Friday, February 5, 2010

Toyota - Oh, what a feeling...

As a lifetime Chevy owner, I am getting some satisfaction seeing Toyota finally lose some of it's shine. For years the faithful have been reading Consumer Reports fawn over every model while encouraging readers to not buy anything American...until recently. The free ride is over. My opinion about CR not withstanding, as I prefer Edmunds, which is strictly automobiles (& opinions of actual owners), not a jack-of-all-trades source, I think most potential buyers will give the American manufacturers another look. It seems that Toyota was aware of safety issues for a few years, but covered them up. Unfortunately it took a fatality for Toyota to really get serious.

A week before Christmas, 34-year-old Trina Renee Harris, a mother of two died on impact when her 2009 Toyota Corolla sped through a stop sign and slammed into an East Hardy Toll Road cement divider in Houston, leaving no skid marks. Her husband, Michael Harris, filed a lawsuit against Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., gas pedal maker CTS Corp. and Fred Haas Toyota World, which leased her the car. I wish him the best.

Federal regulators uncovered evidence that some Toyota cars accelerated unexpectedly more than two years ago. What did they do about it? Not much. Toyota told owners to take their floor mats out. They assumed the mats were getting hung up on the accelerator. Now that it's clear that it's actually a design flaw, several models have been recalled and sales had been stopped on these vehicles until a remedy was found. The models affected are as follows: 2009-2010 RAV4, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Matrix, 2005-2010 Avalon, 2007-2010 Camry, 2010 Highlander, 2007-2010 Tundra and 2008-2010 Sequoia models. Sales resumed yesterday as Toyota submitted a "fix" to the NHTSA several days ago that was acceptable. I would assume the cars standing on the lots were repaired before they were allowed to go home with their new owner.

Yesterday Toyota announced a recall of 270,000 of its Prius hybrids in the United States and Japan over a braking issue. The problem is more acute when the car goes over potholes or rough roads. Since the U.S. hasn’t spent anything on infrastructure since the 50’s, that pretty much describes every road! I actually watched David Champion from Consumer Reports on the Today Show yesterday morning say that he wasn’t sure if there’d be a recall or not since the brakes work, they just don’t always work right away…seriously.

Last year, they were encouraging people take their 1995 to 2000 Tacoma's to Toyota Dealerships for a rust inspection. The trucks frames were rusting out faster than expected. Toyota either repaired or offered to repurchase the vehicle. I'm not really sure that you can fix a rusty frame or if it would even be worthwhile. This is where it got interesting. No matter what condition your truck is in, Toyota bought them back at 150% the KBB "excellent condition" price. The trucks that were bought back, were crushed! Also last year 110,000 2000-2003 Toyota Tundra trucks were recalled due to a frame corrosion problem that could cause the spare tire to fall off.

It will be interesting to see how Toyota and the buying public react to these many mistakes. American manufacturers gaffes never leave the CR reading buyers minds. Let's see if they're consistent.

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