“It’s up to us,” said Jim Lentz, Toyota’s top American executive, as the maker struggled to put a human face on what is rapidly becoming the worst problem in its history.
Saving an enviable reputation for quality, reliability and safety will depend, said the president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, (TMS), on the plan the maker today outlined to fix a problem with cars that can suddenly surge out of control.
Toyota announced plans to recall 2.3 million vehicles on January 19th due to its recognition that their accelerators could, under certain conditions stick, making it difficult to slow the vehicles down. Since then, the maker has increased the tally to 4.5 million, reflecting cars that it has sold in Europe and China with the same potentially defective accelerator pedal assembly.
The crisis has been worsened, analysts contend, by the fact that Toyota also recalled 3.8 million vehicles, last October, for another issue that could lead to so-called “unintended acceleration.” That problem involves loose floor mat that can “entrap” the accelerator pedal and make it difficult to release. That recall has increased in size, as well, and now includes about 5.3 million vehicles in the U.S. and Canada.
There have been reports of problems involving runaway Toyotas dating back a number of years, which is leading many observers – including analysts, government overseers, media and consumers – to question what Toyota knew and when.