Toyota Launches Massive New Safety Recalls In Shadow Of GM’s Woes – Forbes
There’s no better time to clean house than when your neighbor is being filmed for an episode of Hoarders. That might help explain why Toyota is taking this opportunity to recall more than six million vehicles, to fix a variety of safety defects, in what totals one of the biggest recalls in automotive history.
While General Motors General Motors is being consumed by the controversy over its ignition-switch recall, Toyota on Wednesday announced in separate statements that it had found a total of five types of safety hazards in some of its best-selling vehicles, including Corolla and Camry cars and the RAV4 sport-utility vehicle. But Toyota said that it isn’t aware of any injuries or fatalities linked to the defects.
The recalls include about 3.5 million vehicles — including RAV4, Corolla and Camry — to replace spiral cables that may prevent driver’s-side airbags from deploying. More than half of these units are in North America. Toyota also is recalling 2.3 million vehicles to inspect and replace the front-seat rails for springs that may break and allow seats to move in the event of a crash. And so on.
Beyond the specifics of the recalls is the big picture in automotive safety. Toyota just last month agreed to a $1.2-billion settlement, the largest criminal penalty ever imposed on a U.S. automaker, for how it handled the 2009-2010 recall fiasco. As part of that settlement, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda pledged to improve the company’s recall process. Apparently the spate of new just-announced recalls stemmed at least in part from that promise.
Of course, since the Toyota settlement, the attention of American automotive consumers has been riveted on the disaster at General Motors, which has admitted conducting a slow walk on a recall of 2.6 million vehicles globally for an ignition-switch problem that apparently led to at least 13 deaths in car crashes in the United States. As part of her efforts to resolve and move past the crisis, GM CEO Mary Barra has pledged a vast overhaul of her own company’s recall procedures.
Though Toyota may get a break from attention by conducting its massive new recall under a sort of cover provided by media and consumer preoccupation with GM’s recall, Toyota’s new, apparently more forthcoming approach on safety problems isn’t without risk to the company. The main reason Toyota was the most highly regarded automotive brand of the last generation was its unassailable track record in vehicle quality and reliability, including safety.
The 2009-2010 recall episode badly tarnished that attribute and significantly dented Toyota’s sales in the U.S. and elsewhere. Now that Toyota’s sales have recovered, this new round of recalls will remind consumers of its disappointing fallibility in this area — and will constrain Toyota from taking advantage in the U.S. market of GM’s own recall woes.