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Toyota Recalls Nearly 800,000 Hybrids, SUVs.

Suspension systems could fail.

by on Aug.02, 2012

The Toyota RAV4 gets hit with a big recall.

Toyota has been stung by another recall, this one forcing it to notify owners of nearly 800,000 RAV4 SUVs and Lexus HS 250h hybrids that the rear suspensions on their vehicles could fail.

The recall is just the latest in a seemingly fast-increasing series of safety-related service actions that have impacted virtually every major automaker in recent weeks, a lit most recently including Ford, Honda and Mazda.  Meanwhile, federal safety investigators are busy investigating a series of additional reports that could result in still more recalls.

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Toyota’s latest recall covers 760,000 RAV4 crossover-utility vehicles sold between the 2006 through 2011 model-years, as well as another 18,000 Lexus HS 250h hybrids sold in model-year 2010.

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Senator Questions if Toyota Got Free Ride in Unintended Acceleration Investigation

Iowa’s Grassley says “key questions…unanswered.”

by on Jul.12, 2012

Iowa's GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley wants NHTSA to take a closer look at Toyota's problems with Unintended Acceleration.

Did Toyota get off too easily after it was largely cleared by a pair of investigations looking into the maker’s problems with so-called Unintended Acceleration?

That’s a possibility being raised by Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, who has sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, questioning the results of two studies conducted for the agency, in particular one done by NASA that found no evidence of electronic gremlins that might cause Toyota vehicles to race out of control.

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“Key questions about the cause of unintended acceleration remain unanswered,” the veteran lawmaker wrote in a letter to NHTSA Director David Strickland.

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Lexus Facing New Unintended Acceleration Recall

Two RX crossovers targeted for “floor mat entrapment.”

by on Jun.29, 2012

Lexus will recall nearly 150,000 RX models due to an unintended acceleration-related problem.

Having hoped to put its embarrassing unintended acceleration scandal behind it, Lexus is now recalling two more models due to the possibility loose floor mats could cause accelerator pedals to jam, leading the vehicles to surge out of control.

The two models covered by the latest recall are the Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h hybrid, with a total of nearly 134,000 vehicles involved.  The new service actions are relatively modest when compared to the millions of vehicles covered by earlier sudden acceleration problems, but the latest recall puts Toyota back into the spotlight after having spent the last several years trying to rebuild its reputation for high quality and reliability.

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“It was just beginning to fade from people’s memories,” said analyst Rebecca Lindland, of IHS Automotive.  “This is like scratching an old wound.”

Arguably the worst public relations crisis in Toyota Motor Co. history began in mid-2009 when a California Highway Patrol officer and several family members were killed when a Lexus they had borrowed surged out of control, plunging off a highway and bursting into flames.

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Is Same Supplier Behind Toyota, GM Door Fires?

NHTSA now looking at problems with Chevrolet TrailBlazer.

by on Feb.14, 2012

More than 300,000 Chevrolet TrailBlazers are covered by the new investigation.

Federal safety investigators have expanded an investigation launched last week when they initially responded to reports of six fires involving Toyota Camry and RAV-4 models.  A similar problem, with fires apparently starting in the driver door of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, is now being investigated, as well – and authorities want to know if the problems are linked.

The Toyota door fires were apparently linked to defective power window switches and could impact as many as 830,000 vehicles.  But, as TheDetroitBureau.com reported last week, the Japanese maker improves its economies of scale by sharing such components in a wide range of products and it is possible still more Toyota vehicles could be roped in by the investigation.

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It is also common practice for suppliers to offer similar – and sometimes identical – parts and components to more than one automaker.  That could be the case with the 2006 to 2007 TrailBlazer, with 309,000 of the SUVs involved in the latest investigation.

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Study Points Finger at Driver Error for Toyota’s Unintended Acceleration Problems

But 2-year review also suggests electronic issues may have played role.

by on Jan.18, 2012

Toyota's unintended acceleration problems likely weren't the result of electronic gremlins, says a new study.

A two-year study looking for possible causes behind Toyota’s rash of unintended acceleration issues has put primary blame on driver error – but the review by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) also cautioned that some problems may have been caused by inadvertent interactions involving vehicle electronics – an issue frequently cited by the automaker’s critics.

Though there was no hard evidence of specific electronic defects, the 139-page report cautioned that “the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.”  Warning electronic faults may be “untraceable,” it calls for stricter government involvement in setting standards for the use of electronic control vehicle systems.

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The new report completes a series of studies set in motion by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which, in March 2010, asked both the NAS’s National Research Council, as well as NASA, to see why there were so many complaints about what the media was referring to as “runaway Toyotas.”

