Has the term Toyota Customer Satisfaction become an Oxymoron? How can any customer with a Toyota affected by the recent recalls be satisfied?
Not only are the vehicles unsafe to drive because owners don’t know which vehicle might malfunction but Toyota doesn’t even have a fix for the problem. If affected, the guidance is to jam on the breaks, stop the car and call your dealer. But the dealer has no solution to stuck gas pedals. According to recent articles, Toyota can’t fix the sticking gas pedals yet. Some dealers are providing rentals to affect customers. But this is ‘ad hoc’, not a policy.
The US Government Forced Toyota’s Recall, and Production / Sales Halt
Toyota’s recent quality problems on stuck gas pedals has now forced the company to halt car production AND SALES in North America of the affected models. According to an article by MSNBC called Halting Sales over Recall could Hurt Toyota twice, the US Government forced these extreme measures on Toyota. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told WGN Radio in Chicago that “the reason Toyota decided to do the recall and to stop manufacturing was because we asked them to”. This is a public relations nightmare. The company had to be ‘asked’ by the government to stop making and selling the cars and issue the recall.
At first, when I heard Toyota was stopping sales and production of affect models, I thought this was magnanimous of them and that senior management were really concerned about customer safety and satisfaction. But upon hearing that they complied with a US requirement, one has to ask what Toyota’s commitment to customer safety and customer satisfaction really is.
According to another article by MSNBC, recalls have been extended to China and Europe as well. Watch for more action those geographies.
Car Rental Agencies Pull Affected Toyotas out of service
In addition to halted sales and production Toyota has impacted customer satisfaction of its biggest buyers. car rental agencies have pulled the affected Toyota models of out of service along with the Pontiac Vibe, which has also been recalled, as it is a joint venture with GM and Toyota.
Enterprise Holdings that owns Alamo Rent a Car, Enterprise Rent-a-car and National Car Rentals says that it has removed about 4% of it’s fleet from service acting out of ‘an abundance of caution’. Avis Budget Group Inc is removing about 20,000 vehicles from its fleet in Canada, US and Puerto Rico. Hertz also said it would temporarily stop renting affected Toyotas.
These big fleet buyers have to worry about their customer satisfaction.I recently rented a Toyota Yaris in Florida when I was on vacation. It is not one of the affected models but I would not have accepted a rental of any of the models that have been recalled.
Toyota’s customer facing EcoSystem impacted
If you have an affected Toyota, what do you do? Park the car and wait? Drive and take a chance? Buy something new? What do you think the trade in value of these cars with sticking gas pedals would be? How does the community react if your neighbor who has one of the affected Toyota’s and is out there driving around, potentially endangering others? Should local municipalities allow these cars to be driven in their neighborhoods?
In another article called What Next if your car is in the Toyota Recall? Toyota will only say that the number of incidents is still under investigation. Doesn’t that make you feel confident? The implication from Toyota is that their cars are safe to drive. Quoting from the same article “Sean Kane, president of the Massachusetts-based car safety investigation and advocacy group Safety Research and Strategies, said his firm has identified 2,274 incidents of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles leading to at least 275 crashes and 18 deaths since 1999.”
What is an acceptable level of risk? Who gets to decide what the risk level is? These are not easy questions.
What about the satisfaction of leasing company that owned the leases on these cars and will be getting them back? What happens to the ‘investment’ they have in these cars? Who would want to buy them after the lease is over? Will every one of them go through the recall / fix process?
What do you think insurance rates will be for the affected cars, now that they have potentially dangerous gas pedals? What about life insurance for drivers who operate an affected vehicle?
Investors are also reacting as Toyota’s profits are expected to be impacted by their recent woes.
Toyota has a big customer satisfaction problem, not just its direct customers but the entire ecosystem around them: car rental agencies, leasing companies, insurance organizations and investors, and more I haven’t thought of.