Relatively Few Toyota Complaints

RELATIVELY FEW COMPLAIN ABOUT TOYOTA

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By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

2010 Toyota Corolla

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Despite a torrent of high-profile recalls that have tarnished Toyota [1]’s once stellar reputation, a study published Wednesday reveals that the automaker actually gets fewer customer complaints per car than the majority of its competitors.

Edmunds.com reviewed more than 200,000 complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) over the last
decade and found that Toyota ranked 17th among the top 20 automakers in the overall number of complaints per vehicle sold.

The results come amid a series of recalls totaling more than 8.1 million Toyotas worldwide, including 400,000 of the popular 2010 Prius [2] hybrid for problems associated with sticking brake pedals, software glitches and faulty floor mats.

The study was based on the percentage of complaints each automaker received versus the total number of vehicles they sold in the United States between 2001 and 2010.

As a result, British carmaker Land Rover [3] had the highest proportion of complaints relative to the number of cars it sold. The company received 0.6% of the total complaints in the database, while its sales amounted to only 0.1% of all new cars sold in the United States.

Meanwhile, Toyota had 9.1% of all the complaints in the database.
But the company was number 17 on the list because its sales made up 13.5% of the U.S. market.

According to the study, Toyota had fewer complaints than its American rivals. Ford [4] was number 10 on the list, while General Motors [5] came in at number 11.

The only automakers to receive fewer complaints than Toyota were Mercedes-Benz [6], Porsche [7] and the Mercedes-made Smart Car [8].

Among the other automakers that ranked high on the list were Suzuki [9] and Isuzu, which came in at numbers 2 and 3 respectively. German automaker Volkswagen [10] came in at number 4.

The complaints lodged against Toyota ranged from minor problems with lighting to more serious issues such as sudden acceleration and difficulty steering. But the study did not rate the reported incidences for severity.

Edmunds.com said that it found some unreliable reports in the database, including one complaint indicating that
99 people had died
in one vehicle as a result of an accident. It also said that about 10% of the complaints appeared to be duplicates.

Quality control: Not just Toyota’s problem

While the issues raised by Toyota’s recent recalls shouldn’t be overlooked, quality control concerns are apparent across the entire automobile industry, said Jeremy Anwyl, Edmunds.com chief executive.

“A broader view shows that consumer complaints reflect an industry issue, not just a Toyota issue,” said Anwyl. “It is no longer an option for car companies to dismiss consumer complaints, even if the event is difficult to replicate or diagnose.”

Some automakers assume that customer complaints are the result of driver error and not necessarily a reflection of design problems, said Jeannine Fallon, an Edmunds.com analyst.

“It depends on the culture of the car company,”
she said. “But it’s
clear now that Toyota has not had very many conversations with NHTSA.”

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Akio Toyoda writes The Washington Post

washingtonpost.com


Toyota‘s plan to repair its public image

By Akio Toyoda
Tuesday, February 9, 2010; A17

More than 70 years ago, Toyota entered the auto business based on a simple, but powerful, principle: that Toyota would build the highest-quality, safest and most reliable automobiles in the world. The company has always put the needs of our customers first and made the constant improvement of our vehicles a top priority. That is why 80 percent of all Toyotas sold in the United States over the past 20 years are still on the road today.

When consumers purchase a Toyota, they are not simply purchasing a car, truck or van. They are placing their trust in our company. The past few weeks, however, have made clear that Toyota has not lived up to the high standards we set for ourselves. More important, we have not lived up to the high standards you have come to expect from us. I am deeply disappointed by that and apologize. As the president of Toyota, I take personal responsibility. That is why I am personally leading the effort to restore trust in our word and in our products.

For much of Toyota’s history, we have ensured the quality and reliability of our vehicles by placing a device called an andon cord on every production line — and empowering any team member to halt production if there’s an assembly problem. Only when the problem is resolved does the line begin to move again.

Two weeks ago, I pulled the andon cord for our company. I ordered production of eight models in five plants across North America temporarily stopped so that we could focus on fixing our customers’ vehicles that might be affected by sticking accelerator pedals. Today, Toyota team members and dealers across North America are working around the clock to repair all recalled vehicles.

But to regain the trust of American drivers and their families, more is needed. We are taking responsibility for our mistakes, learning from them and acting immediately to address the concerns of consumers and independent government regulators.

First, I have launched a top-to-bottom review of our global operations to ensure that problems of this magnitude do not happen again and that we not only meet but exceed the high safety standards that have defined our long history. As part of this, we will establish an Automotive Center of Quality Excellence in the United States, where a team of our top engineers will focus on strengthening our quality management and quality control across North America.

Second, to ensure that our quality-control operations are in line with best industry practices, we will ask a blue-ribbon safety advisory group composed of respected outside experts in quality management to independently review our operations and make sure that we have eliminated any deficiencies in our processes. The findings of these experts will be made available to the public, as will Toyota’s responses to these findings.

Third, we fully understand that we need to more aggressively investigate complaints we hear directly from consumers and move more quickly to address any safety issues we identify. That is what we are doing by addressing customer concerns about the Prius and Lexus HS250h anti-lock brake systems.

We also are putting in place steps to do a better job within Toyota of sharing important quality and safety information across our global operations. This shortcoming contributed to the current situation. With respect to sticking accelerator pedals, we failed to connect the dots between problems in Europe and problems in the United States because the European situation related primarily to right-hand-drive vehicles.

Toyota will increase its outreach to government agencies charged with protecting the safety of motorists and passengers. I have spoken with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and given him my personal assurance that lines of communications with safety agencies and regulators will be kept open, that we will communicate more frequently and that we will be more vigilant in responding to those officials on all matters.

In recent years, much has been written about what we call “the Toyota Way” — the values and principles at the heart of our company. Chief among these is our unwavering commitment to continuous improvement: going to the source of a problem and fixing it. While problems with our cars have been rare over the years, the issues that Toyota is addressing today are by far the most serious we have ever faced.

But great companies learn from their mistakes, and we know that we have to win back the trust of our customers by adhering to the very values on which that trust was first built. The hundreds of thousands of men and women at Toyota operations worldwide — including the 172,000 team members and dealers in North America — are among the best in the auto industry. Whatever problems have occurred within our company, the strength and commitment to fix them resides within our company as well.

You have my commitment that Toyota will revitalize the simple but powerful principle that has guided us for 50 years: Toyota will build the highest-quality, safest and most reliable automobiles in the world.

The writer is president of Toyota Motor Co.

BrionStapp@interstatetoyota.com