Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Toyota woes

The Japanese car maker Toyota is suffering from the wrong sort of publicity at the moment. So reliable are its products as a rule that they normally don't merit any column inches at all but now problems with accelerator pedals on certain models and brakes on others have raised enough concern to warrant massive numbers of recalls so that the problems can be fixed. I don't own this make but I drove one belonging to someone else decades back and I have ridden in another very recently and have always felt that they were very well engineered and screwed together and they seemed just about the least likely make to have reliability or safety problems.

A couple of thoughts then about the unhappy position the company finds itself in:
  • To its credit Toyota appears to be open and honest about the problems with, as one would expect from the Japanese, the boss making an apology for all to see. This contrasts with recalls made by western manufacturers who would often try and say that a problem didn't exist and would only react properly following plenty of public pressure. Maybe not all of them but I particularly remember Renault who had produced a poor design for a bonnet catch on some of the 'Clio' models with recorded instances of bonnets flying up as the car was speeding along. They attempted to do some buck passing but I think in the end grudgingly arranged a recall but not until after very adverse reports on the BBC's 'Watchdog' programme. This was about three years ago I think, I don't have a personal axe to grind on this never having owned one - I just wanted to point out that other manufacturers have had potential accident faults in their designs.
  • The technology in today's cars is very sophisticated and my 24 year old jalopy seems to be from the stone age in comparison! But is all this cleverness really necessary? Take the accelerator pedal on my car - it connects through a cable to a bit of linkage that opens a flap on the carburettor thus allowing more petrol/air mixture into the engine and speeding up the vehicle. Very basic and does the job. The thing that bothers me about today's cars is that many of the simple functions that work perfectly well are being replaced by more complicated procedures which I would have thought would be quite expensive to replace once faults develop. I'm amazed that today's cars are as reliable as they are but should things go wrong you will need a healthy bank balance to get the repairs done. This leads to a favourite gripe: the way some cars are scrapped long before they ought to be just because some piece of space age technology needs replacing but the cost in relation to the car's value makes it an uneconomic process.
As I said before: all credit to Toyota for holding up their hands with regard to the design faults.

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