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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.

Battered yet again by a series of embarrassing recalls, accusations of a cover-up and its collapse in a widely-watched quality survey, Toyota is taking an unusual step it hopes will bring things back under control.