Amid growing reports of cars with sticky gas pedals and malfunctioning electronic modules that pose a safety risk, Toyota announced today that they will voluntarily stop selling the following cars:
Certain 2007-2010 Camry
…and Toyota will also be temporarily halting production at some facilities. The sales shut down is government mandated, but comes a week after Toyota recalled 2.3 million cars for what it deemed a problem with floor mats causing accelerator pedals to stick. It’s since been revealed by the major media outlets that the floor mats are not responsible for all of the “unintended acceleration” complaints. ABC World and CBS Nightly news both recently ran segments on Toyotas (coincidentally both Avalons) where the floor mats were clearly not responsible for alarming behavior that in one case led to four deaths.
In the medium term, this poses a huge problem for Toyota dealers, who may not be able to sell their inventory or receive shipments of new cars for weeks, possibly months, until the problem is identified and solved. Toyota has not yet commented on how its dealers are taking this news, or on what it means for dealer’s respective floorplans or Toyota Financial Services. Toyota prides itself on having high quality, high-volume dealers, rather than a larger number of lower volume dealers . Big dealers dependent on this, the lion’s share of the Toyota lineup, will face hardship quickly if this isn’t resolved.
In the long term, this poses considerable risk to the Toyota brand.
In 1986, CBS’ “60 Minutes” ran a segment detailing “unintended acceleration” in Audi 5000’s. The Audi brand was exonerated in a large number of tests over the subsequent four years, and the fault was found to have been with drivers who did not apply the brake when shifting into drive or reverse. But Audi’s brand, a rising star in the early 80’s, was severely damaged for over a decade – to the point where parent Volkswagen wasn’t sure, in the early 90’s, if it could keep Audi going in the United States. Toyota’s sterling reputation and high owner loyalty is at stake here, and this development could utterly reverse the fortunes of what has become the world’s #1 automaker. The problem is also expected to effect other markets outside of North America, where many of these same vehicles are sold.
There will certainly be more to come in this story.