Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Scoop On Toyota's Latest Safety Recalls

With every industry, units, or parts of units, have defective issues. Big, respectable companies will usually publish a recall, so owners could get the problem fixed. The auto-industry is no different. However, with standardizing, and quality management, these recalls have been fading away. Now Toyota is one of the biggest companies to claim that they are top of the quality-list, and that they have been recall-free for some considerable time. But you know the time when everything is right, then it all goes wrong? Well, that's what exactly is happening with Toyota, and their latest sticking-throttle recall. You surely heard of it, but Flaw Spots will be taking you through a guide on what went wrong with Toyota, what's causing it, what's the fix, and what's our view of this big issue. Please hit the jump to read more

What Went Wrong?
Before we start talking about the recall itself, and what Toyota will be doing to fix it, we need to know what caused this issue, and what happened to Toyota's ultimate reliability. First, we need to go back several years. You need to know that Toyota is a proud company of its Japanese heritage, and has been producing cars for the world-market from their home country. Nonetheless, as Japanese vehicles got more popular, and more expensive, Japanese labor also went into the pricey deal. To keep the prices as low, Toyota therefore had to shift their plants to places with less labor cost, such as the United States, Australia, and even the Czech Republic. So, with manufacturing partly out of hand, Toyota was able to keep the prices competitive, with compromise of their central-control, and quality. In fact, in the past several years, Toyota have lost the lead in the J.D. Power Quality list, and companies like Hyundai and Volkswagen have taken over. So when Toyota announced that they're issuing recalls on the throttle pedals, it shouldn't be a big surprise.

The Recalls:
Over the past several months, Toyota has issued 3 main recalls, which all relate to the throttle pedal, and affected approximately 7.6 million Toyota vehicles, around the globe. So how did Toyota discover all this? Well it first started when the American police received an emergency-call from a family, claiming that their Lexus won't slow-down, and the throttle pedal is stuck at 200 km/h. Sadly, the Lexus ended-up crashed at the highway, and non of the family members survived. Therefore, the American Government and Toyota investigated the problem, and found out various problems, and goes as the following:

1) The Floormat Recall:
  • Description: It was the first recall that Toyota issues regarding the throttle pedal. When it first issued in October 5, 2009, it affected about 3.4 million vehicles. But by the time, Toyota has issued this recall for 4.9 million cars. And these nearly 5 million vehicles may face floormat problems, which could interfere with the throttle pedal, over-ride it, and making the pedal stuck at wide-open throttle. Even worse, current Toyota cars don't have the brake over-ride system. So, if it happens to you, put the vehicle in N (Nutral), then brake, and shut of the engine.
  • Affected Models:
Years               Make   Model
2007–2010 Lexus ES350
2006–2010 Lexus IS
2005–2010 Toyota Avalon
2009–2010 Toyota Corolla
2007–2010 Toyota Camry
2008–2010 Toyota Highlander
2009–2010 Toyota Matrix
2004–2009 Toyota Prius
2005–2010 Toyota Tacoma
2007–2010 Toyota Tundra
2009–2010 Toyota Venza
2009–2010 Pontiac Vibe (Toyota Matrix platform)
  • The Fix: Because of the huge range of recalled models, Toyota had to think deeply on what to fix, and not waste any unnecessary expenses. Toyota engineers negotiated on whether they should replace either the floormat or the pedal, or whether they just fix it. In the end, it was best for Toyota to replace the throttle pedal, with brand-new ones, which are shorter. Toyota dealer all around the world are still receiving recalled vehicles.

2) The Sticking Pedal Recall:
  • Description: Unlike the floormat recall, which is caused by interference, the sticking pedal recall is due to a failure from the design of the pedal itself. Because the pedal is made out of soft plastic, it means on colder weather, the friction is increased, which may result in the pedal becoming harder to depress, slower to return, or, in the worst case, mechanically stuck in a partially depressed position. This recall is issued for 2.3 million Toyotas.
  • Affected Models:
Years              Make  Model
2009–2010 Toyota RAV4
2009-2010 Toyota Corolla
2009-2010 Toyota Matrix
2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe (Toyota Matrix platform)
2005–2010 Toyota Avalon
2007–2010 Toyota Camry
2010         Toyota Highlander
2007-2010 Toyota Tundra
2008–2010 Toyota Sequoia
  • The Fix: Although this recall had a big impact on Toyota owners and customers, the fix is actually very small, which will only require a small piece of metal behind the throttle pedal, which should make it firmer, and cope in any kind of weather.

3) ABS Brake Recall:
  • Description: This recall has been issued for Toyota's hybrid vehicles, that feature regenerative braking, which should charge the batteries when braking is implied. However, during slow and steady application of the brakes on rough or slick road surfaces, there is an inconsistent brake-feel when the ABS comes in. Therefore, stopping distances may be increased. Even though this only affected 2010 models only, that's still over 400,000 hybrids which had been issued for this recall.
  • Affected Models:
Years Make Model
2010 Toyota Prius
2010 Lexus   HS 250h
  • The Fix: Software update.
Money Fallout:
Obviously, with recalls like these, the Japanese automaker is still suffering from money predicaments. When it first all started, Toyota was looking at a loss of around $900 million. However, by now, Toyota has now lost around $30 billion in market share and market value. Even worse for the automaker, it had to stop sales, pause production, and focus on the recalled cars, to provide the dealers with the fix. So Toyota is setting back a total loss of around $50 billion overall, which puts Toyota in big danger. This kind of financial loss won't be recovered in a year or two, but Toyota still has to work very hard in the coming years, to bring back its quality reputation.

Our View:
Money teaches a lot of lessons. And the fact that Toyota's President and CEO - Akio Toyoda - made his official apology to the world nation means a lot as well. It's apparent that all their cutting costs with the labor, equipment, and the component didn't pay-off well. Not even did they end-up losing a huge sum of cash, they also lost their quality buzz that they've been building for years. In our point of view, we think that potential customers looking to buy a car won't be looking at Toyota as it used to be. However, we also see in the near future, that Toyota vehicles will increase their effort on quality, to become top-notch, in hope to gain back the customer's trust of the Japanese quality, safety, and reliability!

Toyota's View:
Since this whole problem really effects Toyota at most, we ought to understand what they think of the problem, and what they are going through. So here are several videos explaining what happened, and what will be happening:

Your View:
So you've heard (actually read) our opinion, so it's time to make your opinions heard. Please tell us what you think, as a Toyota vehicle owner, or just from the general public interested in this. We also would like to see you participate in the poll below, as we'll be contacting Toyota, and giving them feedback about what we think, and what you think.

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