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NHTSA Clears Toyota: No Corolla Steering Defect

Maker gets a much-needed boost after recent safety problems.

by on May.23, 2011

NHTSA has cleared the Toyota Corolla in an investigation into possible steering defects.

Toyota has gotten a clean bill of health from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which has found no electronics-related steering problems with the 2009 and 2010 Corolla model.

The second most popular model in the maker’s U.S. line-up had come under review because of claims by some owners that the vehicles appeared to start drifting off course.  A total of 900 complaints had been filed regarding the alleged problem.  A total of 4,100 warranty claims were recorded by Toyota dealers in connection with the issue.

The government safety agency has determined that the problem is related to driver feel, rather than a defect.  Toyota has come up with a repair to change the feel for drivers who aren’t satisfied with the Corolla’s steering.

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A recall of the compact model – and the Matrix model, which was also under review – could have been a serious setback for Toyota, which recalled more than 10 million vehicles last year due to a variety of safety-related issues.  More than half of those were cars, trucks and crossovers linked to potential problems with unintended acceleration, including sticky accelerator pedals, but Toyota also suffered a variety of other issues, including heavily corroded minivans and brake problems with the Prius hybrid.

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Management Shake-Up Coming at Toyota

Major reduction planned for board and senior executive ranks, say reports.

by on Feb.15, 2011

Toyota may slash its upper management ranks.

In the wake of a year of crisis that saw the Japanese giant pay record fines to the U.S. government, recall 11 million vehicles and face the wrath of Congress, Toyota is reportedly planning a major shake-up in its senior management roles.

The maker to reduce the size of board of directors by nearly 40%, from 27 members to 17, according to various sources.  Toyota also will make sharp cuts in the number of managing directors, executive directors and possibly other senior positions.

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The move appears to be motivated by a variety of factors: first, to make the company more lean and nimble and speed up the decision-making process.  Toyota paid a record $48.8 million in fines levied by U.S. regulators, last year, because of delays in responding to safety defects.  Insiders blame that, at least in part, to the company’s oversized bureaucracy.

But the cuts may also be part of a strategy by Toyota President Akio Toyoda – grandson of the company founder – to purge powerful elements within the automaker’s upper ranks that had resisted his policies.

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Toyota Pays Another Record Fine For Late Recalls

Japanese maker settles probe – at cost of $32.4 million.

by on Dec.21, 2010

Toyota pays a record $32.4 million in fines to settle two federal probes of delayed recalls.

Toyota has agreed to pay a record $32.4 million in fines levied by federal regulators for admittedly delaying the recall of six million potentially unsafe vehicles.

The settlement of the two separate probes by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration caps a disastrous year for a Japanese automaker once reputed to build some of the safest and most reliable vehicles on the road.  Since Toyota announced the first of two major efforts to resolve a so-called unintended acceleration problem, in late 2009, it has since recalled more than 11 million vehicles worldwide, most in the U.S.

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Toyota paid a previous $16.4 million fine, last April, for delaying the second of the two unintended acceleration recalls after learning about potentially sticky accelerator pedals.  At the time, that was the largest fine ever levied by the NHTSA.

The latest move involves payment of another $16.4 million for delaying the October 2009 recall for pedal entrapment – which can occur when loose carpets or floor mats trap the gas pedal and make it difficult to slow down.  The maker agreed to take action only after a widely-publicized crash that killed a California police officer and three members of his family.  Toyota has also agreed to pay $16 million for delaying the 2005 recall of 4Runner SUVs with defective steering rods that could lead to a loss of control.

Paying the $32.4 million in fines reflects Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda's promise to cooperate with U.S. regulators.

Officially, Toyota is not admitting guilt with the payment of the two new fines, and the company is attempting to put a positive, year-end spin on the moves, Steve St. Angelo, Toyota’s North American safety czar insisting, “These agreements are an opportunity to turn the page to an even more constructive relationship with NHTSA.”

St. Angelo’s post was created, earlier this year, after a bitterly confrontational series of hearings, on Capitol Hill, during which lawmakers grilled senior executives including Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda.  The grandson of the company founder promised to both improve relations with U.S. regulators and take steps to overcome Toyota’s worsening quality and safety issues.

Until the unintended acceleration issue captured the nation’s attention, in mid-2009, Toyota enjoyed what analysts like Joe Phillippi, of AutoTrends Consulting, described as a reputation for building “bulletproof” products.

But that image has been sorely tarnished over the last 15 months – despite evidence emerging in a federal probe of the unintended acceleration problem that at least some of the blame goes to driver error.

