Open Letter to our Toyota Marketing Friends

Discussion in 'Fred's House of Pancakes' started by nylion, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. a_gray_prius

    a_gray_prius Rare Non-Old-Blowhard Priuschat Member

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    Problem is that We have been to three different dealerships. We felt that all three gave us a similarly dismissive attitude, and the work that two of them did servicing our Prius was what my mother described as "sloppy" (seriously: it's not THAT hard to properly secure the cover for the under-hood fusebox as opposed to just leaving it half on half off).
     
  2. nylion

    nylion New Member

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    I am sure that management has heard the issues now. But did they hear my grave concerns (and others too) when over a year ago I reported unintended accelration of my 2006 Prius? Did they hear when customer service told me that if I didn't like their response I should go to NHTSA?

    That happened to me.



    I am sure that you were unaware of all this. However, the NHTSA had over 100 complaints per year from 2004 through 2009 registered against the Prius for unintended acceleration. I think it is reasonable to assume that for each formal complaint there were many more that never got to NHTSA but did get to Toyota customer service.

    My company, and I am sure yours, records and reports complaints to customer service. I am sure Toyota also gets digests of NHTSA complaints against its vehicles. That means there were five years of reported unintended acceleration that your management had to know about. If they didn't, it would be far worse. That would indicate callous indifference to reported issues. I am positive, as you are, that Toyota management does not turn a blind eye to these reports.We both have too much respect for your company to beleive that possible.

    That means we have to conclude that Toyota management at some level had five years of warning that people were having problems with acceleration and were getting into accidents, and in at least 30 cases, died due to this problems.

    The news reports of the memos that indicate Toyota managers were happy to save money by avoiding a recall is not damming, at least to me. At the time it was written, the memo could be an innocent "we ducked a bullet" message. Of course there are thousands of other memos and emails yet to be read by regulators.

    What is truly upsetting to me is not that the memo was written; it was that at the highest levels of your management (the US CEO), there was awareness of the unintended acceleration problem.

    Again, to be fair, all car companies have unintended acceleration problems. Some in the past were due to stickiing acclerator cables. Others caused by mechanical issues in the engine. So, it is possible to imagine that initially your management team would not give special focus to these reports. However, when they persisted over half a decade, I have to wonder how this problem could be left uninvestigated.


    I have been very upset since I reported unintended acceleration in my 2005 Prius and was unable to get a serious response. There is a long thread on here from last spring that details my problem. What made me distrust Toyota was the fact that I was not taken seriously. I am a software engineer by education. I know the difference between mechanical and electronic problems. In my case, the incident that caused me to go to your 800 number, then the NHTSA, was when I was stopped at a traffic light. Nothing was on the pedal (floor mat). The gas pedal was not stuck down since I coasted to a stop without using the brake. At the light I put my foot on the brake. When I began releasing the brake the car attempted to take off at full power. That is an ECU issue. You can read the rest on my thread.

    When all the publicity surfaced, I felt that the rest of the world was catching up to how I felt.

    I know it must be hard for you. You weren't involved in any of this. Of course my problem isn't with you. It's your employer.

    For the record, Toyota has never been on my radar as friendly or not. For 25 years my contact with the company has only been to purchase. My dealer handled the very few warranty issues smoothly. The only time I needed Toyota to help me, I got slapped in the face.

    When your chairman testified before the US Congress, he said that Toyota was certain that the unintended acceleration problems were not electronic. The US CEO of Toyota before Congress testified that indeed it is possible that the problem couuld be electronic. That is not a trivial slip of the tongue on the charman's part. Toyota's reputation as a technology leader depends on the computers that operate our cars, particularly the Prius, are faultless. I seriously doubt Mr. Toyoda really believes ECU problems are impossible. That is a lie.


    That is a completely fair question. Of course I can only speak for myself, but here are a few things that would help restore my faith in Toyota:
    1. Have the dealer network and customer service start from the position that the customer is telling the truth. In the case of unintended accelration, the rep who spoke to me after being prodded, admitted there were other reports of the problem, but that Toyota had found there was nothing wrong with their cars. Obviously that rep had a script for the problem End obfuscating and be transparent with your customers.
    2. When cars come in for dealer service, don't only correct what the customer complained about, perform the TSB's outstanding on the car. If the 2010 Prius has problems with the air conditioning display readability (which mine does), make sure the dealer inspects every car brought in and corrects the problem without having to be asked. That step all by itself would communicate to me in a way nothing else could, that Toyota really cares about me as a customer. Porsche does this, so does Acura. I had owned those brands and had the exact experience I described.
    3. Spend some of your marketing time and budget on existing Toyota owners. Build brand pride and loyalty by advertising to current owners with information that will increase the value of your brand in their own minds. My company does that. It really pays. Recognize that to me, my Prius is a very large investment. It may be one of a million to you, but to me it is a large loan and something I want to feel pride in owning and have others admire me for my good taste.
    4. Make information about my car more easily accessible. Don't make me pay $15 to view TSR's or my car's repair manual for two days. (well, that won't rebuild trust so much as it will improve loyalty).
    The biggest thing Toyota can do to restore my good will is to reach out to me personally and give me a chance to share my experiences and concerns and then get back a serious response that wasn't crafted by a PR person that addresses my concern. I know how hard that is to do. But I spent half a million dollars on your products. Many others have and will as well. You are selling cars that cost more than many people's annual income. Spend some of the profit to provide the level of contact and concern that I am sure you would want.

