Print 42 comment(s) - last by rudy.. on Feb 7 at 10:14 PM

Toyota just can't catch a break these days..

Toyota just hasn't been able to catch a break in the past few weeks. The company has been faced with loads of bad press surrounding the accelerator pedals in eight of its most popular vehicles sold in the U.S., including the best-selling car in the country: the Camry.

In order to fully grasp the situation at hand, Toyota (which was prodded by the NHTSA) took the drastic step of stopping sales on on the eight models in order to solve the problem. Luckily, Toyota was able to find a fix for the problem and dealerships are staying open late in order to accommodate the influx of customers rushing to have their vehicles fixed.

To make matters worse, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood poured more salt on the wounds earlier this week by stating, “If anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it. And take it to a Toyota dealer.” LaHood later backtracked from the statements, adding, “What I said in there was obviously a misstatement. If you own one of these cars, or if you’re in doubt, take it to the dealer."

Unfortunately, the damage had already been done and already worried Toyota owners were sent into a frenzy over the TV, print, and internet reports parroting LaHood's comments.

And if the past two weeks haven't been bad enough for the company, there is now bad news in store for its crown jewel: the 2010 Prius. Toyota posting the following blurb on its press site regarding the problem:

In certain 2010 model year Prius vehicles, Toyota has received reports that some customers have experienced inconsistent brake feel when the vehicle is driven over potholes, bumps or slippery road surfaces. 

Toyota is currently in the process of confirming these reports and investigating the vehicle driving conditions under which the reported phenomenon occurs. It would be premature to comment until the investigation has been completed.

Apparently, the problem lies with an ABS software glitch that causes less than a second delay between when braking pressure is first applied and the actual brakes engage. "The driver steps on the brake, and they do not get as full of a braking feel as expected," said a Toyota spokesman to CNN.

According to Toyota officials, the problem occurs most frequently on bumpy or icy roads.

Toyota said that it fixed the software problem in Prius vehicles manufactured since January. However, the company has made no mention of when it plans to apply a fix to the 2010 Prius hybrids produced before January.

Toyota's third-generation Prius has been a hit around the world. It was the best-selling vehicle in Japan during 2009 and it trounces the hybrid competition in U.S. sales on a continual basis. The Prius' domination is so apparent that Honda engineers/designers are going back to the drawing board -- again -- to develop a hybrid vehicle that can actually beat the Prius in fuel efficiency.

Toyota is going to have a rough few months ahead as safety concerns surrounding its vehicles continue to play out in the media. The company's sales are already suffering -- January U.S. sales were down 12 percent (year-over-year) for the Toyota brand while sales at rival Ford were up a whopping 24 percent. Up-and-comer Hyundai also saw its sales rise by 24 percent during the same period. February sales numbers for Toyota will likely be a blood bath.

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By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 2/4/2010 8:24:24 AM , Rating: 2
Toyota has had lots of TSB's, as anyone who has owned one can attest. It is just when it involves the accelerator or brake pedal that people take notice. My 2007 Camry hybrid burned through its rear brakes in record time due to an assembly error. The floor mats were an issue with lots of models, my 2004 Solara had a drifting problem (drifted to the left), and there have been others with other models. All in all, they have much better Consumer Reports ratings than any American, and most other Japanese and Korean brands.

By weskurtz0081 on 2/4/2010 8:56:07 AM , Rating: 2
I like reading consumer reports as much as the next guy, but how accurate do you think they are? What do you think the response rate is to the questionnaires are?

One other thing, the delta between Ford and Toyota has been closing year after year. The Japanese makers might have MORE cars in the top 50, but Ford is right there with them.

By Spuke on 2/4/2010 10:00:22 AM , Rating: 2
I can't seem to find numbers for the top 50 sales in the US. I do have a resource for top 20 sales in the US. I will say that American automakers still represent 45% of the market in the US with GM and Ford (in that order) being the most dominant sales leaders.

RE: It's a good time to get a deal on a Toyota.
By nafhan on 2/4/2010 10:06:46 AM , Rating: 2
Nobody is 100%, but I'd trust them over most reviewers. They really go out of their way in attempts to be unbiased and not accept favors from manufacturers. I think they purchase everything they test at retail, which adds some realism. Also, they get sued somewhat regularly for defemation by different manufacturers, which I consider a positive.

By Oregonian2 on 2/4/2010 3:26:07 PM , Rating: 5
CR's numbers come from membership surveys (of which I participated in a few times back when I used to still subscribe). It's probably about as good as one can get, but still has inherent problems.

