A national survey conducted by Consumer Reports and the National Research Center found that Americans’ faith in the quality and safety of Toyota vehicles has evaporated, while confidence in other leading automobile manufacturers has improved. This is no doubt the result of Toyota’s constant stream of recalls spanning the past few years, which prompted the Department of Transportation to fine the Japanese automaker $16.4 million, the largest penalty ever sought by the agency.
Among adults in homes with one or more vehicles, the study found, 50 percent of respondents feel that Toyota’s safety standards have declined, and 43 percent believe the quality of their vehicles has diminished. No more than eight percent of respondents thought safety standards had dropped for the other six leading automakers included in the survey. On the opposite spectrum, Ford received the best ratings, with 29 percent of respondents applauding their safety standards, and 36 percent saying the quality of their vehicles has improved.
But even with their reputation in the gutter, Toyota has successfully convinced consumers to reconsider their vehicles with an attractive set of incentives integral to boosting sales. Just last week, for example, Toyota posted a quarterly profit of $1.2 billion, dwarfing the government’s fine. The company’s president Akio Toyoda appears unfazed by his company’s credibility gap. “We’re still in a storm — there’s been no change on that front,” he said. “But from the storm, we’ve begun to see glimpses of sunny but faraway skies…I feel that we’re starting to approach safer waters.”
Confidence aside, Toyota announced some more bad news this week: that it will recall 11,500 Lexus sedans worldwide for steering problems. And more than 200 lawsuits against Toyota alleging problems stemming from unintended acceleration have been consolidated in federal court, threatening to put the company on the hook for much more. We’ll keep you updated on the details of that battle.
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