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Infotainment Systems are the Plague of the Auto Industry, Says Consumer Reports

Japanese makers retain lead in quality, reliability.

by on Oct.27, 2014

CR gives thumbs up to the Toyota Camry, the magazine predicting good reliability for the 2015 update.

The quality of the cars sold on the U.S. market has hit a plateau, and motorists can put the blame on new technologies – especially the infotainment systems that have become increasingly common on today’s models, according to a new study by Consumer Reports.

The influential non-profit publication likened the issue to a “reliability plague,” chief auto tester Jake Fisher noting that, if anything, the latest annual Consumer Reports Automotive Reliability study might be downplaying the problem because it reports only actual defects.

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The situation would be even worse if the study included complaints about just how difficult many infotainment systems are to operate.

“The big problem is infotainment. Take that out and (the quality of) cars would be improving,” said Fisher, during an appearance before the Detroit Automotive Press Association.


Toyota Recalling More Than 1 Million Vehicles

Actions include second recall for 780,000 hybrids, crossovers to fix suspension defect.

by on Sep.10, 2013

If at first you don't succeed, order a second recall. The RAV4 goes back into the shop.

Toyota’s efforts to overcome concern about quality and safety could take a hit following word of its latest recalls.

On Monday, Toyota and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration have cited three separate voluntary recalls, involving a total 1,015,249 built between 2006 and 2011. The recalls were only the latest in a long list by the Japanese auto giant.

The first recall is not only one of the year’s larger safety-related recalls but it also marks the second time the Japanese giant will attempt to fix a problem with the rear suspensions on 780,000 crossovers and hybrids that could lead to a crash.

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Toyota found that a fix it put in place in August 2012 didn’t solve the problem and will have to recall the vehicles again.

The two vehicles covered by the latest service action are the 2010 Lexus HS250 hybrid and the 2006 through 2011 Toyota RAV4 crossover, the latter one of the maker’s most popular models.


Toyota on the Defensive

Japanese giant faces tough challenges; bets on new, updated products.

by on Aug.01, 2013

The 2014 Toyota Tundra remake will be pulling a heavy load for the Japanese maker.

For a vehicle with a payload capacity of 2,000 pounds and the ability to tow a 10,000-pound trailer, the 2014 Toyota Tundra will be expected to do some heavy lifting — and not just on the jobsite.

It’s been an unusually tough year for Toyota, both here and abroad. While the maker recently revealed it had narrowly retained its global sales lead, the gap between the Japanese giant and arch-rival General Motors markedly narrowed and while GM gained 4% for the first six months of 2013, Toyota was down 1.2%.

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It hasn’t helped to be caught up in an ongoing political dispute between China and Japan that even saw rioters burn a Toyota dealership. But the maker has also had some unexpected setbacks in what has long been its most profitable market, the U.S., where two key lines: the midsize Camry and the Prius hybrid “family” suffered unanticipated sales declines.  Meanwhile, the outgoing Toyota Tundra pickup has failed to take advantage of the revival of the U.S. truck market, the fastest-growing segment in the industry this year.


Toyota Recalling 310,000 FJ Cruiser SUVs

But maker has yet to come up with fix.

by on Mar.15, 2013

Toyota's FJ Cruiser is its latest model to face recall.

Toyota is recalling about 310,000 of its distinctive FJ Cruiser SUVs, the majority of which were sold in the United States, due to a seatbelt problem.

The announcement is the latest in a series of safety-related problems for the maker which topped the list among manufacturers in terms of the number of vehicles it recalled in the U.S. for three of the last four years.

According to Toyota, the problem involves seatbelts that could fail because of excess wear.

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“The seatbelt retractors for the driver and front passenger seat belts are mounted on the rear doors of the vehicles,” Toyota explained in a press statement. “Due to insufficient strength of the rear door panel, cracks may develop over an extended period of time if the rear door is repeatedly and forcefully closed.”


Toyota in Dubious Recall Race with Honda

Makers both on track to lead in total 2012 recall count.

by on Nov.23, 2012

The 2004 Tacoma has been targeted for recall due to corrosion problems.

Japan’s two largest automakers appear to be locked in a race to achieve the dubious distinction of having recalled more vehicles than any other automaker during 2012 for an array of safety-related problems that range from fire hazards to seat belt issues.

The latest problem involves 140,000 Toyota Tacoma pickups which, the maker says, could experience corrosion severe enough that their spare tires could fall off while driving.  Toyota has recalled several other models, including its Sienna minivan, for similar problems in the past.

