Friday, January 29, 2010

Toyota Has the Pinto Problem

So, Toyota has stopped making cars, at least in the United States and much of Europe, and I am surprised that more people aren't up in arms.
This just doesn't happen, Company. The last time I think that a major world automotive company just up and stopped making cars was probably during World War Two when they all tooled all over to war production. I, as usual, and not going to even attempt to verify that is true, but I did put that "I think" in there to cover myself. And of course I do not count the major auto manufacturers that ceased to be, the Hudsons and Oldsmobiles of the world.
The reason why Toyota has stopped its production is because they are having problems with their gas pedals, or their accelerators if you'd rather call them that. And this is not the first time that they have had troubles with that. Not too long ago they were replacing floor mats in a bunch of their models because the accelerator pedal would get caught on them, causing, well, accidents. I mean, that's what you get when your accelerator goes out of control. As I remember that recall was punctuated by a family calling 911 and screaming as they Lexus (which is made by Toyota) revved out of control and killed them all in a vicious crash on a California freeway. Not so good. Toyota, though, was able to fix things and make their cars safe again, or so they thought.
Here they are again, though, plagued by accelerator demons. This time, they have discovered that wear and tear on a certain part of the accelerator can cause problems with the pedal itself, making it hard to depress, causing it to return slow once depressed, or shockingly causing it to get stuck wide open. That is not good. Toyota has said that there have been no instances of this problem causing any accidents, which is good, but they have taken some extraordinary steps. They have issued a recall to fix the problem on literally millions and millions of cars, trucks, and SUV's. But they've gone farther than that, at the behest of the United States Department of Transportation, and stopped selling their cars, both new and used. And they've stopped making new cars until they can get new parts that won't potentially kill people who are using them properly.
As one could imagine, this is a terrible blow for Toyota. First of all, it is coming on the heels of the worst year in automotive sales history, so stopping the gravy train is not exactly ideal. But beyond that, this is really a gigantic chink in the whole Toyota reliability and safety deal. People buy Toyotas because while they are bland they are so technically good, they are (or were) safe, and they last forever. In a Toyota it is reasonable to expect that the sheet metal will melt away long before the engine fails. But that doesn't really matter when your Toyota crashes into a bridge abutment because the accelerator wouldn't rebound from being floored to enter the freeway.
GM has pounced, because that is what they need. They are offering special deals on financing if you trade in your Toyota on a GM model, that of course being if you can find a GM division that hasn't been "wound down" recently, which is a good idea but you know, I can't imagine that a lot of people are going to trade in their Corollas on a Cobalt, or at least not more than would have anyway. But it's a nice try, and I suppose they need all the help they can get. No one else is jumping on this though, so basically it comes out with GM looking desperate. Which I suppose they are.
Listen, here is the deal with this. This is bad. And it's big. SUPER BIG. Because nothing like this has really ever happened before if you think about it. Never has the government told a manufacturer to stop manufacturing and get their house in order. Never has this many cars been effected. And never has Toyota taken a hit like this. I mean, this is like in Ford Pinto or Chevy Corvair territory when it comes to a hit on the credibility. And I'd expect if from those two, but not Toyota. Maybe it's time to buy a Honda.

1 comment:

Big Dave said...

Note: Maybe it's not really time to buy a Honda, they just recalled 646,000 cars due to a master switch allowing water into the door panels and causing fires. Two fires have been caused by this in the United States and one, in which a child died, in South Africa. Yikes! Maybe you should buy a Ford.