Toyota recall leaves many confused

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    Student owners of recently recalled Toyota vehicles are pondering the next steps to ensure their safety.

    Toyota issued a nationwide recall in late January for problems with sticking accelerators and floormat entrapment, according to the Toyota Web site. Toyota recalled more than eight vehicle models, with the Prius recently added to the list.
    Toyota dealers nationwide received the parts needed to fix the malfunctioning accelerator pedals, according to the Web site.

    Cristina Leiva, a sophomore biology major and Toyota owner, received a letter in the mail in November regarding a recall on her vehicle. The letter said Toyota would not be able to look at the car or fix it until April when the company knew for certain the exact nature of the vehicle malfunction, Leiva said.

    Leiva said she has never had any trouble with her Prius in the past, but she is planning to have her car looked at following the recall announcement.

    “I have never really thought of what I would do if my accelerator stuck,” Leiva said. “I would press the brake hoping it would stop.”

    If a driver experiences a sticking accelerator while driving, Toyota recommends stepping on the brake pedal with both feet using firm and steady pressure, according to the company’s Web site. An alternative is to shift the transmission gear to neutral, and if that fails, turn the engine off, according to the site.

    Korbin Mehaffey, a sophomore pre-major, owns a 2008 Toyota Tundra. Mehaffey received information about the recall via e-mail.

    “I think the recall is really overblown and that it just happened on a few cars,” Mehaffey said. “It is an issue, but not as big as everyone is making it.”

    Mehaffey said he has never had any problems with his accelerator in the past. However, he said he planned on calling the dealership to get on the waiting list and make an appointment.

    Gerry Price, warranty administrator at Toyota of Fort Worth, said the dealership is operating under normal hours. The parts and service departments are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. through 5 p.m. Saturday, according to the dealership’s Web site.

    “We’re getting to the point to where we’re using a lot of parts, so if we had any more hours we would run out of parts,” Price said.
    Student owners should call Toyota of Fort Worth’s main number a day in advance to schedule an appointment, Price said.

    Students need to know what car, year and VIN number of the vehicle they drive, he said.

    “It is always good to try and find out when the best time to bring it in is,” Price said.

    Service appointments could take anywhere from one to three hours on a good day, Price said. He said students can use the courtesy van that will shuttle students up to 15 miles from the dealership.

    Jacqueline Lambiase, an associate public relations professor and Toyota owner, has received no notification about the recall from Toyota. Lambiase has owned three Toyotas in the past and currently drives a 2007 Toyota Camry. According to Toyota’s Web site, certain 2007-2010 Camry vehicles are part of the recall list.

    Lambiase said she has been working on a research paper with a colleague at the University of North Texas, Koji Fuse, since September about the differences between how American and Japanese media cover the Toyota crisis.

    “Part of what I think might be going on is…we are judging them on our side of things…the only way we can, which is through our western sensibility of how these types of things should be handled,” Lambiase said.

    Americans’ public criticism about Toyota’s response to the crisis shows the difference between apology styles here and abroad, Lambiase said. In the Japanese business model, companies begin with a detailed, ritualistic apology before moving on to solving the problem, Lambiase said. Here, Americans have come to expect more action with less supposed “foot dragging,” she said.

    Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda, apologized about the massive car recall and promised to improve quality control during a press conference last Friday.

    Toyoda is the second successive Toyota president to apologize for car defects, according to the Associated Press. Katsuaki Watanabe shocked a news conference in 2006, bowing low to the group before promising to improve quality.

    Lambiase said the Japanese consider it courteous to apologize first and then proceed to meticulous problem-solving.

    “It’s complicated what is going on here, and it is interesting to see what the other automakers will do to deal with this,” Lambiase said.

    However, even the Japanese have not been kind to Toyota about its crisis management, according to an Associated Press report.

    “Toyota needs to be more assertive in terms of providing consumers comfort that the immediate problem is being addressed.and that it can deal with these crises,” Sherman Abe, a business professor at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, told the Associated Press.

    Toyota of Fort Worth

    Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday

    Address: 9001 Camp Bowie West, Fort Worth

    Phone: 1-800-926-0754

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