Toyota and Honda: “Will not perform as designed”

In last week’s international news, the commencement of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver was marred by the death of a Georgian luger. While in Iran, both proponents and opponents of the Islamic theocracy marked the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution. As is familiar with Iran, there was a media blackout on the opponents of the regime in Tehran accompanied by arrests and beatings while President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proudly pronounced on Iran’s uranium enrichment ambitions.

In last week’s international news, the commencement of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver was marred by the death of a Georgian luger. While in Iran, both proponents and opponents of the Islamic theocracy marked the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

As is familiar with Iran, there was a media blackout on the opponents of the regime in Tehran accompanied by arrests and beatings while President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proudly pronounced on Iran’s uranium enrichment ambitions.

In Afghanistan, NATO and Afghan army troops began operation “Moshtarak” in a bid to retake the initiative from Taliban insurgents and hopefully break the poppy-growing industry in the southern province of Helmand.

The ‘new’ tactics being used are designed to win over the locals in the province and alienate the insurgents. Should be interesting to see how this turns out.

The vehicle recalls by Toyota, Honda and, in Brazil, Volkswagen were in my opinion the highlight of the week. In an economic situation where demand is still weak and car sales are still depressed, the recalls came at the worse time.

The only people laughing all the way to the bank are stock brokers at markets around the world who took the opportunity to short Toyota shares as they tumbled on the back of this news. Honda shares, mysteriously, did not suffer too much.

Toyota is no stranger to recalls. In 2007, Toyota recalled 55,000 vehicles due to mismatched floor-mats that snagged accelerators and led to accidents.

Any Rwandan owners of these cars can make the attempt at convincing traffic police officers that their over speeding is due to an oversized floor-mat although I doubt that they will be persuaded.

In October and November of 2009, 4.2 million vehicles were recalled for the same reason.

In January 2010, Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles due to accelerator pedals getting stuck, of these 2.1 million had already been recalled due to floor-mat defects. This month, 436,000 Toyota hybrid Prius cars were recalled due to defaults in braking while 8000 Tacoma 4x4s were recalled due to defective front-drive shafts.

Toyota, now on the defensive issued statement after statement while the executives, including the Company President, in Nagoya were groveling in apology last week.

The cost of all this has not yet been disclosed but the damage to Toyota’s image will hardly improve matters.
Honda Motor Company is revered worldwide for producing vehicles that have been solidly engineered and can run smoothly with minimum care for several years.

In a bad week for the Japanese automobile industry, Honda announced a recall of a further 437,000 vehicles due to defects in their airbags.

Like Toyota, this defect had been an ongoing one with the company recalling 4200 vehicles in 2008 and 508,000 in June of 2009. Once airbags with this default deploy, they over-inflate and let metal shards within through the fabric causing injury to occupants.

Before Toyota’s problems, last week’s recall might have passed without notice but now the press was all over it.

The company’s response was comical in its attempt to deflect the negative attention, ‘We cannot be completely certain the airbag inflator will perform as designed’. Beware, all you Accord, Civic, Acura and CR-V owners.

For owners of these vehicles in countries with dealerships of these vehicles, owners can expect the car issues to be rectified without any cost to themselves but what happens in the other places?

In our country, it would be surprising if the vehicle inspectors in Remera would have caught these defects in the second hand Toyotas that we import and the owners would have to resort to expensive but poorly trained mechanics to solve these issues, in the unlikely event that they discovered the defects themselves.

There will be no recalls in Rwanda. Owners can only hope their cars are safe. Drive safe. 

okabatende@gmail.com

Oscar Kabbatende is a lawyer

 

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