Toyota: From Kudos to Recalls in a Few Short Months

Think back…way back to 2009, back in the days when “Toyota” meant quality, reliability, value, and innovation. Those were the days, huh?

Here’s the timeline, as we know it today (click dates for links to sources):

  • November 21, 2009:  Toyota recalls millions of vehicles due to a defect they claimed was due to the potential for floor mats to cause accelerator pedals to stick. It was—in Toyota’s estimation—a “floor mat situation.”
  • January 21, 2010:  Toyota files a voluntary safety recall for 2.3 million vehicles for “sticking accelerator pedal” problems, which they say addresses “isolated customer complaints.” They claim that this is different from the floor mat issue, and that 1.7 million vehicles have both problems.  No solution announced, but customers are advised to stomp down on the brakes with both feet if their gas pedal gets stuck down. Sure, why not.
  • January 26, 2010:  Toyota suspends sales of vehicles involved in the January 21 recall. Also, it was announced that production of the vehicles would stop. Got that? Production Would Stop. That’s huge.
  • January 29, 2010: Toyota says it will be starting to ship newly designed pedals to dealers the following week, yet no remedy program is announced for consumers.
  • February 1, 2010: Toyota announced its plan for fixing the pedal. Parts “already being shipped” and dealer training is being scheduled. The solution, apparently, is simple (their words, not mine)—“a precision-cut steel reinforcement bar will be installed into the assembly.” In some cars, the floors will have to be reconfigured.
  • February 2, 2010: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood says that Toyota had been slow to respond to the problems, and that federal safety officials had to “wake them up.”
  • February 3, 2010: Secretary LaHood says he is considering civil penalties against Toyota over the gas pedal problem, and that if you own a Toyota involved in the recall, you should “exercise concern immediately” (whatever that means).
  • February 3, 2010:  Japan’s transport ministry ordered Toyota to investigate complaints of brake problems on the popular Prius. United States officials vow to look into the brake problem, as well.
  • February 5, 2010:  The president of Toyota apologized for all the quality problems. As of this date, more than 9 million Toyota vehicles are being recalled worldwide. He also announced that he would soon announce steps to fix the brake problems on the 2010 Prius. He is quoted as saying, “We are in a crisis.”

Will Toyota recover from this tumble?  Only time will tell.  But I’m not sure I will; my faith has been deeply shaken. Before leaving our office for the day, people who own a recalled Toyota joke about who should get custody of their office furniture in the event they don’t survive the ride home. We laugh, of course, but it’s whistling past the graveyard. We cross our fingers…and smile when we see each other the next morning. Stay safe, everyone.

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