Toyota’s Accelerator and Public Relations Crisis
By Cristi DeLeo
One of the world’s top automakers, Toyota was once one of the leaders in automobile and business improvement and manufacturing. However, in 2009 the top builder of reliable and high quality cars went through one of the largest recalls in the history of the United States. Consumers had considered Toyota one of the top in the race for automobile and automobile selling among car manufacturers. They have always had a reputation as being a leader of quality and efficiency in terms of their production and manufacturing standards. Since the recall Toyota has taken a tremendous blow to its reputation and its loyal customer basis. Consumers are questioning whether Toyota was hiding the truth from the public regarding their well know accelerator issues and why they were trying to fix the problems after the issue became serious and not immediately. Some may question if this incident will permanently affect Toyota’s reputation or if Toyota handled this situation properly. In this paper we will discuss these questions as well as the cause of the problem.
Several different Toyota and Lexus models were reported to have gotten in accidents regarding acceleration issues. The accelerator’s in some of the Toyota models were getting stuck, which did not allow the drivers of these vehicles to slow down or stop in time to prevent an accident. When this issue was originally brought to light Toyota claimed that “faulty floor mat placement” was to blame and that the gas pedal would get stuck behind the floor mats which would cause the inability to slow down or stop. According to Bob Carter, general manager of the Toyota-brand division of Toyota Motor Sales USA “ The risk of the accelerator getting jammed is strictly a problem of unintended loose or ill fitting floor mats ( Niedermeyer)”. “Toyota refuted speculation in the press that other defects might be causing its vehicles to accelerate uncontrollable, citing its own and federal safety studies (Niedermeyer)”. After further investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the actual problem may not have anything to do with “faulty floor mat placement” but with several model’s accelerator mechanism. They found that “the design of the accelerator pedal (“one-piece, nonarticulating”) allowed it to become easily entrapped in the groove of the rubber all-weather floor mat if the rubber mat was not properly secured with at least of the two retaining hooks (Jensen)”.
Toyota finally issued a consumer safety advisory to all Toyota and Lexus owners at the end of September 2009 and at the end of October 2009 mailed certain Toyota owners safety notices to alert them of the potential problems. It is still unknown the exact date that Toyota knew their models were faulty but it is known that reports of the faulty vehicles began arising as early as 1999. The initial problem was not made public until problems persisted over the next 10 years. Even then it took the death of 4 individuals in California driving a Lexus with a stuck accelerator to final discuss Toyota’s accelerator issues. Toyota then announced they would be recalling millions of models of Toyota Vehicles. There were several Toyota models effected which include the company’s three best sellers- the Camry, Corolla, and Rav4 SUV. “Between them, they accounted for more than half of the Toyota brand’s U.S. sales in 2009 (Isidore)”. Although Toyota should have taken this situation more seriously years ago when the problem first happened, are they really to blame? When the accelerator problem happened to only a few vehicles throughout the years it’s hard to say that Toyota is to blame. I think the fact of the matter is that they tried to pass the buck blaming the floor mat placement instead of really investigating the issue. Had they investigated the issue more carefully consumer’s confidence in Toyota may not have...
Cited: 1. http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/01/toyota-floor-mat-problem-was-known-two-years-ago/
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