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Engine failures in MR2 Spyders

6/11/2014 - Updated the original post by entering direct links to reference material, and added remarks about the legal issues involved with...

Monday, February 28, 2011

If Toyota can't do floor mats...

Toyota's latest recall - 2.5 million units - prompted an interesting response from Hagens Berman, one of the attorneys suing the Recall King over floor mats.  While Toyota's friends at NHTSA are proudly declaring an end to their investigation of sudden, unintended acceleration, Mr. Berman dared to point out that this latest recall stands in "stark contrast" to what Toyota has been saying about the floor mat issue.  Instead of backin' off, maybe NHTSA should be takin' a closer look.

Let's start with just how "voluntary" this recall actually is.  The terminology sounds good for the Recall King, but based on the facts, it sounds a little too good.  Smacks of another cozy deal with NHTSA, whereby Toyota gets to play word games.  Now don't get me wrong.  I'm delighted that Toyota is gettin' exposed and havin' to foot the bill - financially and PR wise - for this recall.  But its kinda like those "record setting" yet slap-on-the-wrist fines allowing Toyota to walk away without any admission of wrongdoing.  The punishment may be well deserved, but its hardly sufficient.

This latest recall is another credibility issue for the Recall King.  Folks had reason to believe that Toyota had solved the floor mat thing, only to discover that "the rest of the story" was - or is - yet to be told.  Wonder how long Toyota and NHTSA have known about these additional problems regarding floor mats?  As things now stand, nobody can be blamed for concluding that there's more to this story than we've been told.  One plaintiff in a sudden acceleration lawsuit has already spoken out, saying this latest recall is proof positive that unanswered questions remain.  And folks in Minneapolis are plannin' a demonstration - 3/22, 8-9 AM, 300 4th St. - to tell the feds to hold Toyota accountable for not installing brake overrides.  

So lemme get this straight.  Toyota has problems designin' floor mats, but the Recall King is okay with electronics?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stallin' the Toyota Way: '06 hybrid SUVs

Uh-oh.  The Recall King is facin' a brand spankin' new investigation, this time for complaints about engines stalling - most of 'em at 40 mph or more - in 2006 Highlander hybrid SUVs.  And here again, there's a finer point:  How long has Toyota known about this issue?  How many customers have complained to Toyota about this problem since 2006?  Surely we aren't expected to believe that Toyota first heard of it via NHTSA.

If matters rested on just this one case, it would be different.  But this is the umpteenth time we've had reason to wonder how long Toyota has known about malfunctions in its vehicles.  The question arises, for example, with those embarassing fines from NHTSA, the complaints about Prius headlights, and a current lawsuit involving allegations that Toyota knew about Prius brake problems for years before finally issuing a recall.   

When vehicles suddenly stall, won't restart, and have to be towed in, its not hard to imagine the kind of complaints voiced to Toyota.  Looks like the matter should have been settled a long time ago, without any involvement from NHTSA.  Foot draggin' can go a long way when it comes to such things as warranties and customers givin' up on pursuing a complaint.  "Aw shucks.  Let's just trade this thing in and move on."

Frankly, I don't see how on earth floor mats could... no, wait.  Floor mats were causin' sudden acceleration.  This time the vehicles are stallin'.  In fact, some other models - Corolla, Matrix - started stallin' not long ago.  Gee.  I hope someone is keepin'  track of all this.  Maybe it'll help me sort things out if I connect Toyota's '06 Highlander hybrids with how the engine in my MR2 was threatening to stall as it disintegrated.     

Lawsuits, fines, subpoenas, online petitions, investigations, recalls, multi-million dollar settlements, confidentiality agreements, criminal charges, and the list goes on ad nauseum.  Talk about consumer affairs...

Update 2/24/11 - Did I say brand spankin' new investigation?  There's been yet another massive Toyota recall, and now CHINA wants Toyota to explain.  Seems the Chinese have doubts about the Recall King's claims that vehicles sold in China were not defective.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Toyota doesn't make cars for bloggers?

Toyota's recent advertisement declaring "we don't make cars for bloggers" was apparently aimed at the enormous amount of criticism Toyota faces on the Internet.  Now, now Toyota. You musn't lose your temper over this free speech thing. 

Best I can tell, Toyota and its protectors have been losin' the battle when it comes to promoting the automaker's interests on the Web, thanks in large part to sharp criticisms from bloggers, especially micro-bloggers on social media websites such as Twitter. To drum up support for the Recall King, someone recently offered bloggers $10 Amazon gift cards in exchange for favorable postings, etc., and even e-mailed a linked list of preferred websites for the bloggers to target. But alas. One of the bloggers took an ethical exception to all this, complained rather loudly, and things never materialized. In fact, things backfired by bringing about a social media uproar and a tweet from Toyota denying any involvement in the scheme. Nothin' like a devoted fan...

Listen, Toyota. I can understand why you might have it in for bloggers. But if you really wanna punish 'em, don't refuse to make cars for 'em. Instead, make 'em buy your cars.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sudden, unwarranted acclamations

What a hoot.  Toyota's protectors - including U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and NHTSA - are declaring the Recall King blameless because NASA says it can't prove electronics are responsible for some of Toyota's recent avalanche of sudden unintended acceleration issues.

