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Toyota tackling recall woes ‘head-on’

Total recall: Prius fix in Australia has improved company-customer relations, says Toyota.

With 1.7 million vehicles fixed worldwide, Toyota says it's back on track

Toyota logo15 Apr 2010

TOYOTA says it has already rectified more than 1.7 million vehicles worldwide since the recall of 8.5 million vehicles earlier this year, with around 50,000 coming in to be fixed daily in the United States.

One quarter of a million vehicles have also been sorted out in the United Kingdom in six weeks, says Toyota.

In Australia, the Prius hybrid was recalled in early February, affecting about 2300 cars, and these – according to Toyota sales and marketing boss David Buttner – required a software upgrade involving either a quick visit by owners to a dealer or a fast home visit.

In fact, Toyota claims the Prius recall in Australia has had a positive outcome for owners, demonstrating “the epitome of customer service” since many appreciated the personalised contact and service that the company has elected to undertake in order to carry out the inconsistent brake-pedal feel issue that has been at the centre of the popular hybrid’s recall.

"Dealer principals rang each customer personally and they were invited to bring the car in or have the recall work done at their home or office. We then rang every customer after the work was carried out," Mr Buttner said.

He went on to explain that, since 2000, from 21 million Toyota and related (Lexus and Scion) vehicles that have been sold in North America, only a fraction have had issues and/or problems registered.

"In that time, US authorities have received about 3300 complaints of unintended acceleration. That represents 0.015 per cent of customers who have complained or, looked at another way, 99.985 per cent didn't report such a problem," Mr Buttner said.

He added that “Toyota vehicles showed fewer problems than average” in the 2010 JD Power and Associates three-year ownership survey in the US, ahead of Mazda and Honda.

Mr Buttner also explained that Toyota’s investigating engineers have not duplicated the electronic throttle control system issue that has been the subject of unintended acceleration claims even under extreme conditions. Approximately 40 million vehicles have bene fitted with ETCS to date.

“(As a result of the recalls) cars will become much safer in the future across all brands,” Mr Buttner said, pointing as an example to the ‘brake override’ function (already fitted to the new Hybrid Camry and latest Prius) that cuts the accelerator functionality if the brake pedal is pressed at the same time.

It will be included in every model year 2011 Toyota, including all Australian-built cars.

“But we are not diminishing Toyota’s responsibility,” Mr Buttner conceded, on the day Toyota announced an improved engineering quality improvement division, as well as a new special committee for global quality.

These are designed to ensure that the problems and issues that have led to the massive recall situation and subsequent quality and safety concerns never happens again.

“If there is an issue than we confront it head-on,” Mr Buttner said, “...with shorter reaction times so it never happens again.

“Regardless of your processes there is always a better way... we question, challenge everything that we do (but) now with a much heightened level of awareness.

“Toyota will now try harder.”

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