Toyota Motor Company has reportedly received clearance from U.S. federal regulators for a repair to fix the faulty accelerator pedals that necessitated the announcement of a recall this week of more than 2 million vehicles. Considering the sheer scale of cars involved (and added to the more than 5 million recalled in September), Toyota’s actions were virtually unprecedented from two primary standpoints. First, recalls are almost never announced until a fix for a particular defect has been identified. Secondly, OEMs rarely if ever instruct their dealers to stop selling the vehicles involved.
As such, some would say, Toyota should be lauded for its swift, decisive moves, designed to protect consumers, which included recall information prominently displayed on the Home Page of its Web site. On the other hand, say others, Toyota did not act swiftly enough but rather has known for a decade of problems and associated deaths (and is looking to protect only itself).
With two major recalls in the past four months, Toyota now also faces further scrutiny by federal officials who will be looking closely at who knew what and when in the days and weeks to come. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday, while, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has called for a Feb. 25th hearing and has asked for records from both Toyota and NHTSA.
In an attempt to combat what appears to be a growing storm, Toyota will run a letter in major newspapers Sunday and Monday to address customers and the public while communicating to its dealer base on parts and repairs protocol, logistics and instructions. Toyota President Akio Toyoda finally broke his silence on Friday while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, apologizing to consumers.
It is sure to be a long road back for the OEM with the storybook history. Moving forward, Toyota will need to be forthcoming, transparent and an “open book” focused only on corrective action. Further, its leadership will need to be front and center, available and communicative, reassuring and accommodating—something that will no doubt be challenging from a cultural standpoint but is vital to Toyota’s very future.