Saturday, February 6, 2010

Problems with Toyotas; The Hangover (2009)

For about a week now, Toyota has dominated not only the business news but the front pages in general.

There have been 8 to 9 million Toyota cars recalled. The issue, as I understand it, is that the accelerator pedals engage on their own.

I do not remember hearing about it but there was an incident at the end of last summer in which four people were killed (after their car acclerated on its own). A big part of the story is that neither Toyota nor the government safety agencies are clear on what's causing the problem: initially the explanation was the floor mats, and now there's a debate over whether it's actually an electronic (software) malfunction. There's also discussion about whether Toyota may have covered up several years worth of customer complaints about malfunctions.

A couple of days ago it came out that the Prius is also subject to braking issues, and this made the story even bigger; this morning the Post reports (here) that the hybrid braking story has broadened to encompass Ford's models (the Fusion and Milan) as well.

This picture is of Akio Toyoda; it's by Everett Kennedy Brown and is in today's Times.

Yesterday, Toyota's chairman gave a fairly dramatic news conference in which he acknowledged the problems and said that they'd be addressed. The chairman is Akio Toyoda - he is the grandson of the founder and took the helm last summer.

415. According to the New York Times this morning, business school profs are lambasting Toyota for its stuttering response to the problems (including putting Americans out front this past week, instead of the company's Japanese leadership). Why the slow reaction? The braking problem struck me as a huge deal when I first heard about it (a recurring nightmare is not having control of the speed of my car), and I cannot figure out how auto executives wouldn't have gotten out in front of the story and presented a comprehensive plan by the company to address the problems.

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The snow is coming down this morning, but it looks like the total amount may be less than anticipated -- more like 15 inches than 25? It's really beautiful. I went outside for walks and shoveling multiple times yesterday, so fun to just look at the snow, the trees, the streets all covered in it. It refreshes and quiets. It's water in a different way, and everything looks so pure.

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We watched a highly amusing movie last night: The Hangover. Great one-liners, particularly some non-sequiturs by Zach Galifianakis. Ed Helms was my favorite character (the scenes with his nagging girlfriend were priceless), and Mike Tyson's air-drumming of Phil Collins was awesome.

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