A panel of analysts assembled by Toyota Motor Corporation last year to identify problems that led to the recall of more than 14 million Toyota vehicles found several flaws in the way the company addresses consumer complaints. Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater was one of seven members on the panel, and he headed the investigation that presented its findings recently. Many of the flaws the panel discovered stemmed from Toyota’s tendency to dismiss consumer complaints and a lack of clear procedure for handling safety problems. Regular readers of this blog will remember that Toyota’s safety problems involving floor mats, sticking accelerators and sudden, unintended acceleration have led to lots of auto accidents here in the U.S. and around the world that have killed and injured hundreds of people.
The panel did not attempt to identify whether or not defects in Toyota’s electronic throttle control systems caused vehicles to accelerate suddenly. Toyota has steadfastly denied that these systems contributed to the accelerators problems, citing floor mats and defective accelerators pedals, and a federal investigation corroborated Toyota’s position. However, the panel warned Toyota that it had been slow to investigate problems with floor mats and pedals. They said that the company had reacted skeptically and defensively to customer complaints and, in doing so, had failed to follow its own manufacturing principles. These principles, known as “the Toyota Way,” arose from the automaker’s business model of identifying and responding to problems quickly, which contributed to the company’s growing market share over the last several decades.
The panel’s report also cited Toyota’s attitude toward regulators as “adversarial,” which may have contributed to the more than $50 million in fines the company has had to pay over accelerator issues.
“The very culture that works so well for them when things are stable and predictable really doesn’t work when you’re dealing with a fast-paced crisis,” Jeremy Anwyl, the Chief Executive of the vehicle information website Edmunds.com, said. “If you had to characterize a company that was sort of uniquely vulnerable to this, it’s Toyota.”
Toyota, which has spent decades building its reputation for safety and reliability, has been scrambling to regain that reputation over the last couple of years. Their well-documented safety and reliability problems coupled with a perception of corporate arrogance have tarnished the Toyota brand in a remarkably brief period of time. Over the last year when the rest of the industry experienced 13 percent gains, Toyota was the only automaker that posted a decline in sales.
“Safety and quality are very different attributes, and a process that produces quality vehicles will not necessarily produce safe vehicles,” said one panel member, Brian O’Neill, a former president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “This safety philosophy might suffer from the old adage, ‘When everyone is responsible, no one is accountable.’”
A huge multinational corporation’s prestige and reputation mean little to Floridians who have either been injured or lost a friend or family member in an auto accident caused by a sticking Toyota accelerator. They want to know what happened, how it happened, how it could have been prevented and how the at-fault party is going to compensate the victims for their loss, pain and suffering and other damages. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a faulty Toyota accelerator and want to speak with an Orlando personal injury lawyer about your legal options, call James O. Cunningham today at 888-425-2004 or 407-425-2000. You deserve to know the truth. Schedule a free consultation with Mr. Cunningham, and get an experienced, aggressive Orlando personal injury attorney on your side.
James O. Cunningham
Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.
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