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Toyota Recalls Lead to Lingering Questions, Massive Fix Effort

Posted: Feb 11, 2010 10:33 a.m.

With all the recalls in the news, you may not have noticed it, but there's an auto show going on. 

Kicking Tires reports, "At Chicago’s sprawling McCormick Place, Ford’s bright-blue display extols gas mileage and horsepower in oversized block letters. Not 10 feet away, Toyota’s area looks exactly the opposite. It’s an assemblage of Siennas, 4Runners, Camrys and more, all camped beneath a gray and white photographic backdrop: wind turbines, geese, birch trees. Compared to Ford, Toyota’s display seems a bit reserved."

While Kicking Tires goes on to say that the Toyota display's somber looks aren't a reaction to the company's recent troubles, Jalopnik raises some questions after spot-checking the floor mats of display cars affected by this fall's floor mat recall.  Jalopnik says, "Two of them -- a Tundra and Corolla -- don't have floor mat and a Camry's mat isn't fastened." They also point out, "These three recalled vehicles sat directly in front of the stage where Toyota Group VP of sales Bob Carter told the press 'Nothing is more important to Toyota than the safety and reliability of our vehicles … and right now we are completely focused on fixing the vehicles affected by recent recalls.' Yeah, except for the vehicles on display at the Chicago Auto Show."

Yet, in another article, Kicking Tires point out, "Since repairs began Feb. 5, Toyota dealers have retrofitted some 220,000 models recalled for sticky accelerator pedals with the thumb-sized reinforcements."  Some dealerships are working around the clock.

Despite Toyota's massive response, some in the industry are worried about what Toyota's problems mean for the industry as a whole. Autoblog reports that Yoichi Hojo, Honda's CFO, told the Wall Street Journal, "that the Toyota recalls could hurt consumer's industry-wide perception of quality, adding 'if customers start to harbor doubts, that would be problem for the whole industry.' If Mr. Hoji's fears are realized, the quality perception gap could lead to the slowing of the auto industry recovery, which could hurt U.S., Korean, German and other Japanese automakers. Also unknown is if the recent pressure put on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will lead to tougher regulations for all automakers in the future."

While some automakers have moved to capitalize on Toyota's problems with discounts and incentives for Toyota owners, with the industry on a shaky road to recovery, consumer confidence is key. It's just too early to tell if the Toyota recalls have shaken that confidence in the industry as a whole.

Check out the latest Toyota recall news and information, including how the company's recent troubles affect our rankings. If you're in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars as well as this month's best car deals