Thing is that biases still prevail. If one buys a Toyota and has expectations of reliability, any problems will be seen as minor and the exception with the rest of the car solid as a rock. If one buys some American car with expectations of poor reliability then when something even minor fails it's a "yup, the pile of trash is falling apart". Even if the Toyota (in the above example) was a worse problem, the perception of reliability will be higher with the Toyota based on expectations and the reported problems be rated more toward "minor". So the results tend to be a "running average" of the last decade or more (either positive or negative).

By Runiteshark on 2/4/2010 8:13:54 PM , Rating: 2
Er no? Consumer reports is a bunch of crap and I'm surprised you think otherwise.

Even the fact that consumer reports thinks that people shouldn't be worried should raise flags right away.

People have actually died from this and the Transportation Secretary Ray whatever his name is said to stop driving them and take them to the dealership. This is the same level of crap as the firestone fiasco with ford. Toyota has always had issues, whether it be from frames rusting, bed flex, brakes, you name it.

The general consensus with people that Toyota is good is because they always cover up their issues, not necessarily because they make some vastly superior product.

By Machinegear on 2/4/2010 10:12:59 AM , Rating: 2
I own two Toyotas: one 2007 Corolla and an old 1998 4Runner. My experience with my newer Toyota has been a complete let down. In two years time, the car's computer went out ($800), the driver side power window failed ($500), and more recently (post warranty) the defrost blower fan started to make a loud clicking sound when in use. All while the Corolla was falling apart, my 160k mile 4Runner required zero fixes outside of the normal maintenance.

My opinion is that Toyotas are no better than a GM vehicle. If I were to buy today, I would go with a Ford.

By Brandon Hill on 2/4/2010 10:33:26 AM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't the first two issues involving the 2007 Corolla have been covered under the warranty anyway? What does it matter what the cost was?

That being said, that's weird that a 2007 Corolla would have those problems. The vehicle was introduced in 2002 as a 2003 model -- so by 2007, it should have been a well-seasoned vehicle as far as problems go.

But then again, who knows anymore when it comes to Toyota.

By Machinegear on 2/4/2010 11:39:00 AM , Rating: 2
You are correct Brandon. The first two issues were covered under warranty. However, now that the car is out of warranty and more seasoned, I am not at all hopeful to the Corolla's future reliability and as a result, I expect to pay more on the maintenance costs on this vehicle than what I anticipated for a Toyota.

Yeah, when I bought the 2007 it was the last year for that particular design. I generally try not to buy first or second year of a new car thinking the car company would use successive years to eliminate any known bugs through design/manufacturing changes, to the point of having a solid vehicle by year 3, 4, and definitely year 5. I was wrong. Toyota recalled the Corolla back in 03 and 04 for window issues and my 2007 amazingly had the same problem, sans any recall. But luckily, the issue was addressed under warranty, but my expectations were not met. Toyota allowed a known issue to continue all the way to the showroom floor 3 to 4 years later; unacceptable.

Take my experience for what it’s worth. Our long gone 1988 Corolla and current 1998 4Runner were/are great vehicles. My 2007 Corolla is borderline crap. I should have paid far less, got a Kia, and had my expectations met; though I am already looking to the future and the 2012 Focus looks like the car to watch. :-)

By Brandon Hill on 2/4/2010 11:43:24 AM , Rating: 2
I hear ya man. My previous car was a 1995 Toyota Camry LE -- that car was overengineered and overbuilt like crazy. There have been numerous stories about how much money Toyota poured into that generation ('92 - '96). The '97 Camry was an exercise in decontenting and cost reducing and was an inferior vehicle (IMHO).

But I got the Camry when it had 80,000 miles on it and I put another 80,000 miles on it myself. It wasn't until the very end of my ownership (probably the last 5,000 miles) with the vehicle that it started having issues. The rear main seal went, the rear struts went caput, the steering rack started leaking, and something else went bonkers. It was $400 here, $500 there, another $200 there. I decided to just sell it and get a new vehicle.

But I had more good times than bad with that vehicle -- I still miss it.

RE: It's a good time to get a deal on a Toyota.
By Spuke on 2/4/2010 12:43:19 PM , Rating: 1
The '97 Camry was an exercise in decontenting and cost reducing and was an inferior vehicle (IMHO).
I had the total opposite experience with my 98 Camry. It was the most reliable car I've ever owned. Didn't require anything except routine maintenance. My 2004 Tundra was the same although there were two recalls on it (didn't experience the problems that it was recalled for).

