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Another Major Car Manufacturer Recall – Toyota Makes Headlines Behind GM

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Just weeks after paying the largest criminal penalty ever assessed against an automaker, Toyota has issued a total of 5 recalls for nearly 6.4 million vehicles worldwide. The recalls include a faulty cable—the spiral cable may become damaged when the steering wheel turns, causing a warning lamp to illuminate and the car’s air bag to deactivate. The cable and air bag problem affects 1.3 million vehicles in the United States. They include the 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Matrix, 2008-2010 Highlander, 2009-2010 Tacoma, 2006-2008 RAV4 and 2006-2010 Yaris models.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Toyota has recalled more cars in the US than any other auto manufacturer, with more than five million vehicles in each of the last two years. Four months into 2014 Toyota has already recalled almost 2.9 million vehicles in the US, outpacing last year’s (2013) recalls.

With the GM investigation front and center and now the Toyota recalls, this writer is looking at the increasing number of vehicles showing up in auto dealerships with faulty or defective parts. Question:  why aren’t these problems being discovered and corrected in the design,  manufacturing, and testing phases?  Are new models being rushed to market?

We are seeing a sharp increase in recalls right now but as Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety notes, this may be a reaction to government scrutiny. Ditlow believes the strong response by NHTSA to the recent GM and Toyota difficulties has shaken up the industry and that’s why automakers are being more cautious. The involvement of the Justice Department is getting everyone’s attention. “That can be a real game-changer,” Ditlow said. “There’s nothing that changes corporate behavior as much as criminal prosecutions.”

As part of the settlement, Toyota is required to submit to independent monitoring of its safety policies, practices and procedures. Is this a reason we are seeing this new surge in recalls? It is reassuring to see automakers react to public scrutiny but it is too frequently  a case of too little too late – usually after being caught. The basic problem still remains—there are too many safety-related defects in new vehicles.  While profits are necessary to sustain any industry, public safety should come first (which may, ironically, lead to good sales).   These recalls, which have essentially been initiated by Toyota before NHTSA brought more scrutiny to bear, are a good example of why federal regulation is helpful, indeed necessary, to curb reckless and unsafe design and manufacturing processes.  While morality cannot be regulated, behavior often can. As individual buyers, we can do little to change industry safety practices, other than vote with our wallets, which often is ineffective because the problems are not made known to the public until millions of the cars have been sold.  When the latter occurs, which is usually the case, a strong and vigilant regulatory agency is a good check and balance on industry.

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  1. fiscolasy says:
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    Instead of safety first its discouraging that auto maker now but the numbers and profit first.who bear the cost of returning those vechile mostly ones sold to africa contries?