Is Toyota’s Quality Still Legendary?

January 24th, 2010

The auto media seem to believe that Toyota’s reputation is ruined.

Consumers, though, are still under the impression that Toyota’s quality is tops when compared to all other automakers.

How can that be? More importantly: Who’s right?

Toyota had a rough 2009, to put it mildly. Now 2010 is already looking bumpy, since last week the company announced a voluntary recall of 2.3 million vehicles to correct “sticking accelerator pedals.” The recall affects the RAV4CorollaMatrixAvalonCamryHighlanderTundra and Sequoia. Oddly enough, that new recall has nothing to do with Toyota’s earlier recall of 4.2 million vehicles after the infamous “floor mat acceleration” fiasco. So that’s 6.6 million recalled vehicles, without even including the 110,000 Tundras recalled for rust problems.

Now, to top it all off, Japan’s own Nikkei news organization is saying, as reported by The Truth About Cars, that the latest recall,

is seen as a major dent in the side of the leading Japanese automaker’s reputation as a builder of reliable automobiles.

Ouch. The words “Toyota” and “reliability” have been nearly interchangeable for decades, and now even Nikkei seems to realize the era of reliability may be fading.

On the other side of the coin, though, and the side that really counts, consumers seem to disagree. Or at least to not have noticed yet.

According to a recent survey by Consumer Reports, Toyota remains in the number 1 spot in the minds of car buyers as the brand with the best quality and value.

How can that be?

I have a feeling that consumer feelings just haven’t caught up with reality yet. If Toyota can get its act together, fix these issues, and move on, it will keep its reputation among consumers. But if recalls continue to expand, which they very well could, the only thing legendary about Toyota quality will be how quickly it faded.

What do you think: Is a Toyota still as reliable as ever, or is the company headed downhill?

-tgriffith

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  1. Elvi
    January 30th, 2010 at 17:17 | #1

    I think toyota is still the company we remember and the quality is still as good as before…I think this problem can be fixed as we see from the recalls and I think this wont happen again because Toyota is a smart company and it will learn from its mistakes for sure…..I wanna tell all the users of Toyota that they own a very good car and they dont have to be worried because toyota is a very good car….maybe the best car on the roads

  2. SC
    January 28th, 2010 at 13:18 | #2

    The problem is not with the recall itself but rather the fact that Toyota has not been forthcoming with the cause. That may be because they don’t really know, but they did know something was going on with the pedals in 2007. See: http://www.autoobserver.com/2010/01/toyota-recall-murky-messaging-spurs-consumer-mistrust.html

  3. jgoods
    January 25th, 2010 at 10:50 | #3

    tgriffith is on the money again! I think Toyota quality has been a consumer myth for a while now, as reflected in Kyle L’s comment. People tend to hold on to their opinions even in the face of much evidence to the contrary. The same thing has worked in reverse with GM, which now is producing some very decent cars.

    However, Toyota’s management is very much concerned and, I think, will work hard to fix the problems (and counter public perceptions). We will know how successful they are this year.

  4. Kyle L.
    January 24th, 2010 at 19:51 | #4

    Personally I am not too surprised. When I think of quality, I think of long-term quality (aka, how long can I run the car before I have to begin investing serious $$$ for repairs). Toyotas and Hondas in my mind still retain their value better than many of the other manufacturers because they seem to last longer on the road. I may be wrong, but at least that is what I have been conditioned to believe :)

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