Alarm Bells Sound as Toyota Faces Fresh Problems in the US
The Japanese motoring manufacturer, Toyota, is arguably still the world’s largest car producer by sales; however, its lofty position as a global automotive superpower has taken several knocks within the past few years. Initially, the worldwide recession hit Toyota’s sales extremely hard – so much so, in fact, that the company was forced to cut staff numbers across the world, suspend executive bonuses, reduce manufacturing output and quit the world of Formula One. Toyota was not alone in its struggles early on, as Honda was also forced to adopt the same measures in order to weather the economic storm. Nevertheless, it is Toyota who has suffered most from this period of decline, as sales quickly became a secondary issue to that which continues to plague the corporate giant: the safety of its vehicles.
In January 2009, Toyota announced the recall of 1.3 million vehicles globally due to seatbelt and exhaust problems, after which time the company posted its worst ever financial reports. In August 2009, a further 690,000 cars produced in China were recalled after faulty window switches were detected; however, whilst the Chinese recall was certainly bad for Toyota’s public image, worse was soon to follow. In September 2009, Toyota announced the largest vehicle recall in its history, after reports emerged that accelerator pedals were becoming stuck in the floor mats of certain models; in total, 4.2 million vehicles were recalled in the US initially, followed by a further 2.3 million vehicles in January 2010 and an estimated 1.8 million in Europe. Toyota feared the accelerator pedal problem “may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop the vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death”. Unfortunately, Toyota’s fears soon became a reality.
Thus far, hundreds of personal injury claims and no less than 52 fatalities have been linked to the sticking accelerator pedal fault. Accident claims relating to Toyota glitches are unlikely to cease any time soon, as the Japanese Government urged Toyota to examine 77 reported cases of braking problems affecting a batch of Prius models, which later resulted in a further global recall (around 8,500 cars were recalled in the UK). As Toyota faces new personal injury claims whilst striving to repair its bruised public image, the company has encountered another problem: its Lexus GX 460 model, which is sold in the US, may be prone to dangerous slides under certain conditions. The revelation was made after popular US car safety magazine, Consumer Reports, conducted tests on the vehicle, which was produced this year for the North American market.
The 2010 Lexus GX 460 is a large sports utility vehicle, otherwise known as an SUV in the states. The Consumer Reports review stated: “When pushed to its limits on our track’s handling course, the rear of the GX we bought slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways before the electronic stability control system was able to regain control. We believe that in real-world driving, that situation could lead to a rollover accident, which could cause serious injury or death”. Currently subject to both civil and criminal legal proceedings in the US, Toyota opted to take no chances over the safety of its 2010 Lexus GX 460 model, issuing a suspension of all new sales until the problem could be identified and fixed by Toyota engineers.