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Feb. 22 2010 — 11:01 am | 44 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Toyota document puts price-tag on safety savings

2009 Toyota Camry photographed in Waldorf, Mar...

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Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, certainly knows how to trim costs and pare wasteful spending to a bare minimum.  While normally an admirable corporate attribute, a recently revealed internal document proves the Japanese auto giant prided itself on being able to wiggle its way out of expensive safety-related recalls.  A report in The New York Times finds that Toyota boasted of saving upwards of $100 million by delaying or negotiating its way out of recalling large amounts of vehicles.

Toyota estimated that it saved $100 million by negotiating with regulators for a limited recall of 2007 Toyota Camry and Lexus ES models for sudden acceleration, the same problem that has since prompted it to recall millions of cars, documents turned over to a Congressional committee showed Sunday

The estimate was in a confidential presentation from July 2009 listing legislative and regulatory “wins” for the company. The presentation was among thousands of pages of documents provided as a result of subpoenas by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, one of three panels holding hearings in the next two weeks on Toyota’s safety problems.

(via Toyota Cited $100 Million Savings After Limiting Recall, The New York Times)

The document could not come at a worse time for Toyota executives, who later this week will have to answer to Congress as to why the company seemingly dragged its feet on a number of a complaints regarding vehicles suddenly accelerating or failing to slow down.

Toyota finally attributed the problem to poorly designed floor mats, and a faulty pedal mechanism.  Nearly 9 million vehicles are now part of two massive recalls.  However, questions remain as to whether the problem might be related to the company’s electronic throttle control system (rather than floor mats or pedal assemblies).

Feb. 8 2010 — 11:55 am | 69 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Toyota Prius to be recalled

A Toyota prius hybrid car is dispayed in a sho...

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The world’s most popular hybrid, the Toyota Prius, will soon be recalled to fix problems relating to its braking system.  The problem specifically affects the car on bumpy and slippery road surfaces, where there is a noticeable delay between pressing the brake pedal and brake actuation.   In other words: the brakes don’t brake for a split second. According to several reports, this has led to hundreds of consumer complaints and several accidents in the U.S. and Japan.

Unlike the car’s vaunted gasoline-electric drivetrain – which saves fuel by switching from a gas-powered engine to an electric motor – the Prius recall has been anything but seamless.  Millions of confused and concerned Toyota owners (upwards of 7 million) have already been subjected to two previous recalls, one for sticking gas pedals and another for faulty floor-mats.  The Prius recall will affect only the 2010 model year (built from last spring until late January, 2010, which is when Toyota says it fixed the Prius’ brake problem with a software change at the factory).

Toyota will likely announce this week that it plans to recall at least 311,000 of its 2010 Prius hybrids around the world to fix the brakes, reports Japanese media and the New York Times.

It will become Toyota’s third major recall at present, following two for unintended acceleration. But at least on this one, at least the numbers are fairly paltry compared to the eight million cars under recall around the world, more than five million of them in the U.S.

(via Toyota Prius recall could come this week, reports say – USA Today)

Feb. 5 2010 — 11:03 am | 245 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Toyota hit with class action lawsuits

2007-2009 Toyota Camry photographed in College...

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Reeling from a  series of recalls which affect approximately 9 million vehicles, Toyota is now set to be hammered by a growing list of class action lawsuits being filed by current owners.

As Toyota’s president apologizes for the global recalls of his vehicles and promises to improve quality, Toyota owners in New York and New Jersey are filing a class action suit against the car manufacturer, citing gross negligence.

The law firm is representing several Toyota owners who claim they were in an accident as a result of a faulty accelerator.

(via Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Toyota , NY1 News)

The growing list of lawsuits will not be confined to disgruntled Toyota owners in the U.S.   The CBC news reports that hundreds of Canadian Toyota owners are in the process of filing a class action against the Japanese automaker.  With the recall also involving cars sold in China and Europe, Toyota’s legal woes could soon be global in scale.

