Troubled Toyota

In watching Toyota deal with one crisis after another over the past couple of weeks, I cannot help but feel a little Schadenfreude about the whole situation.  Here’s why…

For all the time that I was with Chrysler, Toyota was the bogeyman of the automotive industry.  We were constantly pounded on that we needed to be more like Toyota.  What was worse, being told to do more with less to play catch-up adds up to a no-win situation.  I have no doubts that GM and Ford were in the same boat.  And we’ve seen where that has led two of the three automakers.

The cornerstone of strength of Toyota has always been its quality, but it has taken some dings in the past couple of years.  Its foray into the pickup truck market resulted in engine sludge problems and rusting frames.  Now with the accelerator sticking on several models, and reported brake problems with both the “green” Prius hybrid & the flagship Lexus brand, it just adds some much needed tarnish on the Toyota logo.  Face it – some humility is needed in order for reality to really sink in and address problems that happen with every manufacturer.

But they aren’t alone – the automotive media has also contributed to the Toyota myth of perfect quality.  I understand that the crap that the Detroit-3 churned out in the 70’s & 80’s earned the disdain of the masses and media alike.  But to continue the wholesale trashing of an iconic domestic industry that has improved tremendously from those years while either burying or ignoring the troubles of the foreign competition is beyond my understanding.  Just review this earlier post, and you’ll understand.

Toyota had it in their sights to become the largest automotive manufacturer in the world, and in the process, lost their way.  Becoming bigger doesn’t mean that you are better, and Toyota just found that out the hard way.


About Tom Roland

EE for 25 Years, Two Patents - now a certified PMP. Married twice, burned once. One son with Asperger's Syndrome. Two cats. Conservative leaning to the Right. NRA Life Member.
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7 Responses to Troubled Toyota

  1. The Griper says:

    “Becoming bigger doesn’t mean that you are better, and Toyota just found that out the hard way.”

    that is true. quality will always suffer, the bigger you get. quality is always the victim of quantity.

  2. Z says:

    That happened to Mercedes, too..too many models made at the same time. Audi’s surpassed them greatly….
    I hate the thought of American car makers wanting to emulate Toyota, but I guess they deserved it; You never see a Toyota Repair Shop, do you (not till lately, of course!!)

  3. Right Truth says:

    I think most car manufacturers have gone through a recall or two for some reason. The auto companies are in such financial trouble, the recalls are getting more attention than ever.

    I’m glad hubby and I have dependable cars and hope they stay that way. He has a Dodge Ram Truck 13 years old and my Dodge Durango is 12 years old. If we were forced to buy a new car, it would probably a Ford because they did not take any bailout money.

  4. Joe says:

    “the crap that the Detroit-3 churned out in the 70’s & 80’s…”

    Why did they do that?

    What’s up with Ford’s recent recall?

    Which auto maker has NOT had a recall in its history?

    Which auto maker(s) had cars that should have been recalled but never were?

    How does the bailout money given to Chrysler and GM supposed to increase my confidence in those brands?

    I drive a 2002 Honda Accord and a 1995 Saturn SL2. The Honda has never had a single mechanical issue outside of routine maintenence. The Saturn has gone through eight alternators, three cooling fans, has had a leaking rear engine seal since year 6, a transmission that locks in a given gear, a cruise control that hasn’t worked since year 7 and a window that won’t go up.

    I owned a Toyota Corolla that I traded for the Saturn.

    Which ones do you think I count as having been the better cars?

    I don’t think the problems Toyota has are related to trying to becme too big. I think they are the result of a couple of bad mistakes by design engineers who messed up…big time.

    The fact that the brake pedal fix is a metal insert suggests that someone miscalculated in the angles and bulk needed to make the original pedal work consistently.

    I buy the best product I can find for my limited resources, and I pray often that the best will be an American brand.

    Sadly, where cars are concerned, they haven’t been.

  5. Tom says:

    Griper – Quality doesn’t have to suffer if you are big. Quality suffers because of the shortcuts these companies take to get bigger. When numbers become more important than the product, that is when companies get in trouble.

    Z – Toyota has repair shops in the back of their dealerships. They just were able to hide most of the problems that they had with their vehicles. And I will admit, they really did do a good job of building a quality product.

    Debbie @ Right Truth – I own two GM products; a 1998 Buick Regal with 136,000 miles, and a 1999 Chevy S-10 with 120,000 miles (yeah, I know, I should have Chrysler products, but that’s another story…) My wife is looking at a Ford Fusion or a Fusion as a replacement – her car is starting to cost us more than a car payment because it is getting old. Not sure what I’m going to replace the truck with, but it will be some time (I hope).

    Joe – Lots of questions, but we’ll see if we can work through them;

    GM, Ford, and Chrysler turned out garbage because they could. Quality wasn’t an issue until affordable cars from Japan started arriving on our shores that had better quality than what the Big-3 had.

    Not sure what Ford recall you are referring to – they do have several, although they do seem to center around switches and electronics furnished to them by outside suppliers.

    All car-makers have had recalls. Just that Toyota’s recall is out of the norm for them, especially that their mantra has been of uncompromising quality.

    I think they all have had cars that were so bad that they should have been recalled, but weren’t. Those models were usually discontinued because people quit buying them.

    Bailout money is just that – bailout money. It shouldn’t be the reason that anyone should run out and buy the product. You have to have confidence in the product, but most of all, like it.

    Saturn was an experiment that GM had that they never really put investment money into. When Saturn first came out, they made great, affordable cars. No investment meant cheaper components and the resulting lower quality. I’m surprised that you are still hanging on to a ’95 with that many problems.

    Sometimes it’s a design problem, other times it’s a supplier issue, and then there are the manufacturing problems. It does sound like a design problem, but it could also be a material issue since not every pedal is bad.

    Quality differs from model to model, not just manufacturer brands. Careful research and shopping will usually point you to a product that you can afford and be satisfied with.

  6. Tom C says:

    Tom, I found this after I had asked you your opinion. Sorry, I should have looked. My wife is a bit worried about the drive by wire system in the new Chevy we ordered. I believe it was that, and not the floormats that caused the problem.

  7. Tom says:

    Don’t worry about it – I am having a hard time keeping up with everyone’s blog as well.

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