The problem, for Toyota, is that its safety problems have extended far beyond just runaway cars.  Just this month, the maker has announced the recall of nearly 100,000 Sienna minivans due to brake problems that could cause the loss of braking performance.  There have also been recalls for defective brakes on the newest Prius hybrid, as well as overheating of older versions of the Prius, a Toyota “halo” car; extensive corrosion of minivans and pickups that could cause parts, such as spare tires, to fall onto the highway; stalling problems with the Corolla and Vibe models; steering issues and a variety of other safety-related problems.

How American motorists are responding to Toyota’s sudden safety shock is unclear.  Some recent studies suggest the maker has gotten through the worst in turns of public perception.  But sales data is less upbeat.  For October and November, Toyota was the only major automotive brand to suffer a sales decline at a time when the overall industry was reporting its strongest performance in several years.

Earlier this year, Toyota Senior Vice President Don Esmond told TheDetroitBureau.com that he expects the company’s existing customers to remain loyal to the brand, but that it will become “more difficult to conquest,” or win over buyers from the competition.

Conquest sales were a major factor in Toyota surging to the number two spot in the U.S. market.  In recent months, however, as its momentum has slowed, Toyota has again slipped behind Ford but remains the third-best-selling manufacturer in the country.

Whether the decision to pay the new record fines will actually help Toyota begin the process of repairing its reputation remains to be seen.  But the maker hopes it will smooth ruffled feathers in Washington.  In recent years, government regulators had tried to take a more cooperative approach with the industry, but Toyota bragged about taking advantage of that relationship.

Prior to last February’s Capitol Hill hearings internal documents leaked out showing the maker crowing about a 2007 recall for loose floor mats.  By convincing NHTSA not to order a larger recall, Toyota officials bragged, they saved $100 million.

“I expect Toyota to work cooperatively in the future to ensure consumers’ safety,” says Ray LaHood, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The new $32.4 million fines may be a record for the auto industry, but they’re miniscule compared to the estimates of what just the unintended acceleration issue could ultimately cost Toyota – more than $2 billion according to one forecast by Deutsche Bank.

There are hundreds of lawsuits now working their ways through the courts, including a massive class action in progress in California.  Meanwhile, the automaker is under the microscope as a federal grand jury in New York looks at possible criminal charges stemming from delayed recalls.

Another Major Safety Investigation Targets Toyota

Best-seller Corolla, Matrix face new troubles over stalling.

by on Aug.26, 2010

A new NHTSA investigation targets potentially faulty circuit boards that could cause engine stalling with the 2005 - 07 Corolla and Matrix.

Toyota is facing yet another major investigation, involving what has been one of the company’s best-selling vehicles.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has launched a new investigation into possible defects with the maker’s Corolla and Matrix models, sold between 2005 and 2007, which reportedly face problems with unexpected engine stalling.

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If the NHTSA investigation validates claims of a safety defect, Toyota could be pushed to order a recall of 1.2 million vehicles.  The situation compounds the Japanese automaker’s already severe safety-related problems, more than 8 million of its vehicles being recalled since last October due to two separate sudden acceleration-related defects.  Over a million more products, from the Toyota Tundra pickup to the Lexus HS250h hybrid, have been called back for reports covering everything from severe corrosion to leak fuel tanks.

(Jeep under investigation for fuel tank leaks involving up to 3 million vehicles. Click Here for more.)

Problems involving Corolla come at a particularly bad time considering both the increased competition in the compact car segment – and investigations into other problems with the popular Japanese product.

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NHTSA Finds No Electronic Defects With Toyota

But findings don’t completely clear troubled Japanese maker.

by on Aug.11, 2010

NHTSA cannot find electronic gremlins in Toyota vehicles, and says many unintended acceleration incidents resulted from driver error.

Federal safety regulators are giving Toyota some much-needed good news, though they aren’t completely absolving the troubled Japanese maker in an ongoing safety scandal.

With Toyota facing a rash of lawsuits for its various safety problems – legal problems some analysts estimate could cost the maker more than $2 billion to resolve – there’s significant good news for the  Japanese company in the finding by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it could not find any sign of electronic glitches that might cause Toyota vehicles to unexpectedly race out of control.

In fact, after reviewing the vehicle data recorders taken from scores of Toyota products involved in unintended acceleration incidents, NHTSA found that the brakes were not applied in 35 of 58 cases.  That finding, supported by black box data, suggests that driver error, rather than mechanical problems, were responsible. This should not be surprising to anyone who has followed the history of such charges.

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The additional incidents, however, appear to be the result of mechanical – but not electronic defects.  Toyota has so far recalled more than 8 million cars, trucks and crossovers to resolve problems that could cause a vehicle’s accelerator to stick, including faulty accelerators and loose carpets that could jam under the accelerator pedal.

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