Toyota's Quality Problems: A Personal Experience
This morning, Akio Toyoda, the President of Toyota Motor Corp., apologized for world-wide recalls of various Toyota models for acceleration related problems. For some, that apology may be too little, too late.
I am going to recall a personal experience here. Last spring, while driving on a highway, I suddenly lost steering control of my 2006 Prius. For a few split seconds, the car veered between lanes, going on a free ride, like a drive to hell. Then the control came back on its own equally abruptly.
I contacted Toyota customer service. The agent asked me to take the car to a dealer for inspection. The dealer inspected the car and found nothing wrong with it. When I contacted Toyota’s customer service again, I was told that the car was safe to drive as the dealer did not find anything wrong with it. I asked the agent if Toyota would give that to me in writing. The agent flatly refused.
I explained to the agent that in the past there were many reported cases of steering control failures for Prius. I asked what Toyota had done to redress those issues. The agent refused to answer the question and concluded by saying that Toyota would not do anything more to address my concern.
All the current problems reported in the media at present time relate to brake failures or jamming of acceleration pedals. The Nikkei had reported that about 270,000 Prius would be recalled in the US and Japan for fixing the brake problem.
Toyota’s current problems are blamed on electronics failures. In the past, car brake systems were purely mechanical. Now, the trend is to replace the mechanical components with electronics. The on-board computers on vehicles are increasingly taking over many controls that were achieved with hydraulics and other means. Electronic components can be very reliable; however, the quality control issues can become complex.
It appears that at this time nobody is thinking of the steering problems for Toyota’s hybrid models, but some day that may come back to haunt Toyota.