Toyota just hasn’t been able to catch a break in the past few weeks. The company has been faced with loads of bad press surrounding the accelerator pedals in eight of its most popular vehicles sold in the U.S., including the best-selling car in the country: the Camry.
In order to fully grasp the situation at hand, Toyota (which was prodded by the NHTSA) took the drastic step of stopping sales on on the eight models in order to solve the problem. Luckily, Toyota was able to find a fix for the problem and dealerships are staying open late in order to accommodate the influx of customers rushing to have their vehicles fixed.
To make matters worse, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood poured more salt on the wounds earlier this week by stating, “If anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it. And take it to a Toyota dealer.” LaHood later backtracked from the statements, adding, “What I said in there was obviously a misstatement. If you own one of these cars, or if you’re in doubt, take it to the dealer.”
Unfortunately, the damage had already been done and already worried Toyota owners were sent into a frenzy over the TV, print, and internet reports parroting LaHood’s comments.
And if the past two weeks haven’t been bad enough for the company, there is now bad news in store for its crown jewel: the 2010 Prius. Toyota posting the following blurb on its press site regarding the problem:
In certain 2010 model year Prius vehicles, Toyota has received reports that some customers have experienced inconsistent brake feel when the vehicle is driven over potholes, bumps or slippery road surfaces.
Toyota is currently in the process of confirming these reports and investigating the vehicle driving conditions under which the reported phenomenon occurs. It would be premature to comment until the investigation has been completed.
Apparently, the problem lies with an ABS software glitch that causes less than a second delay between when braking pressure is first applied and the actual brakes engage. “The driver steps on the brake, and they do not get as full of a braking feel as expected,” said a Toyota spokesman to CNN.
According to Toyota officials, the problem occurs most frequently on bumpy or icy roads.
Toyota said that it fixed the software problem in Prius vehicles manufactured since January. However, the company has made no mention of when it plans to apply a fix to the 2010 Prius hybrids produced before January.
Toyota’s third-generation Prius has been a hit around the world. It was the best-selling vehicle in Japan during 2009 and it trounces the hybrid competition in U.S. sales on a continual basis. The Prius’ domination is so apparent that Honda engineers/designers are going back to the drawing board — again — to develop a hybrid vehicle that can actually beat the Prius in fuel efficiency.
Toyota is going to have a rough few months ahead as safety concerns surrounding its vehicles continue to play out in the media. The company’s sales are already suffering — January U.S. sales were down 12 percent (year-over-year) for the Toyota brand while sales at rival Ford were up a whopping 24 percent. Up-and-comer Hyundai also saw its sales rise by 24 percent during the same period. February sales numbers for Toyota will likely be a blood bath.