So IT Nerd… What Do You Think Of The Toyota Pedal Recall?

I have to admit that I’ve been trying to avoid this topic even though I’m currently a not so happy Toyota owner as I’ve documented to a great degree previously. But given the fact that I’ve received several e-mails asking for my thoughts on this topic, I’ll give you my $0.02 worth.

First of all, the pedal recall that is making news right now is the second of two recalls, both to deal with “unintended acceleration.” With the first recall, the issue was supposed to be the floor mats. Now the issue is the pedals. Now it is entirely possible that Toyota is right on both counts. But the story keeps changing, so who knows what the truth is. And if customers don’t know what the truth is, then it makes it difficult for customers to trust you.

Second, when Toyota found a fix for the issue on Friday, they shipped parts to their factories first rather than shipping them to dealers to fix cars that were already in the hands of customers. The net result that dealers and customers were not happy to say the least. The reason given at the time was that it was the way that parts are distributed. That may be true, but the optics suck. Toyota should have either shipped the parts to the dealers (which I think would have made fore better optics), or better explained why parts were going to factories first.

Third, Toyota’s public response has been craptastic. First they were silent which didn’t go over well with Toyota owners. Then when they had a fix, they sent out their top guys in the US and Canada on a media blitz to explain things. The bad part about the latter is that they didn’t come across that well. Nobody I’ve spoken to has been impressed with the performance of Toyota execs thus far as their public statements seem to be “lawyer driven” rather than “customer driven.” But at least in their public statements like this one, they did take responsibility which is good. However it could have come faster and been packaged better.

Right now given my previous experience with Toyota, combined with the above, I don’t exactly get the warm fuzzies from them. Does that mean I’m going to dump my Matrix? No. But will it affect my purchasing decision in terms of what car I get next? Yes. Will it affect what I say about Toyota to friends who ask me about Toyota? Yes.

The thing is that it’s not too late for Toyota. I think they really need to step up their PR efforts and not only accept responsibility to a much greater degree (which will surely make their lawyers cringe). They need to sound human and not reading from a script prepared by a lawyer. They also need to “make good” with their customers. Perhaps they can toss in a few oil changes or extend the warranty for six months or a year or something? Whatever they decide, I think they need to do something to make up for the anxiety that this situation has caused.

If they don’t I suspect that someone else will be the number one car maker in the world.

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