If you have watched much television in the past several weeks you are seeing the newest Toyota ads, showing Americans from several decades singing and dancing around Corollas. Happy faces and ever sleeker models of the Toyota car lead up to the announcement of the 2014 Corolla, hoping to lure in new customers. The ad proclaims the joyful presence of Toyota over the last several decades. For many Toyota owners the picture has not been so cheerful this week.
Remember the 2009-2010-accelerator issue that turned out to a problem of improperly sized floor mats, resulting in the recall of 7 million models? In February of 2010 Toyota recalled the Prius for braking issues, followed less than a month later by the recall of Tacoma pickup trucks for a faulty front propeller shaft. The year 2010 also saw the recall of about 3,800 Lexus LS sedans with steering problems. In 2012 Toyota recalled 7.43 million cars, trucks and SUVs for faulty power window switches that presented fire hazards.
Toyota apparently continues to manufacture vehicles with major defects and in this latest issue has been forced to admit that its fix of a August 2012 suspension problem, in over 700,000 vehicles, was not sufficient to fix the problem. All of those vehicles are being recalled again and will now undergo a different and, hopefully, accurate repair this time. Toyota is recalling 880,584 RAV4 and Lexus HS 250h for a rear suspension problem. “ If rear suspension nuts aren’t tightened properly after a wheel alignment, the rear lower suspension arm can rust and separate from the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/9/2013) There have been at least nine crashes and three injuries related to the suspension defect according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At least 131 owners have complained about the issue to NHTSA and Toyota.
Getting a recall notice in the mail is an aggravation. Knowing that the recall is for a problem that you thought was properly repaired a year ago calls into question the reliability of your car and its manufacturer. And the kicker? According to CNBC, Toyota does not have enough parts to fix all of the recalled vehicles. If you are driving one of its 2006-2011Rav4s, or the pricy Lexus 250h, you may have to wait until February of 2014 for your repair. And in the meantime? You are driving a vehicle with a known defect, one that could cause a car crash.
The original problem involved a wobbling rear suspension arm that could, over time, rust out. That could lead to a suspension failure and, in a worst-case scenario, a crash. The maker has since discovered that the nuts it used to adjust the alignment of the rear wheels on the two vehicles during the August 2012 recall were not tightened properly.
The maker has notified the NHTSA it will now have to recall the same 780,000 vehicles to inspect for damage. The nuts will now be properly tightened and Toyota will take the additional step of sealing the rear lower suspension arms with an epoxy coating designed to prevent corrosion.” (CNBC, 9/10/2013)
- 133,091 hybrids from 2006-2009, including the Highlander and Lexus RX 400h.
- 101,584 Lexus GS 350 and IS35 models from 2006-2011 for variable-valve timing system gear issues that can cause the car to stop while in motion.
Toyota has been historically perceived to have been one of the top foreign auto manufacturers in the US, producing reliable and affordable vehicles. In 2012 Toyota was in the top 3 highest selling auto makers, even after the loss of consumer confidence arising from the 2009-2010 accelerator issues. We will have to wait now to see if Toyota can keep its market share with yet another safety issue. Trust is another issue all together.