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Toyota’s Lentz Lends Mea Culpa to Recall

“It’s up to us” to make customers trust Toyota again, says exec.

by on Feb.01, 2010

It's all on the line for Toyota, said the maker's top American exec, Jim Lentz, during a teleconference to discuss Toyota's recall plans.

“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.

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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.


Honda Joins Recall List With Fit Subcompact

Potential fire hazard prompts action.

by on Jan.29, 2010

Honda's worldwide recall of the Fit hatchback impacts 140,000 cars in the U.S.

Honda's worldwide recall of the Fit hatchback impacts 140,000 cars in the U.S.

Honda Motor Co. will recall more than 600,000 of its subcompact Fit hatchbacks due to a potential fire hazard, the maker announced today.

The problem is the result of a defect master power window switch that could leak and, in some cases, cause a fire.  So far, the automaker acknowledges, it has received three reports of fires caused by the defect, including two in the U.S. and another in South Africa.

The problem impacts what has become one of Honda’s best-sellers worldwide, and a vehicle that has proven unexpectedly popular in the United States, where it competes against a growing list of subcompacts, such as the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, and soon American offerings like the Ford Fiesta.

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The recall involves a total of 646,000 of the subcompacts sold in North America, South America, Europe, South Africa and Asia.  The Japanese market – where the Fit is Honda’s best-selling product – is notably not included in the recall.


City Safety Scores Again

Accident-prevention technology winning awards, possibly insurance discounts.

by on Feb.05, 2009

I See You: Volvo's City Safety system at work

I See You: Volvo's City Safety system at work

Have you ever been involved in a collision when driving in the city? If not, you undoubtedly know someone who was. The surveys suggest more than 75 percent of all accidents occur at speeds below 18 mph, usually on city streets.

No wonder Volvo got a lot of attention when it introduced City Safety, a driver assistance system that prevents, or at least reduces the severity of, lower speeds crashes. Here in the U.S., the technology will become standard on all versions of the new XC60 crossover, which we reviewed, earlier in the week.

City Safety is already piling up the awards. It netted the ‘Traffic Safety Achievement Award,’ presented during the World Traffic Safety Symposium, in New York, last month, and February sees the Swedes garnering the prestigious Paul-Pietsch award.


Q&A: Volvo CEO Doug Speck

New products, and maybe new owners?

by on Feb.02, 2009

No, Volvo's not going to the dogs

No, Volvo's not going to the dogs

These are uncertain times, in the auto industry. And nowhere is that more obvious than at Volvo. The Swedish automaker could soon go on the auction block, a victim of the financial crunch facing its American parent, Ford Motor Co.

Even if Ford opts to keep Volvo in the corporate family, the smaller maker is in the midst of some major changes. Its headquarters operation is moving from California to New Jersey, barely eight years after it left the East Coast to begin with. On the more positive side, Volvo Cars North America is getting ready to launch the most significant new product it has offered in several years, the XC60 crossover.

What else is in store? spent time with Doug Speck, the 26-year Ford veteran who was named VCNA’s new CEO, barely a year ago, and pressed him on a variety of topics ranging from the possible sale to safety to the possibility of setting up an assembly operation in the U.S.