    Lastly, think about how you would feel if you were in my shoes. What would you have expected/wanted your car company to do. Consider that I was so concerned by my problem with unintended acceleration that I traded the car in more than a year before I planned to just to escape the danger I felt the vehicle posed. You could say that the fact that Toyota customer service stonwalled me cost me over $10,000 because I had to change vehicles. That's what it boils down to. I got the new Prius because I hadn't lost complete faith in Toyota. I guess that it a marketing success. I really like the new car. The truth is that I made the decision to stay with Toyota without thinking too much about it. Had I reflected a bit more, I would probably become a Honda owner.

    It has to be very painful for you, personally to find your company attacked. I know the Toyota management method. My prior employer used it. It's true concensus is one of the central tenets. However, it is not unthinkable that teams can feel the need to go into survival mode and actively avoid and even cover up issues that could be painful to address. Unintended acceleration has to be one of those issues. If a solution was found, then I have no doubt Toyota would have done the right thing. But pride and fear may have driven otherwise honorable managers to "avoid" the issue because admitting they had no solution was intolerable. Let's face it, loose floor mats caused 5 years of serious Prius problems? I don't believe that the amazingly good engineers you employ bought that. Did you in your heart-of-hearts believe loose floor mats explained all those accidents and deaths?

    I mean no disrespect to you personally. I really do understand the enormous pressures a situatioin like this places on a company. The appologies for quality problems is not what want to hear. I want to hear an honest appology for failing to respect Toyota owners and for being unwilling to share the facts as Toyota knows them.

    As a side note, there is a court case in Washington (the state) against Toyota because the company, as a policy refuses to give people the information from the "black boxes" in their cars after a serious accident. The Washington senate and house passed a law requiring that this information be released. Toyota still refused.

    This case shows the attitude that breeds distrust in me for Toyota. I like and need transparency. Until Toyota learns that, I am afraid my 2010 Prius will be my last Toyota purchase.

    Respectfully,

    Bob Walter
     
  3. hobbit

    hobbit Senior Member

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    So where is this offending 2006 Prius now, and why isn't someone
    taking it apart down to the chip level to do the analysis?
    .
    _H*
     
  4. Prius Team

    Prius Team Toyota Marketing USA

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    Nylion,

    I just wanted to know that I have read your response, and wanted to thank you for the effort in the dialogue. Again, all I can say is that we are sorry you were treated the way you were. I hope in the coming years, you will see distinct changes in the way we operate around customer reports like yours - otherwise, you are right to change your preference for manufacturers.

    In the meantime, if you would like to talk directly about the issue, please send Prius Team a PM, and we will follow up with you.

    Thanks,

    Doug Coleman
    Prius Product Manager
    Toyota Motor Sales, USA
     
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  5. PriusSport

    PriusSport senior member

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    Funny how all this stuff is coming out of the woodwork now. All at the same time.
    Things that happened years ago. Hmm.
     
  6. nylion

    nylion New Member

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    My question exactly. I offered both the dealer and customer service that option. I was told (in so many words) that they didn't believe me.
     
  7. aapoppa

    aapoppa formerly known as "Popoff"

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    All what stuff?:confused:
     
  8. rickkop

    rickkop New Member

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    I don't have a Prius but a Camry Hybrid. Still, what you wrote explains exactly how many of us Toyota owners feel right now. I couldn't have said it better myself. Rick
     
  9. CarGuy60

    CarGuy60 New Member

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    While my wife has a Highlander and not a Prius, i thank you for your thoughts. We did a have a deposit on a 2009 Prius at McGee Toyota that we declined due to me being uncomfortable in the drivers seat. I can feel much sympathy to owners of Prius's. Imagine watching your wife or you buckle your kids in a Prius and then worry abouth their safety in a possibly dangerous vehicle? Your children or wife in a speeding out of control Prius and there is nothing you can do to help. What do you do, try and trade your Prius for an apparently safer car? Do not drive it till this whole sordid tale is resolved and continue to make payments? I wish you all safe rides
     
  10. qbee42

    qbee42 My other car is a boat

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    What a load of rubbish.

    :doh:

    Tom
     
  11. EJFB1029

    EJFB1029 New Member

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    There is a problem, and Toyota is coming from a culture that consumers are to be taken advantage of, and thats the kind of corporate culture that caused this problem.

    Toyota Owners Report Problems in Japan to No Avail - NYTimes.com

    Millions of Toyotas Recalled, None in Japan
    By HIROKO TABUCHI
    TOKYO — Feeling her Toyota Mark X station wagon lurch forward at a busy intersection, Masako Sakai slammed on the brakes. But the pedal “had gone limp,†she said. Downshifting didn’t seem to work either.

    “I tried everything I could think of,†Mrs. Sakai, 64, said, as she recently recalled the accident that happened six months ago.

    Her car surged forward nearly 3,000 feet before slamming into a Mercedes Benz and a taxi, injuring drivers in both those vehicles and breaking Mrs. Sakai’s collarbone.

    As shaken as she was by the accident, Mrs. Sakai says she was even more surprised by what happened after. She says that Toyota — from her dealer to headquarters — has not responded to her inquiries, and Japanese authorities have been indifferent to her concerns as a consumer.

    Mrs. Sakai says the Tokyo Metropolitan Police urged her to sign a statement saying that she pressed the accelerator by mistake — something she strongly denies. She says the police told her she could have her damaged car back to get it repaired if she made that admission. She declined.
     
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