Ever since the whole Toyota recall debacle exploded late in 2009, one of the company's biggest problems has been the way it has responded to the problems. Many have criticized Toyota for either ignoring the problems or pretending that there is nothing wrong, but the company is now seeking to address that appearance by setting up rapid response teams to deal with reported incidents of unintended acceleration.

For example, when a pair of alleged "unintended acceleration" incidents happened in San Diego and Connecticut, Toyota jumped in, sending out investigators to join government officials in trying to find out what happened.The new Swift Market Analysis Response Team (SMART) will now be immediately dispatched to the site of any reported unintended acceleration incident. The teams will consist of product engineers, field technical specialists and specially trained dealer technicians.

Whenever dealers or Toyota are notified of an incident, the SMART team will head out to the site to evaluate the vehicle and gather evidence. Engineers from Toyota's Japanese product development teams will also assist in the analysis. Hopefully, a more thorough investigation of every reported case will provide Toyota with a larger pool of data from which it can gain a better understanding of what may or may not be happening. Even if there is not actually a problem, Toyota needs to prove so conclusively, because if these kinds of incidents continue happening, they will only damage the company's reputation further. Official press release after the jump.

[Source: Toyota | Image: CNN]
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Toyota Announces 'SMART' Business Process for Quick Evaluation of Unintended Acceleration Reports
Dedicated Vehicle Evaluation Teams Will Lead Nationwide Rapid Response


TORRANCE, Calif., April 8, 2010 – Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., today announced it has established a new SMART business process utilizing existing product engineers, field technical specialists and specially trained technicians to quickly and aggressively investigate customer reports of unintended acceleration in Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles in the United States.

The rapid-response Swift Market Analysis Response Team will attempt to contact customers within 24 hours of receiving a complaint of unintended acceleration to arrange for a comprehensive on-site vehicle analysis. Members are drawn from a group of 200 technical associates located across Toyota's North American operations and will work in close partnership with Toyota and Lexus dealers. As part of the SMART program, dealerships will utilize structured business processes and materials to address owners' concerns or reported experiences with unintended acceleration.

Steve St. Angelo, Toyota chief quality officer for North America, said, "As Toyota's President Akio Toyoda told Congress in February, we are committed to listening to our customers even more intently and addressing their concerns even more promptly. Our multi-tiered SMART approach is just one of the many steps we are taking to make sure that Toyota sets an even higher standard.

"There has been a great deal of confusion, speculation and misinformation about unintended acceleration in the past several weeks. We believe judgments should be based on reliable evidence, and our SMART business process is there to help provide information upon which such judgments can be made. As we did in two recent, much-publicized cases in San Diego, California and Harrison, New York, we will continue to work in close partnership with law enforcement agencies and federal regulators with jurisdiction over accidents whenever requested," St. Angelo said.

The size and configuration of each SMART team will vary based on the specific circumstances of each report and vehicle involved, and will incorporate engineering and product experts from across Toyota's North American operations, including:

* Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (TMS) in Torrance, California
* Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America (TEMA) in Erlanger, Kentucky and Toyota Technical Center (TTC) in Ann Arbor, Michigan
* Toyota Regional Sales Offices
* Lexus Area Sales Offices
* Private Distributors

Engineers from Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan are also expected to assist in some evaluations, as are specialists from other fields if warranted by initial findings.

Toyota has provided dealers in the United States with the information they need to assist vehicle owners with concerns about unintended acceleration and to arrange a SMART evaluation. The information includes guidance on how to help owners, ranging from those with concerns about their vehicle to those who report experiencing unintended acceleration and were involved in an accident.

Detailed information and answers to questions are available to customers at www.toyota.com or www.lexus.com and at the Toyota Customer Experience Center at 1-800-331-4331 or the Lexus Customer Assistance Center at 1-800-255-3987