Toyota Motors is in trouble. Safety experts are taking a closer look at the company’s claims that faulty carpet caused a series of deathly car crashes.
Industry watchers believe that computerized ignition and transmission systems are partly to blame for a number of fatal crashes involving runaway Toyota vehicles, which prompted the Japanese automaker to recall floor mats from several Lexus and Toyota models, including the Avalon, Camry, Prius, Tacoma and Tundra.
The most recent collision occurred on August 28, when four people were killed in San Diego, after their 2009 Lexus ES350 veered out of control while reaching speeds of 120 mph. Off-duty veteran California highway patrol officer Mark Saylor was behind the wheel, but couldn’t control the runaway car despite his police training. Saylor, along with his wife and their 13-year-old daughter and brother-in-law, were killed in the crash.
No doubt that Toyota considers this issue a “critical matter,” especially after the company’s top staffer, president Akio Toyoda, delivered an unprecedented “profound apology” just three months after taking office. The organization still believes its vehicles to be among the safest on the road, and will launch a safety campaign aimed at the faulty mats.
Faulty mats aren’t the only problem at Toyota Motor Corporation. The company announced that September sales were down 13.1 percent over last year, despite a pretty good 3Q, mostly due to the U.S.’s cash-for-clunkers program. Toyota is confident going into 4Q however, regardless of a sluggish economy and tight consumer credit market.
Legal problems may be mounting. The company continues to face litigation over accusations of a cover-up into the investigations of more than 300 roll-over accidents. Former Toyota lawyer Dimitrios Biller filed a federal racketeering suit alleging that the Japanese automaker withheld evidence in several rollover suits.
Toyota has a tough job ahead as its flagship brand continues to receive heavy damages. The company must do more to calm customer concerns than just offer tips on how to deal with “an accelerator pedal getting stuck.” Toyota’s safety plan must be comprehensive in content and dissemination; otherwise all of its brands will suffer the impact across a highly competitive automotive market.