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Concerns Cascade Over Recall

February 18, 2010

A few months ago, I decided it was time to trade in my car and purchase a new one. After four years and thousands of dollars for incessant repairs, I knew I wanted something safe and reliable. So, I went with a Toyota 4Runner.

I drove my shiny silver vehicle off the lot feeling like I’d made a smart decision. Little did I know that the car manufacturer would recall millions of cars – the 4Runner hasn’t been included in any lists (yet) – for faulty gas pedals that cause the vehicles to speed out of control.

So as I continue to drive my new car and brush up on what to do if my gas pedal sticks, I’m trying to figure out several things:

  • What makes the 4Runner different from Toyota’s other vehicles? Why isn’t it included in the recall?
  • Why are certain makes and models built in specific years included in the recall vs. other vehicles?
  • Are these steel reinforcement bars really going to resolve the problem? What if the problem is in the electrical system?
  • Why was Toyota so reluctant to respond and investigate these issues? How much did they really know?

As a professional in the PR field, I couldn’t help but observe the way Toyota has mishandled this challenge. The moment the problem occurred, Toyota should have:

  • Addressed it quickly, openly and honestly. Brief apologies months after a problem occurs just don’t cut it. And reading a scripted apology doesn’t feel heartfelt.
  • Managed the mixed messages. First it was the floor mats. Then it was the gas pedal. First it was just a few cars. Then it turned out to be a lot more.
  • Notified the dealers and kept them in the loop. I took my car in for another issue a few weeks ago and asked about the recall. They hadn’t been advised of what they would do since the recall wasn’t “formal” yet (no letters had been sent out).
  • Communicated directly with Toyota car owners. Engage in and monitor online conversations. Send out letters. Guide consumers to its web site for complete and accurate information.

I hope Toyota continues to thoroughly investigate any other possible issues and bring them to light now. Considering the other recalls related to floor mats, brake problems and stuck throttles, I have to wonder if the list will grow.

It’s a tough lesson for consumers and for Toyota. Unfortunately, we don’t get money-back guarantees after making such a major purchase and Toyota doesn’t get to repair its damaged brand overnight.

What would you recommend Toyota do going forward?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2010 1:08 am

    Good read, Dione. This article would make a great news story, and may stir up more controversy. You should consider sending it in!

    Toyota needs to come forward with all pertinent information regarding their vehicles before more accidents occur and lives are lost.

  2. B. Sherrance Russell Ph.D. permalink
    February 18, 2010 9:50 pm

    Excellent commentary Ms. Martin! Toyota did not act swiftly or appropriately in this matter. Hopefully other companies will learn from their mistake and be proactive. No better time to trust in God and not man!!

  3. Rashida Stevenson permalink
    February 18, 2010 4:06 pm

    This is a fantastic article! I too owned a Toyota and it was a great vehicle. This will definitely diminish their reputation of making dependable reliable vehicles.

  4. Carol Aikels permalink
    February 18, 2010 11:49 am

    I had a Toyota Camry when I was in college and it served me well for a long time I always had great customer service from the Toyota dealerships I went to.I was surprised by how they handled this situation. I think for those who just purchased a Toyota in the last six months to a year that they should allow those customers to return their vehicles if they choose to. For those who have older cars they should give them some type of extended warranty just in case something else goes wrong in that area. Great article Dione!

  5. Robyn Gray permalink
    February 18, 2010 11:42 am

    Great article! I don’t own a Toyota but one of my best friends has one and her’s has been recalled. I will share this information with her. I have the Lexus IS model and so far nothing has been wrong with it, but my mats do slide up under the gas peddle and so i just put heavier mats on top of it and the problem seems to have been worked out. Good info here though!

  6. Catina Godsey permalink
    February 18, 2010 11:17 am

    Great article. My mother just purchased a Toyota Camry so she is concerned as well. The 5 series BMW is looking pretty good now, huh?! 🙂

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