    Well damn, don’t think there’s much to add to this one.


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