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The calendar has kicked over to summer, and that means J.D. Power has just updated its Initial Quality report. The 2011 edition of the IQS is a bit surprising, mostly because the quality of new model launches has been trending upward since 2007 for the entire industry on average. The tune has changed for 2011, as J.D. Power notes the first quality decline in four years, though it notes that carryover models performed better than ever - it's the new models that are drawing complaints. It's not al

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If you don't get pinched by the wiper arm on the new Toyota Yaris, you have the company's new "devil's advocate" product development philosophy to thank. The approach entails a team of engineers doing things with the car that Toyota wouldn't normally be able to fathom. The events of the past year have shown that people will do wacky things with their cars, like making floormat layer cakes, and this spurred management changes like more local authority for North American operations.

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Toyota has a long history of building high-quality cars and trucks, but the recent recall of over eight million vehicles for unintended acceleration-related issues showed that no company is without flaws. Toyota has since worked hard to correct the chinks in its armor, adding 40 quality engineers in Toyota City and another three chief engineers at its technical center in Ann Arbor to help prevent defects from reaching its customers in the future. At the same time, Toyota is in the process of aud

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For years, Toyota was seen as an infallible, safe choice for consumers seeking high-quality, reliable and safe vehicles. That may still be the case, but recent events have made it abundantly clear that Toyota is as capable of making major mistakes as any other giant automaker.

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Inside Toyota's Higashi-Fuji tech center – Click above for high-res image gallery

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Behind the Scenes at Toyota's R&D Center – Click above for high-res image gallery

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As part of its efforts to improve its responsiveness to customer complaints, Toyota is adding six new product quality field offices (PQFO) around North America starting this month. The new offices are to be co-located with Toyota Motor Sales regional offices and focus on investigating and addressing customer issues like reports of unintended acceleration.

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When news of Toyota's recent recall woes began spreading across the U.S., many loyal customers were shocked at what they were hearing. But some customers that were experiencing the very issues that lead to those recalls were likely less surprised, as tales of poor and frustrating customer service showed that Toyota may not have always acted in the best interests of its customers. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda is looking to eliminate the bad behaviors and inefficient processes that put Toyota in this un

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Stick with what you know. That seems to be Toyota's new mantra going forward, as the Japanese automaker has reportedly diverted its attention away from large trucks like the largely unsuccessful and slow-selling Tundra pickup and back to hybrid vehicles – possibly all wearing the Prius badge, including a minivan and something smaller than the current Prius – and returning to its previous levels of unquestionable quality.

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Stick with what you know. That seems to be Toyota's new mantra going forward, as the Japanese automaker has reportedly diverted its attention away from large trucks like the largely unsuccessful and slow-selling Tundra pickup and back on hybrid vehicles – possibly all wearing the Prius badge, including a minivan and something smaller than the current Prius – and returning to its previous levels of unquestionable quality.

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Strategic Vision has announced the results of its annual Total Quality Awards and is touting the performance of Ford this year versus perennial powerhouse Toyota. Both brands have three vehicles each that lead their segments, which include the Edge, Mustang Convertible and F-250/350 for Ford and Toyota's Yaris, 4Runner and Sequoia. The Volvo C30 also led the Small Specialty under $25,000 segment and the Mercury Sable the Large Car category, while the Scion xB was tops in the Small Multi-Function

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Duh. Anyone intimate with the product offerings of General Motors over the past three decades could tell you that the bigger an automaker gets, the harder it is to maintain quality levels that your customers expect. Toyota is learning this lesson first hand, and its president, Katsuaki Watanabe, admitted as much recently to reporters in Japan. At the same time, he cautioned, "The fact that Toyota is growing globally suddenly shouldn't be used as an excuse." True dat.

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Back in high school, the less popular among us would always take some pleasure in the star quarterback having a bad day on the field. Such was the case yesterday when Consumer Reports revealed that it was no longer recommending three Toyota vehicles: the V6 Camry, V8 Tundra 4WD and Lexus GS AWD. Media outlets including your truly focused on these three vehicles, and CR itself stated that Toyota was "showing cracks in its armor." Certainly those sick of hearing about Toyota's sterling reputation

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That "Relentless Pursuit of Perfection" thing isn't just a slogan at Lexus apparently. According to this Automotive News piece, Lexus really means it. Nowhere is it more evident than at the plant where Toyota builds its flagship Lexus LS600h L. Seeing themselves in an arms race of perfection, Lexus has taken perfection to an obsession. The workers are trained and retrained and re-retrained to focus on perfection. And we're not talking about the way a Formula 1 team might rehearse pitstops. We ar

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Toyota has one of the highest loyalty rates of any car brand, something it's earned over decades of building reliable cars and treating customers fairly. So when one of its managers hears stories similar to that of a customer of twenty years switching brands because of the poor treatment received at a dealer, you can rest assured that the carmaker's service experience will be changing, and changing fast.

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