Feb. 5 2010 — 10:34 am | 331 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Recall the recall! Toyota Prius brake problem under ‘investigation’

Toyota Prius (ZVW30)

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This about as good as good news can get at Toyota – and, trust me, the news really isn’t all that good.

Despite media reports that the 2010 Toyota Prius would be recalled due to problems with its ABS brakes, the Japanese auto giant has confirmed the matter is presently under investigation by the NHTSA and not subject to a formal recall.  Well, at least not yet.

The government is opening a formal investigation into the brakes of the 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid sedan. It comes only hours after the automaker in Japan acknowledged problems, but is yet to commit to another recall there.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said today it will look specifically at whether the Prius’ brakes stop working momentarily after the car hits a bump:

It says its Office of Defects Investigation has received 124 complaints about Prius brakes from consumers, including four reports in which crashes are alleged to have occurred. Investigators have spoken with consumers and conducted pre-investigatory field work, the agency said.

(via U.S. safety official open investigation into Toyota Prius brakes, USA Today)

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, said during a press conference this morning that the company deeply regrets the ongoing recalls and will do everything it can to correct the situation.  Questions about the safety of the 2010 Prius come after Toyota’s announcement of two other recalls, one for floor mats which can jam the accelerator and another for sticking gas pedals.  Those recalls affect approximately 9 million Toyota vehicles worldwide.

As for the current situation, Mr. Toyoda appeared to be under no illusions as to how serious this crisis has become.  In a report published by The New York Times, he offered apologies to Toyota owners and shareholders.

“I deeply regret that I caused concern among so many people,” Mr. Toyoda said. “We will do our utmost to regain the trust of our customers.”

Asked whether Toyota had underestimated the situation, Mr. Toyoda said, “I believe what is happening now is a very big problem. We are in a crisis.”

Mr. Toyoda also apologized to shareholders for the fall in the company’s share price. The company’s stock has dropped about 20 percent in the last two weeks.

(via Toyota’s Chief Steps Forward to Apologize for Problems, The New York Times)

That is a dramatic turnaround for a company which, only earlier this week, was termed “safety deaf” by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood when discussing the automakers slow response to recall its vehicles.

Feb. 4 2010 — 2:34 pm | 102 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Toyota Prius recalled

3rd generation Toyota Prius G (2009/5 - )

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The Toyota Prius, the hybrid-powered eco-darling of the Japanese company’s vehicle lineup, is set to be recalled over braking problems.

Toyota Motor Corp will recall around 270,000 Prius in the United States and Japan to correct a brake problem, the Nikkei reported on its Web site on Thursday. The Japanese automaker is expected to file with the the U.S. Department of Transportation for a recall to change the control program for the hybrid’s anti-lock brake system, the Japanese news agency said. The recall will affect the third-generation Prius, which was introduced in May, according to the Nikkei. The recall will reportedly target only about 100,000 vehicles in the United States.

(via Toyota to recall Prius in U.S. over brakes at www.marketwatch.com)

This comes on top of two previously announced recalls, which affect up to 9 million Toyota vehicles worldwide.  The first, announced November 25, 2009, was in response to floor mats becoming jammed in the gas pedal.  Toyota promised owners it would redesign the mats, and replace them in more than 4 million vehicles already sold.

On January 21 of this year, Toyota announced a recall to fix a mechanical part in the gas pedal mechanism.  Toyota stated that, over time, the pedal could become slow to return to an idle position or get stuck under acceleration.

Toyota officials have confirmed the price of the recalls (in parts and lost sales) would total approximately $2 billion.  The company has stopped selling eight of its best-selling models due to concerns over the pedal assembly.

Initially, Toyota said the problems were limited to vehicles built and sold only in the U.S.  However,  with the Japanese-built Prius now included in this worsening situation, the cost in terms of tarnishing Toyota’s reputation for quality and dependability could prove incalculable.

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