Maybe Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood - talk about a Toyota mouthpiece - should read the report.  NASA doesn't say that electronics aren't involved.  It merely states - after examining a whoppin' total of nine (!) vehicles - that the agency has been unable to prove a connection.  In fact, experts in the field are already questioning the government's methodology.  The only thing that's been proven is the fact that there's a long way to go before this matter is resolved.  Ironically enough, what has been resolved - the effectiveness of a brake override system - does not bode well for the Recall King.  While others were installing this safety device, the world's "number one automaker" lagged behind.  Drug its feet so slowly that this glaring safety omission has become the focal point of lawsuits filed against Toyota not only by customers, but also insurance companies.  Furthermore, Toyota's 8 million recalls for sudden unintended acceleration were based on mechanical issues, not electronics. 

Pardon a pun, but the overriding issue isn't Toyota's electronics, its Toyota's credibility.  For proof that this issue has taken center stage, one need look no further than the eyebrow raisin' results of an Associated Press investigation and the recent appointment of a special counsel to determine if Toyota illegally concealed rollover data in a case in Texas.

Regardless of Ray LaHood, NHTSA, NASA, and the best electoral system money can buy, this is still the age of the Internet.  With thousands of customers signing an online petition complaining of continuing problems with oil sludge, two major car clubs howling about engine failures in MR2 Spyders, and an increasing host of other websites critical of Toyota, the Recall King obviously has a long way to go when it comes to establishing trust.   

Sudden, unwarranted acclamations won't silence the facts, Toyota.  Word is out regarding the way you do business.   

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Special counsel to see if Toyota hid evidence

Former Toyota attorney Dimitrios Biller may have lost his case in front of an arbitrator, but Biller's claims that Toyota illegally witheld evidence have prompted a judge in Texas to appoint a special counsel to conduct an investigation. I'd say its about time.

If such allegations came only from Biller, it would be bad enough, but here's the deal.  Biller is far from alone. Ditto the case in Texas. The enormous cloud of smoke includes similar allegations from other attorneys, and downright shocking disclosures from a recent Associated Press investigation. Toss in a zillion lawsuits, record-setting government fines, racketeering charges, settlements apparently calculated to avoid jury decisions, and investigations by a federal grand jury and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Really, folks. That's a lot of smoke.

I applaud the judge in Texas for refusing to be intimidated by the arbitrator's ruling in California. As smoke billows from customer complaints and embarassing revelations regarding the Recall King, nobody can be blamed for thinkin' there's a fire.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Prius defect shows contempt for customers

No wonder Toyota's little Glitch-mobile has been unseated by Honda's Fit for the top spot in Japan.  Part of the recent parade of Prius defects includes a troublesome tendency for the headlights to malfunction.  Just imagine.  There you are, goin' down the road at night when the thing suddenly accelerates, brakes fail, and the headlights go off.  Okay.  All three at the same time might be unlikely.  Point is, Toyota's glitches seem to be catchin' up with the Recall King's sales, even on home turf.

But the finer point goes beyond lousy products.  Toyota refuses to get it right when it comes to customer relations.  Bad headlights - obviously bad based on the number of complaints to NHTSA - become the subject of a class action lawsuit instead of a good faith effort on the part of Toyota to correct the problem.  Based on my experience with the Recall King, I wasn't surprised that customers were hassled at dealerships.  Oh what a feeling...

Ah, the Toyota Way.  Force folks to sue, then work out a settlement whereby Toyota avoids admitting that there was a defect.  A jury never rules on the issue, and Toyota avoids a recall.  Slick stuff.  "Number One for a Reason" indeed.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Slick" ad campaign backfires on Toyota

When I saw that Toyota's ad agency, Saatchi and Saatchi, was involved in marketing the new "family" of Glitch-mobiles ("Priuses" they like to call 'em), I got to wonderin' if Saatchi is part of Toyota's problem. Tryin' to recall (if you'll pardon the pun) a story that came out some time ago, I did a Google search, and there it was. Plenty of reason to be alarmed about the kinda folks Toyota depends on for advertising. You know. So-called "professionals" as opposed to customers.   

Toyota's ad agency was sending a woman anonymous e-mails with threatening overtones, etc., as part of a so-called marketing scheme for the Matrix. I won't belabor the absurdity. Suffice it to say that Toyota seems to have a way of terrorizing people. Startin' 2011 off with yet another month of disappointing sales, apparently Toyota's philosophy goes something like this: Big ad agencies, they got glitz. Pomp. And circumstance. As for customers? All they got is some old-fashioned thing called "word of mouth."

Wonder what the Toyota team will come up with next.

Update 2/3/2011 - Regarding the above link, Reuters censored my comment about Toyota's disappointing sales for January.  Such censorship is also alive and well at ABC News.

Update 9/13/2011 - The victim of Toyota's absurd marketing scheme filed a $10 million lawsuit, and an appeals court has ruled that the suit can go forward.