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Toyota Recalls Tacoma for Driveshaft Failures

Another, yes another, safety issue from the Japanese leader.

by on Feb.13, 2010

The latest to join a growing recall list at Toyota.

The following is significantly revised from the original story to add Nissan and Ford Motor involvement – editor.

When Toyota started pressing for world leadership almost a decade ago, management did not envision obtaining another kind of automotive leadership — recalls.

In a classic late Friday release, the beleaguered company announced its latest recall involving current production Tacoma pickup trucks.

Toyota said in a brief statement that 2010 model four-wheel-drive Tacoma pickup trucks may have cracked driveshaft yokes.  No accidents or warranty claims have been reported.

The problem occurs where the yoke connects to the driveshaft on what is the front driveshaft of four-wheel-drive trucks. Worse, it is the front of the shaft that potentially can fail, which can lead to a “pole vaulting” effect if the shaft digs into the pavement as the truck moves forward. (See for a diagram.)

Other makers including Ford Motor and Nissan are involved in this safety related defect, according to a person familiar with the matter, since driveline supplier Dana made the defective shafts, estimated at 34,000.  Toyota only used 8,000 of them.

All-wheel-drive versions of Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute models used about 17,000, although the shaft went to the rear wheels; leaving Nissan with about 9,000 of the potentially questionable shafts.

There is of course a tendency at all auto companies to attempt to minimize both the number of defective vehicles recalled, and to take steps to also minimize resulting publicity. The other  makers that used the Dana shafts have five business days to recall a vehicle, once — and if –  a defect is determined in their applications.

Old style, pre-web communications practices are complicating the problem. Terse statements with as little detail as possible are standard practice in the industry, making it impossible for owners or journalists to assess the severity of the problem and act appropriately.

In the current environment, Toyota  immediately recalled the  vehicles after being informed by Dana.

This Tacoma action follows recent recalls on Toyota Prius and Lexus hybrid models for defective brakes, Camry steering failures, and accelerator sticking and floor mat entrapment on at least eight  models.

Model year 2005-2010 Tacoma trucks are also involved in the floor mat entrapment recall of  last September for unintended acceleration problems.

More than 8 million vehicles have now been recalled by Toyota globally.

In the U.S., the company faces two Congressional hearings over its safety procedures, and the Senate has now scheduled a third public hearing. More hearings are possible.

The Good, Bad or Ugly!

Worse, as publicity mounts, we expect that more recalls will be added, or previous ones expanded as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reviews Toyota procedures and data with a new skepticism based on what critics claim is a long history of ignoring customer problems that reaches all the way back to corporate headquarters in Japan.   (more…)