Life isn’t always easy at the top. Because once you get there, you can be assured that others will be gunning for you. And Toyota has certainly learned this lesson well since the unintended acceleration issue cropped up last year, despite being cleared of most charges lobbed at the company’s products by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) through their yearlong investigation that even saw NASA scientists getting involved in the science behind the investigation.
Alas, from one week to the next, it’s as if Toyota is on a roller coaster. Simply moving forward at one point, to racing at breakneck, chill-inducing speeds at the next point. Today, Toyota announced a significant expansion of their continuing recalls centered around the unintended acceleration controversy. Here are the automobiles they have added to their burgeoning total of nearly 8 million in total to have been affected by recalls in less than a year:
- 20,000 – 2006 and 2007 Lexus GS 300 and GS 350 models
- 372,000 – 2004 – 2006/early 2007 Lexus RX 330, RX 350 and RX 400h models
- 397,000 – 2004-2006 Highlander and Highlander HV models
- 603,000 – 2003 through 2009 4Runner models
- 17,000 – 2008 through 2011 Lexus LX 570 models
- 761,000 – 2006 through 2010 RAV4 models
While all owners will receive notifications of recalls via mail, if you own any of these vehicles (or not), you can always utilize the NHTSA’s website to search to see if the car you drive has any pending or underway recalls.
While Toyota classifies each of these recalls as “voluntary”, various news reports have indicated that the NHTSA asked Toyota to conduct them. Bloomberg reports that NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said “As a result of the agency’s review, NHTSA asked Toyota to recall these additional vehicles, and now that the company has done so, our investigation is closed.”
I may be in a minority, but I wouldn’t count out Toyota just yet. While continual recalls and the negative publicity they generate are bad on the surface, millions of Americans continue to buy Toyota (and Lexus and Scion) models, and are likely to continue to do so.
I give Toyota credit for not backing down. If you’re familiar with the way Toyota and other Japanese manufacturers conceptualize and operate, you probably have heard the term “kaizen.” This Japanese word simply means “improvement” or “change for the better.” Rest assured, Toyota will utilize these recalls and safety questions to refocus their continual improvement efforts, and to implement new ways of applying kaizen throughout their global operations.
In the meantime, Toyota is asking that any customers who have questions or that would like more detailed information about the recall to call either the Toyota Customer Experience Center at 1-800-331-4331 or Lexus Customer Satisfaction at 1-800-25 LEXUS or 1-800-255-3987.