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Toyota Tries to Fix its Reputation

Posted: Jan 20, 2010 10:41 a.m.

Autoblog reports, "Toyota cars are being equipped with brake override systems, that's a fact. The reason behind it isn't the recent and as-yet-unsolved runaway car issues that have plagued the automaker. At least that's what Toyota says; the company maintains that the change was already under development."

Toyota has recently been under fire for claims that its cars have accelerated suddenly, without driver input. Toyota says the acceleration has been due to the driver's floor mat becoming wedged against the accelerator, and has instructed drivers to remove the mat or take their cars to the dealer to have the mat secured. Automotive News says the unintended acceleration claims "pushed Toyota to the top of the U.S. safety recall list for the first time ever, further battering the company's reputation for superior safety and reliability."

In an interview with Automotive News, Hiroyuki Yokoyama, Toyota's quality general manager, acknowledges that the car maker has a tough road ahead to rebuild its reputation. Autoblog reports "In the interview, Yokoyama admits that…Toyota's recent quality problems stem in part from from the automaker's rapid growth as it overtook General Motors as the world's biggest-selling automaker. More to the point, Toyota's increase in production numbers and proliferation of model lines made quality harder to bake-in to every product."

Critics have also pointed out problems with some Toyota designs. Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies Inc. pointed out several problems with Toyota cars, to Automotive News, including that "The start-stop button turns the car off only after being depressed for three seconds -- something that may be counterintuitive to the panicked driver of a runaway car. More important, the Toyota vehicles lacked a brake override system as an additional backup -- a technology long ago adopted by some European brands that also use drive-by-wire throttle controls. "

Toyota says its working to resolve these issues and make its cars safer. Autoblog says, "Regardless of the reason for Toyota's plan to equip all new models with a brake override system – be it due diligence, face saving or thinly-veiled panic – the immediate priority is to avert any further reputation hits and fix whatever they find."

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