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[<< Prev][Next >>] Post: March 16th 2011
Toyota’s Spinout

The word on the streets, Your Car Care REPs got the auto industry all revved up! We’re just doing our part to represent for you and to keep the streets watchin’. Your Car Care REPs has teamed up with www.myHotWheelz.com so be sure to check them out. They’re a social networking site not only for automotive enthusiasts. Motorcycle, boat and aircraft enthusiasts are welcome here as well. So get your ignition started and become a member today.

OK, let’s get into today’s headlines. Last year was a challenging year for Toyota. With news of Toyota car models “unintended acceleration” came problems. Toyota accredited this problem to sticking accelerator pedals and improper car floor mat placement. Others believed that it was due to the malfunctioning of Toyota’s drive by wire system. Some of these alleged failures ended in fatalities. An estimated 37 deaths have been blamed for the problem dating back to the year 2000. It’s been 1 year since a national investigation began and Toyota still reigns supreme as one of the top-selling cars in the US. How have they done this? Today we’ll discuss Toyota’s relentless desire to remain on top.

Toyota is a Japanese born auto company that started in 1937. What does the word Toyota even mean? The name comes from a Japanese family that founded the company, (Kicchiro Toyoda). They changed the spelling to “Toyota” because it is written with 8 Japanese character strokes. The number 8 is a lucky number in Japanese culture. The 1st car model that Toyota released was the Toyota AA. From 1936-1943 Toyota produced 1,404 Toyota AA’s. The car models that made Toyota a household name are the Camry and the Corolla. These cars arose out of the 70’s gas/oil crisis. Gas was at an all time high during the period of 1973-1981. I can remember going to the gas station with my pops and waiting on long lines at the pump that stretched around the block. Drivers were frustrated paying high prices and not getting good mileage out of a gallon of gas on their US manufactured autos. Japanese manufactures had the answer to this challenge. They manufactured lighter cars with smaller engines that were front wheel drive. These cars proved to be economical on gas and reliable as well.

Toyota over the years did well as a mid level auto manufacture. In 1989 they decided to tread into the luxury car market (Dominated by Cadillac, BMW and Mercedes). Toyota created the Lexus car brand to compete within this luxury market. The Lexus models proved to be spacious, reliable and full of amenities. So where did things spinout of control?

In the early part of 2010 a woman named Rhonda Smith testified at a congressional hearing that she could not stop her Lexus, which allegedly sped up on a highway to speeds of 100 MPH. She said that pressing the brakes and even pulling the emergency brake did nothing to slow down the vehicle. The car allegedly slowed down, on its own. At first Toyota blamed this issue on faulty floor mats and sticky gas pedals, then the phone calls came pouring in. Drivers from all parts of the globe were having similar issues with their Toyotas. These issues were not limited to Lexus cars only. Other Toyota models were said by owners to have malfunctioned. The newspapers, the news reporters, even late night TV had a field day with the calamity. There was intense pressure by organized class action suits against Toyota, which demanded an investigation. This pressure forced Toyota to explain themselves.

In February 2010 top US Toyota brass (James Lentz) made a public announcement. He acknowledged that there indeed was an issue and that the recall may not be due to sticky pedals or floor mats. He said that Toyota is “embarrassed” at what happened and want “people to feel safe about driving their products”. They went on to recall approximately 8.5 million cars worldwide. Then came the PR blitz, to deal with the rehabilitation of the Toyota brand. You started to see the TV ads, you heard the radio ads, you saw the print and Internet ads on how Toyota is a reliable and responsible company that makes great cars and put your safety first. Toyota settled in one particular “unintended acceleration” California suit, to the tune of $10 million dollars. One year later, the numbers are in and Toyota still reigns supreme as one of US best-selling cars for the year of 2010. Models include the Camry & the Corolla (source: Autodata). How is this possible?

I must admit Toyota cars are one of the most reliable cars that I have driven. I personally own a Toyota Avalon, which I use as my “daily” when in Florida. The Avalon is the upgraded luxury edition to the Camry. I can testify that I am satisfied with the all leather interior, the digital display system, the audio/climate control system, the strength and acceleration of the engine and the look of the vehicle. Thank God I never experienced any, “unintended acceleration” problems. A couple of months ago, I did receive a letter from Toyota saying that there was a recall of Avalons of made in the same year. The letter directed me to bring in the car and they would correct the problem free of charge as well as diagnose and service the car as well. This is obviously a part of Toyota’s plan to try to deal with this issue aggressively and stay out of the headlines (unless it’s in a positive light).

When it comes to recalls it can be the death of a particular car model (as well as drivers). But if the overall car brand is reliable, with a consistent track record its product will speak for itself. Toyota has built just that over the years – a brand that is known for reliability, low maintenance and a car that gets good gas mileage. Toyota will be opening a new US manufacturing plant in Mississippi located in Blue Springs by the end of 2011. Most Toyota owners will recommend buying a Toyota to a friend or colleague. Does this mean if the same thing were to happen during Toyota’s 4th year of operation they would be able to withstand the scrutiny? (Maybe not) This proves an important point. If you build a car brand that stands for reliability and dependability, and gets good gas mileage over the years, even if you run into a guard rail you won’t get broadsided by oncoming traffic. And if you’re wondering, no Toyota is not paying me…. though… they should be. We’ll cross that toll bridge when we get to it for now you got the EZ pass.




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