A recently published article from The Atlantic breaks down the recalls issued by Toyota and analyzes an eight year trend of serious quality issues because of extensive growth goals. It’s an interesting and extensive read on the issue, and at the core is the question, “Are Toyota’s quality problems of their own making? Or is this largely a media created and driven phenomenon? Here’s a short excerpt…
Let’s start with how events unfolded. First, there was the just mentioned 3.8 million vehicle recall for pedal entrapment from unsecured or stacked floor mats on Oct. 5, 2009. This was followed by a January 21, 2010 recall for 2.3 vehicles for the “sticky gas pedal” problem. Both recalls were seen by the public and media as addressing unintended acceleration. Soon after came an expanded recall of 1.1 million vehicles on January 27th for the pedal entrapment problem. All told, there were initially a little over 7 million vehicles recalled for these two problems. On February 8th, Toyota announced recalls of tens of thousands of 2010 Prius and Lexus hybrids to address braking problems, this one caused by a software error.
Much Ado About Nothing?
How serious were these problems? Operationally, we can say as of February 8, 2010, Toyota had a modest three problems in the U.S. Moreover, a recently released NASA study, commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), found no problem with Toyota’s electronic throttle control system, which appears to leave “pedal misapplication” as the most identifiable source of unintended acceleration, though they could not estimate its frequency. It is also now clearer that reported cases of unintended acceleration are exceedingly rare events. On average, according to NASA, the reporting of these events is about 1/100,000 vehicles a year or 1 in 1.4 billion miles driven.