Toyota Retools 3.8 Million Pedals, Brand Image

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Often the envy of laggard American manufacturers, Toyota's brand took a ding in September when it announced the largest recall in its history- some 3.8 million Lexus and Toyota models. Slipping floormats were blamed for at first for killing 13 in accidents, but now Toyota is offering to shorten gas pedals and replace the brake system on affected vehicles. Will it re-polish the automaker's image?

Tough to say. At first, many business analysts sympathized with Toyota, pointing a finger at drivers for letting doormats get wedged against the accelerator. Others touted Toyota's quick response to complaints, and grumbled that it a faulty doormat wasn't bad compared to other recalls. But as Ford's reputation rises, will the world's largest car company escape unscathed?

  • Brake System Could Be the Culprit, suggests Phil LeBeau at CNBC. "In some models, [Toyota] will install a brake override system. It's that last part which will get a fair amount of attention. Around the country there have been complaints filed claiming some Toyota models have unintended acceleration and cannot be stopped. Despite six federal probes that have not found unintended acceleration, there are some who insist the problem with Toyota's goes well beyond gas pedals getting stuck in floor mats."
  • Leaves Problems Unaddressed, writes Chris Woodyard at USA Today. "So far it doesn't plan to do anything about the companion problems that the government identified last year in trying to pinpoint the cause of deadly crashes. Besides the floor mat, the government pointed to Toyota's stop-start button that takes three seconds of continuous depression to turn off ... Toyota said nothing about addressing the problem of stop-start button -- and how to shut off engines in an emergency. Or any changes in the transmission."
  • A Major Cost, a Major Challenge reports Greg Gardner for the Detroit Free Press. He hints at darker consequences for Toyota. "The problem, which allegedly has caused more than a dozen fatalities and resulted in more than 100 formal complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has presented the most serious challenge yet to Toyota's reputation as the auto industry's quality leader...It is unclear how much these repairs and changes will cost, but it will be significant."
  • Gas Pedal Fix a Red Herring? suggests a report by Joseph Rhee for ABC News. An auto-safety expert explains in an interview why the recall won't cut it: "Safety expert Sean Kane said the recall doesn't address hundreds of runaway Toyota cases he has uncovered where owners insist floor mats cannot be blamed. 'What concerns me is that this recall still doesn't get to the root cause of the non-floor mat sudden acceleration cases," said Kane ...  An ABC News investigation revealed that many Toyota owners are in rebellion and have refused to accept the company's explanation for their sudden acceleration incidents."
  • Troubled Times for Toyota, write David Welch and Ian Rowley in Business Week. They reported earlier this month on broader economic problems facing the carmaker. "In October, Germany's Volkswagen passed Toyota in global sales, a fleeting victory for VW but also a sign of Toyota's slipping dominance. [Toyota CEO] Toyoda is also wrestling with an ugly recall in the U.S. involving sudden acceleration in multiple models, underused plants in Japan, and weak earnings that have forced him to cut, among other things, Toyota's once-sacred research and development budget."

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