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
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
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.
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
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 --
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
saw its sales rise by 24 percent during the same period. February
sales numbers for Toyota will likely be a blood bath.
quote: The '97 Camry was an exercise in decontenting and cost reducing and was an inferior vehicle (IMHO).
quote: 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
quote: 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."
quote: 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.