Toyota Recalls 3.8 Million Vehicles, Its Largest Recall Ever
By Chris Haak
Toyota’s once-stellar reputation has been taking it on the chin in recent months. The company that never closed a factory in the US is finding itself closing the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California because GM pulled out of the joint venture that had been building Pontiac Vibes, Toyota Tacomas, and Toyota Corollas. Consumer Reports no longer automatically recommends new Toyota models because its quality reputation has been damaged. And most recently, the unintended acceleration debacle has really sullied the company’s reputation – the one that took decades of near-flawless execution to create.
Toyota and the NHTSA suspect that the combination of unanchored floor mats and the design of accelerator pedals in certain vehicles could potentially cause the accelerator pedal to stick to the floor, causing rapid acceleration that can’t easily be controlled. What’s more, the pushbutton start feature in many of the affected models does not shut down the engine on the road until the button has been depressed for a few seconds. Folks panicking as their Camry careens down the road aren’t likely to have the presence of mind to remember to hold it for three seconds to kill the motor.
Against this backdrop, Toyota announced today that it has initiated its largest recall campaign ever, affecting 3.8 million vehicles, nearly all of which are huge volume sellers for the Japanese-based automaker. Affected models and years include:
• 2007 to 2010 Camry
• 2005 to 2010 Avalon
• 2004 to 2009 Prius
• 2005 to 2010 Tacoma
• 2007 to 2010 Tundra
• 2007 to 2010 Lexus ES 350
• 2006 to 2010 Lexus IS 250
• 2006 to 2010 Lexus IS 350
The company will notify owners of the Camry, ES 350, and Avalon via first-class mail by the end of the year and will notify owners of the other vehicles throughout 2010.
The repair will involve dealers re-shaping the accelerator pedal to cut down on the risk that they may become stuckin the floor mat. Also, Toyota will replace original equipment floor mats with redesigned mats. Finally, Toyota will install a brake override system that will shut off engine power if drivers press the accelerator pedal and brake pedal simultaneously on the affectd Camry, Avalon, and Lexus ES 350, IS 350 and IS 250 models “as an extra measure of confidence.” That means no more brake torquing during acceleration for those models.
Toyota does not expect to have any additional financial impact from this recall aside from the $5.6 billion (500 billion yen) already set aside in the company’s financials. The long-term fallout from this matter remains to be seen, but it’s easy to see parallels between Toyota’s recent stumbles and the “death by a thousand cuts” that led to GM’s slide into bankruptcy over the past four decades. One big difference is that Akio Toyoda is well aware of his company’s current issues and has raised alarm bells far earlier than GM CEOs ever did.
Credit goes to Toyota for decisively attacking this issue. Of course, it had little choice at this point, since its PR statements that there was no underlying defect flew in the face of the NHTSA’s findings to the point that the agency had to issue a public rebuttal to Toyota’s statements. Meanwhile, if you own one of the affected vehicles, keep an eye on your floor mats, and especially if they’re the all-weather variety.
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