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Many of Toyota’s customers have had to deal with at least one recall of their vehicle in recent years. In fact, last week Toyota issued its 16th recall since 2007. The most famous recalls occurred in 2010 when the floor mats caused the accelerator of the car to stick, making cars be unable to stop. Other recalls were caused by fuel leakages, spare tires failing, and air bags deploying randomly, to name a few. However, none of the recalls have included Toyota’s dangerous automatic windows. When Toyota’s drivers attempt to roll their windows up and down, the driver’s door apparently can start smoking and can catch fire. This was caused by the window manufacturer’s failure to apply the grease evenly on the power window switch, causing friction. This fire hazard caused Toyota to issue its recall on over 7.4 million cars globally, including over 2 million in the United States.
While Toyota was not the only Japanese car dealer to have problems with its windows, Toyota’s fire windows has a chance to greatly harm the company at a time when it is attempting to recover from the fallout of its previous recalls. While Toyota initially claimed there were no injuries caused by these windows, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reporting that there were nine confirmed injures from 161 fires. Toyota claims that this is an “embarrassing and honest error,” which may be more believable if Toyota did not have a track record of trying to hide its mistakes. In 2010, Toyota paid a $32.425 million fine for failing to promptly report its brake problems to NHTSA. Here, Toyota first learned about its window problem in 2008 when an “unusual smell” was reported from the power-window switch. Toyota claims that it could not find a “root cause” of the smell. In fact, it first learned that the problem was caused by the driver’s side window switch when more sporadic reports were filed in 2010. Still, given Toyota’s track record, NHTSA is in the process of investigating whether it should have reported the issue earlier.
The question for Toyota and its customers is how large the fallout will be after its massive recall. Mike Jackson, director of the North American production forecasting for IHS Automotive consulting firm, says that the impact of this recall can be minimized if Toyota makes its customers feel like they are being “cared for properly as repairs are being done.” Toyota was just starting to regain its reputation for having high-quality cars, as it had before the 2010 recalls, and still has a chance to do so. ThroughSeptember, Toyota sales were up 32 percent compared to last year, and became the world’s top-selling automaker, narrowly beating out General Motors by 300,000 sales. In fact, Toyota’s executives have admitted that the quality issues are at least partially caused by the company’s “overly ambitious growth goals.” Toyota may attempt to continue to grow at this tremendous pace, or it may try to slow its growth and increase its quality control in order to rebuild its reputation as a leader in car quality.
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