While I am not downplaying what appear to be legitimate engineering troubles at Toyota, I am also amused at anybody who wants to engage in Toyota bashing.
I have typically been more of a Honda guy (Accords, Acura TL's) than Toyota, but I have always held their product quality in the highest esteem. My one foray to their side of the Japanese car aisle, was quite enjoyable.
I owned one of the original Lexus IS300's and it was absolutely orgasmic in terms of driving fun. Never had a problem with it either.
So yeah, I'd buy a new Toyota or Lexus tomorrow despite all of the recall stuff going on.
Roy Exum writes an excellent piece in the Chattanoogan.com about Toyota's issues, and how Congress has been piling on. Writes Exum...
Right now Toyota is processing 50,000 recalled vehicles a day, somewhat easily, too, I might add. To do so, their dealers are loaning cars while repairs are being made, paying rental fees and even taxi receipts. The simple fact is that never in the history of the auto industry has there been such an intense response. General Motors, on the other hand, will not offer a similar assistance program to the 1.3 million owners in this latest recall because, quite frankly, it doesn't have the clout nor the "want to" that Toyota does right now.
Listen to this - J.D. Power has just announced the best luxury car in the world right now is a Lexus, the premium brand of Toyota that just dominated four of J.D. Power's five main categories. This week Consumer Reports, not a government agency but one of the most respected quality-assurance sources in our country, returned eight different Toyota models to its "recommended" list. Go ahead, look it up. While you're at it, buy the Consumer Reports' car annual; you'll see for yourself Toyota is a tight No. 3 overall while GM and Chrysler are solidly "dead last."
Even if you aren't a big fan of the Toyota-Lexus brand, it's hard not to notice what a push Hyundai has made in terms of quality - and yes, luxury - vehicles.
Shame, because I am damn sure that American know-how is still quite capable of making great cars. In fact, Ford, which passed on the bailout money, finally pulled its head out its truck-obsessed ass and put some ooomph into re-launching Taurus brand.
From what I've read, the new Taurus is nothing short of awesome. A higher-end sports sedan that has all the bells and whistles, and competes quite nicely with my current Acura TL.
Do I expect GM to ever put out a car (not truck) that pushes foreign competitors in the same vehicle class? Um, nah.
Congress has been shameless as well, but then again, that's what they do.
Frank Ahrens of the Washington Post, wrote a good, long piece that pretty well explained why finding quick, easy answers to these problems, is damn near impossible.
It was made painfully clear at the hearings that a number of lawmakers do not understand the process. An exchange between Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Toyota President Akio Toyoda illustrated the problem.
Toyoda said that when his company gets a complaint about a mechanical problem, engineers set to work trying to duplicate the problem in their labs to find out what went wrong.
Norton said: "Your answer -- we'll wait to see if this is duplicated -- is very troublesome." Norton asked Toyoda why his company waited until a problem recurred to try to diagnose it, which is exactly what he was not saying.
Members of Congress are generally lawyers and politicians, not engineers. But they are launching investigations and creating policies that have a direct impact on the designers and builders of incredibly complex vehicles -- there are 20,000 parts in a modern car -- so there are some basics they should understand. Chief among them: The only way to credibly figure out why something fails is to attempt to duplicate the failure under observable conditions. This is the engineering method.
If you put a lot of parts together to form a complex electromechanical machine and make it talk to itself via software, it can behave, sometimes, in ways you cannot anticipate. It can fail for reasons you cannot anticipate.
That's the problem Toyota faces. And, after thorough testing by Toyota, NHTSA and garage mechanics trying to win the $1 million Edmunds.com prize, no single answer may be found. Obviously, this will not stop juries from awarding damages in the liability lawsuits already filed.
Finally, Toyota can't say this, but I can: Some of the cases of runaway acceleration could have been caused by driver error. Think about the times you've been in an accident, a near-miss or -- more to the point -- a distracted-driving situation that almost veered out of control. You remember the white-hot spike of fear that shot up your spine. You remember the shakes afterward. But do you remember what you did during those few seconds of panic? Do you remember where your feet and hands and eyes went?
Too true, but nobody at Toyota can possibly hint at this because of the hell that it would invoke. And, probably, there is an underlying mechanical failure at fault in some of the cases.
But am I afraid of Toyotas? Hell, no. Damn fine car. And yes, the company is going to be just fine. In fact, I'm rooting for them.