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The announcement comes barely a month after Toyota revealed it would have to recall 7.5 million vehicles worldwide due to faulty power window switches that could catch fire, including 2.5 million vehicles sold in the U.S.  It was the largest single recall in the maker’s history.  That followed by days Honda’s announcement of three separate safety callbacks impacting 1.7 million vehicles.


Japanese Makers Dominate Consumer Reports Reliability Study

Audi, General Motors make gains – but Ford, Chrysler, Hyundai, Nissan all slide.

by on Oct.29, 2012

Audi's -- its S4 shown here -- pops into the Top 10 for the first time in the CR reliability study.

Japanese makers – led by Toyota – dominated the 2012 automotive reliability study by influential Consumer Reports magazine.

But the study showed that European makers, notably the Audi brand, made significant gains. So did General Motors, though the other two Detroit makers didn’t fare nearly as well in the annual report by the non-profit magazine.

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“Ford had a pretty bad year,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing, noting that the Ford brand fell to 27th among the brands covered by the study while its sibling Lincoln marque dipped to 26th.

Toyota Motor Co.’s three U.S. brands led the annual reliability study, Scion in first place, followed by Toyota and then the Lexus luxury line.  Mazda, meanwhile, landed in fourth position.  Japanese makers have traditionally led the Consumer Reports study.


Toyota Recalls Nearly 7.5 Mil Vehicles For Fire Risk

About 2.5 million vehicles sold in US involved.

by on Oct.10, 2012

The 2007 Camry is one of a wide array of Toyota product lines involved in the latest recall.

Toyota Motor Co., still in recovery mode after a series of problems that plagued its global operations over the last three years, has announced it is recalling 2.5 million vehicles sold in the United States due to a potential risk of fire.

On a worldwide basis, the recall involves 7.43 million vehicles sold under the Toyota and Scion brands.  This is the largest safety-related service action the maker has announced since it began a series of recalls related to the risk of unintended acceleration in late 2009. That and other safety issues led Toyota to recall 14 million vehicles in 2009 and 2010.

In fact, many of the vehicles involved in the new recall Toyota is announcing also were called back one or more times due to unintended acceleration issues.

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The latest recall is the result of a problem with a potentially defective power window switch on the driver’s side of the affected vehicles which, the maker says, “may experience a “notchy” or sticky feel during operation. If commercially available lubricants are applied to the switch in an attempt to address the “notchy” or sticky feel, melting of the switch assembly or smoke could occur and lead to a fire under some circumstances.”


Tops in Quality Toyota Still Lags in New Survey

VW, Ford, Chrysler lead in "Things Gone Right."

by on Aug.27, 2012

The Chevy Volt proves a surprise winner in the midsize segment, according to the 2012 TQI.

As it has so often over the years, Toyota is coming out tops in the new Total Quality Index – at least when measured according to the least problems per vehicle – what is often referred to as “Things Gone Wrong,” or TGWs, inside the auto industry.

But that’s only one way to measure things, cautions Alexander Edwards, president of the California-based consulting firm, Strategic Vision.  Consumers don’t just look at what’s wrong, he stresses.  They’re also looking for the features that surprise and delight – like an unusually powerful engine, better-than-expected fuel economy, or a well-appointed interior.

When you add in those factors which are commonly referred to as “Things Gone Right,” or TGRs, the picture is quite different, and Volkswagen surges to the top of the 2012 Total Quality Index.  Perhaps equally surprising, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler tie for second by that measure.

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“This is ultimately, how people think about vehicles and spend money,” stressed Edwards, echoing a growing sense in the industry that with most makers now delivering near-perfect out-of-the-box quality those manufacturers who can delight the customer who will eventually win out.


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.


Toyota Announces New Round of Recalls

700,000 vehicles involved in separate safety-related actions.

by on Mar.09, 2012

Toyota is recalling the Venza again.

While Toyota sales in the U.S. are trending up with the market, the Japanese auto giant can’t seem to shake the recall bug that’s haunted it for the past two years.

Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. has just announced it is recalling nearly 700,000 cars and trucks due to a variety of potential safety-related problems.  The recall comes barely a month after federal regulators opened an investigation into reports of fires in the driver’s side door of the maker’s popular Camry sedan and RAV-4 crossover.

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As part of the new recall, Toyota said certain Camry and Venza vehicles from the 2009 to 2011 model-years will need to have their the stop lamp switches replaced. Approximately 70,500 Camry and 116,000 Venza vehicles are covered by this recall.

In addition, certain 2005 to early 2009 Tacoma pickups will be recalled to replace the steering wheel spiral cable assembly. Approximately 495,000 Tacoma vehicles are covered by that service action.