March 9th, 2010
11:30 AM ET

Toyota fights to regain customer confidence

Toyota fired another volley this week as it continued its fight to regain the confidence of owners shaken by reports of unintended acceleration.

During a webcast with journalists Monday, the Japanese automaker's hired independent experts went after professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University, who has emerged as a gadfly engineer. Gilbert appeared on ABC News broadcasts and before Congress, using rewired cars to attack Toyota's ability to detect faults in its electronic systems.

Toyota contends that Gilbert's experiments are almost impossible to duplicate in real-world conditions, and besides, cars made by other manufacturers behaved the same way when they were rewired - without adverse consequences.

Gilbert and ABC newsman Brian Ross were temporarily embarrassed when Toyota instrument readings intended to demonstrate runaway acceleration were shown to have been made while the car was actually stopped and a door was open. The tachometer indicated the engine was running at 6,000 rpms but the speedometer said the car was moving at zero miles per hour.

Like gawkers at the scene of an accident, those who enjoy this kind of thrust and parry can expect to see a lot more of it in coming weeks. Tort lawyers and class action suits are beginning to surface, and there will undoubtedly be more unfortunate accounts of accidents that might be attributed to unintended acceleration.

Once again, Toyota finds itself in the same predicament as Tiger Woods: It has apologized extensively for its sloppy and inattentive handling of the recall, but that was the easy part - even for a company as proud as Toyota.

The hard part for both the golfer and the automaker is regaining their reputations and making sure nothing like this ever happens again. There are signs that Toyota is headed, however haltingly, in the right direction. It is taking steps that address fundamental issues at the company and go beyond the appointment of a quality committee or a quality czar.

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. L.A.

    It is a typical Japanese culture that "Saving Face" is very important in business and in society. More often, the little guy takes the fault for their boss voluntarily. They need to be more open and frank about their problems. I am pretty sure someone or some group in Toyota knew about these problems awhile ago. But they were dragging their feet. Now the customer paid the price. The U.S. government must be more aggressive to get to the root of the problems. Oh, I forgot, the corrupted congress is being bought and sold by the automakers, banks, wall street, health insurance and other special interest groups. Find a list of corrupted congressmen and vote them out! Term limit!

    March 9, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tina L

    This is ridiculous. How many recalls have Ford and GM had? Too many to count. Ford and GM do not handle their recalls nicely either. I had a Ford vehicle that I didn't learn about a recall on it until 2 years after it was "announced." Which meant that when I took my car in so Ford could fix the problem they told me the deadline had passed and I had to shell out $2K for something that was Ford's mistake.
    I am not a Toyota customer, not yet. I, unfortunately, drive a Ford right now, but as soon as my Ford kicks the bucket I am definitely switching to Toyota, and I want a Prius! Oh, and I am also not a Toyota employee, nor do I know anyone who is affiliated with Toyota. I am a grad school student and I work at a bank.

    March 10, 2010 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  3. Duppy

    I've never driven a Toyota, do they not let you put the car in Neutral?

    March 10, 2010 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. Robert Perez

    If Toyota's cars are such a potential hazard why aren't they being removed from the road ? Do not the cars pose a threat even to pedestrians ?

    March 10, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. CSM

    I will never buy a Toyota. Ever.

    March 10, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Susan

    I want to know if any toyota vehicles that have been repaired have been involved in crashes or had problems AFTER they were fixed. I have driven nothing but Toyotas for the last 25 years and have a brand new one that I am afraid to take out of the garage. I'm sure it has greatly dropped in value, and that means trading it in for a different car is probably not an option for me. I want to know if it is safe. I don't think it is. I don't believe that Toyota knows what is wrong with them yet. I think they are just taking a stab in the dark at the problem. Every time I drive it, I feel like I am playing Russian roulette.

    March 10, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |