Today, Tomorrow, Toyota…

Going back a few days, being a Toyota owner, I was obviously concerned about the news that they (Toyota) had announced a massive model recall programme. This (Accelerator Pedal Recall) was due in the main, to some high profile accidents that hit the news in the USA recently.

It has been identified that there is a small risk of an accelerator pedal fault in certain Toyota models. We are voluntarily recalling specific models from the range to investigate and eliminate the problem. Customer safety has always been the primary focus for Toyota, and understandably never more so than now. (Toyota UK)

The BBC report the Toyota problem is just one of the issues putting carmakers in crisis – Up to 2.3m vehicles will be recalled in America, the recall will extend to USA, Europe and China and, the whole process is likely to cost the company in excess of £1.25bn in lost output and sales… Just what Toyota need at the point of a global meltdown in the automotive industry!

The good news is that; (1) Independent fast answers to all our questions (e.g. BBC Q&A) can be found in this electronic age and (2) Toyota are probably the car manufacturer best placed to weather the storm. However, many owners are still worried but thankfully, I’m not one of them!

I suspect much of the worry (as usual) has been generated by media sensationalism. Whipping a minor tumbleweed problem up into howling and catastrophic dust storm that few are likely to recover from! After all, isn’t that the best way to sell news?

Yesterday: (a full day before the media reports). I had it confirmed by my local dealership (RMB Toyota) that my vehicle is not affected by the problem. Good news, although I hadn’t been unduly worried in the first place. My concerns had been based more upon the financial considerations than any mechanical or safety ones. Yes, I had some sympathy for those who have been (allegedly) killed or injured in accidents caused by the fault. However, I decided to hold back my condemnation of Toyota, keep an open mind and reserve judgement. (Unlike many American motorists, American / European Motoring Journalists and members of the motoring public)

Today: Now we are a few days/weeks into the furore of the Toyota saga, the issue is still receiving media interest but thankfully, a little more in the style of investigative journalism. That said it was interesting to hear some motoring pundit on the BBC Jeremy Vine show giving the public a Carte Blance instruction, ‘if you own a Toyota don’t use it until it’s been checked’. More sensationalism and worry mongering! Jeremy also played a recording of the American 911 call linked to the deaths of a family in a stuck accelerator incident in San Diego, California in August 2009.

The call has been described as ‘scary’, ‘frantic’, ‘chilling’, ‘harrowing’ and ‘panicked’. I suspect the later is probably the nearest to reality. Now I for one am not fully aware of all the ‘facts’ in that particular incident or indeed, the subsequent investigation as to the cause. The fact that the driver of the vehicle involved was reported as being, ‘an off duty California Highway Patrol Officer’ tends to lend some credence to the cause. That said I have personally witnessed the driving skills (or lack of them) of some drivers (public and police) in the USA… I suggest you draw your own conclusions!

Tomorrow: Will Toyota recover their reputation after this issue? Probably! Have they actually done enough with regards to the safety of motorists? Yes I believe so, irrespective of the American media claims that Toyota has been slow of the mark to address the perceived problem.

Are there likely to be compensation claims against Toyota? Undoubtedly… I suspect the ‘no win no fee’ litigation machine is just warming up, fuelled by the juice of media frenzy. The lawyers will be girding their loins ready to do battle… To fight on behalf of the group of people who have; suffered injury and/or mental trauma and considerable financial loss, as a direct and negligent result of the actions/inactions of the manufacturer. A group that will get bigger by the day, especially as ‘claimants’ amass sufficient ‘evidence’ about the problem from the media reports!

Solicitors, Barristers and Lawyers all over the Western world will be rubbing their hands and booking holidays at the thought of the cash cow that has been handed to them on a plate! They may even be considering buying a new car, although perhaps not a Toyota or Lexus, at least not until the hubbub has died down.

Toyota: Would I buy another Toyota? Yes, as far as I’m concerned I have nothing but praise for the quality of the product, the pre sales service and post sale support. The only thing that has tempered my adoration of the Japanese brand is, today’s relatively unexciting model range. I suppose that is a personal opinion really but I have it on good authority that may change in the near future. The ability of new models may well be offset for a short while though, whilst they recover from the cash flow problem caused by this incident.

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