Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Toyota’s Problems Not Continuing – It’s a Decade’s Old Problem Come to a Head

Five people have died in the United States due to automaker Toyota’s decade-long failure to recognize and fix faulty accelerators in their vehicles.

American Federal prosecutors claim the automaker hesitated to respond to 2,600 complaints about sudden unintended acceleration of some of its vehicles made by the company’s customers between 2000 and 2010.

Toyota’s top brass all over the world – including the supreme Toyota commander, Akio Toyoda, the company’s president – have apologized publicly to their customers. Toyoda is going to be speaking at an American-led Congressional hearing today, in response to his company’s worldwide recall of over 8.5 million vehicles.

The criminal investigation in the United States also claims the automaker failed to investigate the electronics behind the problem, ultimately charging that Toyota failed to protect the public.

Toyota’s reputation has long been built on the company’s safety and reliability – since the 1980’s the Toyota Camry has had one of the highest re-sell values when compared to all cars sold in North America.

That specific model’s re-sale value, and the company’s reputation as a safe and reliable automaker may have been forever changed.

And rightly so.

You don’t produce over 8.5 million bad apples and expect to be considered the most reliable apple dealer – so don’t expect 8.5 million potentially rotten vehicles to lead to being considered the most reliable vehicle manufacturer.

And it only took over ten years for Toyota to act on those 8.5 million problems.
A lot can happen in ten years, and unfortunately, it appears that Toyota has fallen into a trap which many large companies have also fallen into – cutting corners to save money.

There are always cheaper alternatives for producing products; however something is always sacrificed for the lower cost. At the most base level, maybe you won’t be able to get the same color, or texture of finish on the paint, or maybe the chrome just won’t be as shiny. At the highest level, maybe someone will die because the product just isn’t as safe.

But the chances of someone dying are so slim, while the cost savings so great . . .

Five deaths have been linked to Toyota’s faulty accelerator systems. Granted, when you consider only five people have died despite the recent rash of recalls affecting almost every Toyota sold worldwide since 2000, totaling over 8.5 million vehicles – five is a small number compared to 8.5 million vehicles.

But any deaths – even just one – so that Toyota’s executives can pad their pocketbooks with more profits, is one death too many.

I naïve hope that the American justice system will slap down Toyota hard, banning all future imports until every single Toyota built and sold from 2000 to present has been inspected, repaired and certified in writing by the automaker as 100 percent safe.

But we all know how this story will end – it’s happened before and will happen again, as big companies continue to trim costs without thinking or possibly even caring about the consequences.

Toyota will probably be hit with a large fine, maybe in the millions of dollars, and a warning to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.

There will be numerous pages filled with processes and procedures the automaker – and possibly other automakers – must document and follow.

But the fine is chump change to Toyota, and following a documented process is just another rubber stamp solution, which may or may not really be enacted in reality. These things tend to just create more files sitting on a shelf collecting dust than anything else.

The public backlash against Toyota is where the real damage may come – as Toyota customers think twice before purchasing their next vehicle from the ailing automaker. We won’t know just how much of an impact the public’s reaction to Toyota’s poor products have had on the company for some time – it could take months, maybe even years before we see any signs of a backlash in the marketplace.

Then again, in our information overloaded universe, our minds tend to have a short attention span, and once the dust settles and all of the recalls, criminal investigations, charges (if any) and other negative press falls off the radar, many may forget all about this, and end up driving away in a brand new Toyota vehicle.

If we are lucky, this won’t happen again, but then again, history has a nasty habit of repeating itself. So the one day you forget about all the recalls, the five people that died, the criminal investigation in the United States, and all the apologies from Toyota’s higher-ups, could be the one day when your brakes fail, as your car continues to pick up speed, and you see your life flash before your eyes just before you die in a fireball of twisted metal, broken glass, and burnt auto parts.

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