Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Toyota Slow to Respond to Customer Complaints

Toyota panel says company outlook made it slow to respond to acceleration complaints.

The New York Times (5/24, Bunkley, B1, Subscription Publication) reported, "Toyota's tendency to dismiss customer complaints and lack of a clear procedure for handling safety problems were among flaws identified Monday by a panel investigating the automaker's recalls of more than 14 million vehicles because of problems that included acceleration and floor mats." The panel was convened by Toyota and led by former "former United States transportation secretary, Rodney E. Slater." The panel found that Toyota is "slow to discover" problems "because it viewed complaints made to the company or to federal regulators about sudden acceleration skeptically and defensively."

The AP (5/24) reported, "The panel says Toyota should appoint executives who are responsible for safety and should give more power to regional executives outside Japan." And panel member Brian O'Neill "said data from dealers, customers, government regulators and other test groups can be cumbersome and difficult to decipher. But it's crucial to pay attention to it and use it to track potential defects and improve design."

Bloomberg News (5/24, Ohnsman) reported the North American Quality Advisory Panel "led by former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, reviewed Toyota's operations for more than a year before issuing a report yesterday." In response, "Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, a Rehoboth, Massachusetts-based advocacy group that researches auto defects and works with attorneys suing carmakers, said yesterday that NASA's report showed 'deficiencies' in Toyota's vehicle electronics. 'NASA identified numerous failures in Toyota electronics that could lead to unwanted acceleration,' Kane said in an e- mailed statement."

The Washington Post (5/24, Whoriskey) reported the panel found that "Toyota management gave too little weight to feedback from customers, regulators and independent rating agencies, and centered too much control in its Japanese headquarters." The Post notes that "in February, NASA investigators rejected claims that electronic defects caused Toyota cars and trucks to accelerate out of control."

The Los Angeles Times (5/24, Bensinger) reported, "Toyota Motor Corp. responded slowly and ineffectually to a growing sudden-acceleration crisis because it was hampered by a top-down management style that gave short shrift to customer complaints." While pointing out that the panel did not consider the causes of unintended acceleration, "Toyota has held up the NASA report, which was released in February, as an indication that it was not to blame for the rash of sudden-acceleration complaints, first brought to national attention after a 2009 crash near San Diego killed four people." An unidentified DOT spokeswoman "said the agency would not be commenting on the panel's report."

USA Today (5/23, Woodyard) reported on its "DriveOn" blog that the panel "came up with some concrete recommendations. For instance, the panel argues for putting a single Toyota executive in charge of North American operations. It should also create a 'Customer Representative Team' to ferret out criticisms and outsiders' views of Toyota and take the beefs directly to the company's president."

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