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The Associated Press is reporting that three Toyota officials are under criminal investigation for allegedly avoiding a recall for eight years, during which time the defective part in question may have caused an accident.
The story goes like this. On August 12, 2004, five people were injured in a head-on crash in Japan that was caused when the steering of a 1993 Toyota Hilux Surf failed. Toyota then carried out a small recall in October of 2004 for 330,000 Hilux Surf SUVs built between 1988 and 1996 for a part used in the steering system that could fail. The Hilux Surf that caused the accident was built in 1993.

The investigation seems to revolve around the fact that Toyota officials had already accumulated five reports of steering problems way back in 1996, but didn't recall any vehicles because problems were "limited to repeatedly turning the wheel during parking." After the accident and additional problems were reported in 2004, Toyota decided to do a major recall of 1.2 million potentially affected vehicles sold in 180 nations. Only that one accident has ever been attributed to the problematic steering part.

The three officials, of which only two are still working for the company, oversaw quality control at Toyota during the period under investigation. The formal charges against these officials were filed today with prosecutors in southern Japan.

This type of publicity is the last thing Toyota needs as questions about the company's ability to maintain its impeccable quality standards amidst rapid growth are being asked as the number of recalls it has risen dramatically in recent years.

(Thanks Don L. for the tip)

[Source: Associated Press via MLive]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      It doesnt matter how many cars were affected and how many people were injured and so on, it is the principal of the fact. They ignored the problem...they deserve to get into trouble...
      • 8 Years Ago
      (The Following are Autoblog Comments from 2025)

      "Man I wish Toyota could just get its quality standards up to those of General Renaulssan"
      • 8 Years Ago
      I am surprised the Fight Club reference took as long as it did.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Those of you that find this posting interesting will also find this piece intresting from The Japan Times,

      • 8 Years Ago
      Haven't you people been reading Consumer Reports -- recalls are now a good thing. They mean the car company cares about you and it allows them to really showcase their service departments.

      Poppycock -- Toyota knows it has a HUGE problem on its hands and they are going to be in a panic for the next year trying to get their horse all lined up again.

      Mercedes had the same problem years ago and the exact same comments were being said about them back then. Unfortunately, Mercedes ignored the problem until it threated to put them out of business.

      Fact of the matter is that companies hate recalls, it give all the wrong impressions -- hence all the secret warranties out there -- and it costs money. GM, Chrysler, Ford had the number people tell them it costs less to fix the problem after delivery to the client -- but the image (damage to) was not taken into account.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Five reports and one accident out of 1.2 million vehicles?

      I guess a 0.0005% failure rate gets you a mess of bad press.
      • 8 Years Ago
      A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Um...about the five recalls and 12 million vehicles?

      According to a Forbes magazine report, Toyota had 12 recalls affecting 2.2 million vehicles in the US in 2005 (double the 2004 figure).

      Toyota's magic, it seems, is finding the problem and contacting consumers before very many have found the problem. If an automaker drags its feet and calls everything "driver error", they face a lot more heat, and rightly so.

      Here's the message, kids:
      Recalls are a *good* thing. It's the manufacturer saying "GUYS! We screwed up. Let us fix that before you get hurt." Obviously, if there's a recall notice in your mailbox every six months, I'd be pretty scared to drive the vehicle. But overall it's better to know what the problem is, don't you think?

      What is NOT good is hiding from or ignoring recalls, which is what Toyota is accused of this time and what got Mitsubishi in trouble.

      It seems that Toyota may have got a little too big for its britches. Power corrupts, they say, and absolute power...you know the rest.

      See related article here:

      • 8 Years Ago
      The chink (no pun intended) in Toyota's armor???
      • 8 Years Ago
      Hmmm...one day they are building vehicles with blatant disregard for US Federal regulations and the next day they are potentially avoiding the recall of a defective steering component in their native country.

      Does the KoolAid taste funny to you?
      • 8 Years Ago
      Buster Hymen...I'm guessing that non-pun "chink" refers to the derogatory term used against the Chinese? You do realize that Toyota is Japanese right?
      • 8 Years Ago
      "It would be one thing if the failure had happened at something resembling lethal speeds. But, PARKING SPEEDS?

      Might want to re-read and re-evaluate that opinion. The likelyhood of failure can be *induced* by actions done while parking, but then the part/system can probably fail at any time.

      "Five people were injured on Aug. 12, 2004, in Kumamoto in a head-on crash when steering failed in a Toyota Hilux Surf sport utility vehicle, causing it to swing out of control into the wrong lane."

      Of course, this really is nothing too terribly...I recall Lexus had a recall some years back to solve an issue where the "steering wheel could come off in the operator's hands." I remember my relative getting that one and being pretty amazed. All automakers have issues, it's just a matter of public perception/reaction.
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