Friday, February 26, 2010

Recalling How Toyota Has Let Us Down

Village goat 1, Toyota 0...

Early last year we picked up our brand new shiny white Toyota Fortuner from the dealership in Accra. Buying a car new and from the dealer is at once a luxury as well as a necessity if you want a reliable car in Ghana. There are a lot of what is called ‘home used’ cars on the market- that have been used abroad and sent to Ghana in various stages of disrepair, with no guarantees of any sort.

So it was great to pull off the lot in the new smelling 4x4, once we’d convinced them to remove the plastic wrappers from all the seats (apparently in Ghana many new car buyers like to keep it on as a status thing…) ANYWAY – it was certainly a step down from the shiny new model Land Cruisers bought in bulk by the NGOs in town, but it was a Toyota – a brand I’ve always trusted.

My very first car as an independent woman was a modest little gold painted, Toyota Corolla. It was used and unassuming, but it represented an important phase in my life – my first days as a newly single mother and business owner, and that little car was so reliable! I washed it every weekend myself in the summer and treated it to car washes in the winter. It carried my most important human cargo every day – my little boy – and it served me without a hitch for years. Since then I’ve always had the naïve appreciation and trust in Toyota as a company. Made in Japan meant quality, reliability, longevity…

But something has changed with Toyota. Something dangerous and far reaching. It threatens to damage a solid reputation.

Back in Ghana, on the road, the first hour out of the dealership we were on the pseudo-highway, headed down the coast. As soon as we hit 95km, the car made a strange noise. JW, unlike me, is quite in tune with cars. He knew immediately something was wrong. This problem persisted and a vibration happened any time we went above this speed.

It had to be sent back for wheel realignment. It never got better.

Then one day, on a Sunday drive to the beach, a car in front of us lost it’s bumper at full speed – it just fell/flew off and it was up to JW to react fast, which he did. But our Fortuner had it’s own ideas. As soon as he swerved, the car felt unsteady, unbalanced and as if it would tip right over. It was quite scary.

Another Sunday soon after, a goat wandered into the road, as they are apt to do – in fact on the roads of Ghana, one must be ready for random animals, children and stray car parts to float into your path without warning, oblivious to your presence or speed. JW swerved again and the car wobbled precariously, seeming for that split second that it would overturn, before righting itself. It was frightening.

We did some research and found out these models are assembled in South Africa. They have been banned in many Western countries for being too top heavy, too dangerous.

SO – it seems Toyota have been trying to send the junk models into Africa.

We gave the car into the work pool and bought a Mitsubishi…

With all the recent recalls of Toyota cars in the west, I now believe they have cut corners in all their markets. The president of the company, (Mr. Toyota!) actually made a public statement last week that the company had grown too fast and priorities had become confused.

Once a company with a long held reputation for quality starts endangering people’s lives around the world to save a few pennies and sell bulk vehicles, it’s time to lose the loyalty. Time to turn somewhere else. I think our next car will be a German one…
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Danyelle said...

I used to love Toyotas. Now, I'm not so sure we'll ever buy one again. :(

jinksy said...

What price integrity in business?

injaynesworld said...

I'm a Volvo woman. Bought my first one in '87 and it lasted 17 years. Bought my second one, a pre-owned 2002, in '04 and it's a dream. The safety of Volvos is why I buy them. As for Toyota, they are sooo done.

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hi There
I've never bought a Toyota and have been putting off buying a new car through lack of finding anything I want.. A work colleague bought a Toyota.. and it rusted out within a year! I currently have a 15yr old Hyundai which I have never had any problems with.. sure incidentals are starting to go wrong.. radio.. etc .. but mechanically it doesn't have a problem!!

I believe certain Toyota recalls have occurred in Australia too! No Toyota for me! Have a great weekend.

Solvang Sherrie said...

My Volvo has 103,115 miles on it. I have never loved a car as much as I love this one. I bought it new when my son turned 1 because with a baby on board, I wanted the safest car available.

There have been so many problems with car companies these days: the safety issues, the fact that they might go bankrupt and not be able to service your car.

I'm hanging on to mine until it just stops working!

Wendy (aka quillfeather). said...

If I had the money, I'd only buy European cars. Sadly, that isn't the case. I would NOT, however, buy a Toyota, after this. Ever!

PS. Glad you're OK, Holli :)

blunt edges said...

i was worried when i was reading your post if one of your incidents would have ended in an glad that ain't the case!

ponit taken holli...will never buy a toyota! :)

Land of shimp said...

Isn't it a funny feeling, Holli? There are certain things that are known in life, constants, things upon which we base our feelings of security and even though we know they are only as sturdy, reliable and true as our imagination allows us to believe, they are nonetheless oddly important to us.

I've never bought a new car, and I doubt I ever will. I go with gently used, but here that's an option and new cars depreciate so quickly.

I'm just threw a wee wrench into my perception of reality to learn that Toyota was no longer old reliable. I owned a Corolla at one point, a dimpled mess of a thing, that I bought because it was totaled by hail damage (there is one thing I've always been sensible about, cars as transportation first and foremost being among those few things). I also owned a Honda Civic at another point (poor thing died in a car crash, but it was a great car).

The "accelerates all by itself, EEEEEEK!" recall of 2009, and Toyota's attempts to recover from that have been oddly jarring. I no longer own a Toyota (although I think my Lexus is technically manufactured by!).

I remember a friend in Sweden telling me about a documentary on corruption within the U.N. that she had watched, and telling me to be grateful it wasn't available subtitled. She said, "I would have happily gone to my grave believing the U.N. was pure ...but no!"

I never believed that Toyota was pure, but ...that loss of a constant, and unquestioned, "Toyota makes good cars, reliable, safe, good gas mileage." was just another hole in the fabric of my world perceptions.

It sounds so goofy, but it really wasn't just an automobile recall, it was a bit of a bruise to my perception of "the ways things are" and...then I end up questioning why I would ever attach that to a thing, a manufacturer of goods.

I guess because it is just another part of the things that comprise our realities, you know? Something known, and trusted...turning out to be dangerous, and shoddy.

Strange how odd it felt, overall.

christopher said...

No doubt that Toyota has a yeoman's task ahead to build back trust.

I drive a lot, and have owned many different cars over the years. Thankfully...I have had pretty good luck with them. But I think it is buyer beware with mostly all the makes and models.

enyonam said...

I planned on getting my first car; A toyota, this year. But, after the news came out I quickly changed my mind and decided on a VW...

They sure have a lot of work to do as far as regaining the trust of consumers is concerned...

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