Toyota – The Recall Class Act?
This time it’s the Toyota Matrix. The headlines say that 660,000 Toyotas are being recalled.
Over at GM, they must be smiling.
Not because of Toyota’s problem.
But because those headlines don’t include the word “Pontiac."
You, see – that 660,000 figure also includes the Pontiac Vibe.
The Matrix and Vibe are being recalled because of defects in the power windows of 2003 – 2004 model year vehicles which have lead to the windows cracking and even, reportedly, in some instances exploding. There have been 500 complaints and a few reported injuries.
But, Toyota may be showing its true colors with the way it’s handling recall issues.
With some level of class.
(more after the jump)
The vehicles are produced by the New United Motors, Inc., joint venture owed by both Toyota and General Motors, and located in California. As with previous NUMI vehicles, however, the design and drivetrain of the cars is all Toyota, with the only differences being the sheetmetal. Both are built on the same assembly lines.
It is yet another instance of quality problems which seem to be plaguing Toyota, despite its efforts to rescuscitate its reputation for quality.
Just as the news about the Matrix was breaking, it was revealed that Toyota is having to address issues with inadequate, rusting welds in tailgates on Tundra pickups and has commenced a buy-back program for certain older Tacoma pick-up models, the later due to rust-through in the vehicle frames.
Of course, Toyota is not alone in issuing recalls. Recent news has included Chrysler recalling about a half-million Sebring models and Ford having to recall a recall because the parts installed during the first recall were defective.
But that’s Ford and Chrysler. Quality in either comes as a surprise, not an expectation.
Toyota, however, is different. It largely built its brand on a reputation for quality, a reputation which it deserved, at least at one time.
When it stumbles, it is as the giant stumbling. It’s Casey striking out.
But, this might best be viewed in some perspective.
Toyota is recalling 660,000 vehicles because of problems reported in 500 vehicles. So, there is a reported problem with barely three-quarters of one percent of the vehicles being recalled.
And, Toyota’s not quibbling: they’re recalling everything that could possibly have a defect.
It is no longer possible to pretend that Toyota quality hasn’t slipped. It has – a lot. Even its pocket consumer journal, Consumer Reports, was forced to admit it – to the point that Consumers Union will now actually test Toyotas before giving them a favorable rating. (What a novel idea that is!)
But, it slipped from a fairly high level. If quality at Chrysler slips, you end up in pretty muddy territory. If quality at Toyota slips, you’re down to the level of . . . what? BMW? Any Mercedes other than a V-8 E Class? (The later being a skunk in reliability and resale.)
And, it is increasingly hard for Toyota to maintain the quality and reliability edge. Ford is touting it’s latest ratings, in which one study gave it equal marks for initial quality.
While “initial quality” has always seemed, to me, a foolish measure of reliability or quality – gosh, there was nothing hanging lose of it when it was delivered and the thing didn’t break for a whole six months – that domestic manufacturers are routinely equaling Toyota brands in quality measures says something about the difficulty Toyota inevitably encounters in maintaining its edge in quality and reliability.
As a whole, Toyota included, the industry keeps raising the bar on quality and reliability. Toyota cannot hope to maintain its edge in those categories, simply because the overall quality level within the industry has improved so much, in a very short – historically – length of time.
Right now, Toyota is eating the problems which it created by delegating to suppliers an enormous amount of the engineering cost and product development expense associated with producing a complete vehicle. It didn’t pay attention to what was going on at those suppliers, and it should have done so.
But, it certainly can’t be faulted for its response.
It may not have made a perfect vehicle.
But the way it’s handling the defects is a class act.