Toyota, the world's largest automaker, finally reacted to a safety issue that came at the expense of many lives. Toyota owners in the United States have been subjected to an accelerator malfunction that causes some models to surge forward suddenly, often reaching 100 miles per hour. Those who have lived through these harrowing moments claim once the car accelerated, the brake didn't work.
Today, Toyota announced they were ceasing production and sales of eight popular models, including the top-selling Camry. This comes on the heels of a massive recall last week of over two million cars. It also marks the automaker's second major recall in the last year. The recall of 3.8 million cars in September 2009 was due to floor mats that supposedly caused the accelerators to malfunction.
While it's not certain how this will affect Toyota in the long term, the near future shows stock-and-revenue losses. Toyota's shares fell 4.3 percent after announcing the second recall, the largest tumble in the past eight months. Toyota projects loses of $3.4 billion dollars during the first quarter, a conservative estimate according to industry experts.
When American automotive manufacturers failed on the world stage, many U.S. buyers turned to imported cars, mainly from Japan, citing fuel efficiency and safety ratings. According to Car and Driver rankings, Toyota Manufacturing was the second-rated manufacturer from 1983 to 2008, trailing only Honda. Chevy, the top U.S. manufacturer, finished in fifth place.
Toyota has known a problem existed for some time, but ABC broke the story in a November 2009 investigation that found 2,000 claims of sudden acceleration and 16 fatalities.
The question is whether the company reacted fast enough. Toyota's been drawing criticism from U.S. Toyota owners, safety commissions, and Japanese media sources.
The New York Times reported a Japanese daily newspaper, the Sankei Shimbun, said, “Toyota’s reputation for safety is in tatters, and it is inevitable that its image among consumers will suffer,” and warned that “the discrediting of Toyota could even destroy the world’s trust in Japanese manufacturing, which relies on its reputation for high quality.”
Toyota may be investigating whether European production and sales need to be halted, further damaging the Toyota name.
The models affected are:
- 2009-2010 RAV4
- 2009-2010 Corolla
- 2009-2010 Matrix
- 2005-2010 Avalon
- 2007-2010 Camry
- 2010 Highlander
- 2007-2010 Tundra
- 2008-2010 Sequoia
According to Business Week, other models that may be affected by the floor-mat recall are the 2007-2010 Lexus ES350 and 2006-2010 Lexus IS250 and IS350.
Toyota has been known for its impressive safety record, and the long-term brand damage may be irreparable, but as with the supposed U.S. auto industry turnaround, we'll just have to wait and see.