By Brandon Hill on 2/4/2010 1:34:22 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't say it wasn't reliable -- just that Toyota really skimped out the overbuilt nature of the previous generation. The reliability was still there, but it was cost reduced to the extreme and it was clearly evident.

The interior was cheaper, the pneumatic hood struts were replaced with prop rods, etc. Here's a good, long read on the '92-'96 Camrys:

A little blurb:

The U.S. staff wanted a premium product, according to Hostetter. That meant it had to be wider to allow for the styling and aerodynamic shape they wanted. "That caused Japan heartache because Japan has width restrictions," he says. "So we had two widths of cars — for Japan and for the U.S. We also campaigned for a 3.0-liter V-6. All the competitors were V-6-only or V-6-dominated. So we upgraded the V-6 and had a four-cylinder with balance shafts with good fuel economy and performance."

Ishizaka worked to persuade his colleagues in Japan to listen to the American argument. "It was kind of a long, tiring persuasion," the 67-year-old recalls

The result was that Toyota was lifted from a niche player to one that would take the market head-on. The 1992 Camry impressed the competition, even at Ford Motor Co., according to Hostetter, a former Ford man.

Ford was still reveling in the success of the Taurus, but "this car shocked Ford," he says, "because quality went up by so much."

"It was a difficult price range, but that was where the buyers and market were going," Hostetter says. "That established the Camry brand. It was a hidden secret that this was a Lexus. It even had the hydraulically powered fans that we borrowed from the ES 300. There were some who said the 1992 was too big an improvement and step up. But we wanted to make a total commitment to the car."

That Toyota is unfortunately gone :(

By Spuke on 2/4/2010 1:56:06 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't say it wasn't reliable -- just that Toyota really skimped out the overbuilt nature of the previous generation. The reliability was still there, but it was cost reduced to the extreme and it was clearly evident.
I had no idea. Thanks for the info. Still not a big deal with me but if you owned the old car and the new car was not as "good", I could see the disappointment. Between you and me, I really don't expect much from cars in that segment so the decontenting doesn't surprise me much. These are the bottom line, bread and butter cars, if there's some cutting needed, there's where it's going to happen. Regardless, thanks for that info.

By nrhpd527 on 2/4/2010 11:09:59 PM , Rating: 2
I worked for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo and drove the cr*p out of a 1999 4Runner. I could not have driven it harder without wrecking it. In 18 months, I put over 35,000 miles on one, and spent many hours hammering it over nasty dirt roads at 45+ MPH. I was very impressed with the power and durability. Now, I highly doubt the newer, more plastic-coated 4Runners are half the truck the 1999's were, but then again, I would never run a truck as hard here in the USA as I did in a 3rd world rat-hole where I was trying to catch smugglers on their home turf and had to drive really aggressively to make that happen.

By GTVic on 2/4/2010 1:45:26 PM , Rating: 2
"The floor mats were an issue with lots of models, my 2004 Solara had a drifting problem (drifted to the left)"

The floor mats on my Mazda 3 also drift to the left :) why doesn't ABC do a report on drifting floor mats.

RE: It's a good time to get a deal on a Toyota.
By corduroygt on 2/4/2010 2:01:12 PM , Rating: 1
I would buy a Toyota, but I enjoy driving and the only Toyota that gives driving pleasure costs $300k.

RE: It's a good time to get a deal on a Toyota.
By MrBlastman on 2/4/2010 4:45:39 PM , Rating: 2
Or, you could buy a Lotus Elise for around 40k and get the next best thing with a Toyota engine inside it.

By Spuke on 2/4/2010 5:03:32 PM , Rating: 2
Or, you could buy a Lotus Elise for around 40k and get the next best thing with a Toyota engine inside it.
I saw one on Autotrader with 7k miles for $33k.

By Sazar on 2/4/2010 6:22:33 PM , Rating: 2
You can get a good condition Supra Twin-Turbo for far less money than the LF-A I would think :)

My brother has an LS460 and a Camry Hybrid. I've been telling him to get them both cleared 100%, since his son/my nephew is just 1 year old.

Toyota definitely dropped the ball with their handling of the situation in its entirety.

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 2/4/2010 3:05:00 PM , Rating: 2
I forgot the Toyota collapsing power steering motor assemblies. If you turned to the lock, the armature on the electric motor would collapse and wrap around the stator. I didn't have that defect on my Camry, though.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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