Put Toyota issue in the right context

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In 1937, Toyota entered the auto market with a simple but powerful principle: to build the highest-quality, safest automobiles in the world. Toyota's customers and the reliability of their vehicles have always been top priorities, which is why there are more than 22 million current Toyota owners and 80 percent of all Toyotas sold in the United States during the past 20 years are still on the road today.

The past few weeks have been challenging for Toyota and its dealerships nationwide. We have seen sales drop because of the temporary stop sale of eight models while repairs were made, and we have struggled with the fluctuating confidence of prospective customers who have been inundated by aggressive media coverage, which has often blurred the facts. However, we believe Toyota's remedies only underline the company's commitment to drivers' safety, and we are proud to support their efforts.

AS THE PRESIDENT of Southeast Toyota Distributors, the world's largest independent distributor of Toyota and Scion vehicles, I am confident in the products we sell and proud of the impact that Toyota has had in America. Toyota recently hit an exciting milestone -- building our 20-millionth North-American-produced vehicle. In an annual "American-made" index by Cars.com, the Toyota Camry ranked number one---also in the top 10 were Toyota's Tundra, Sienna and Venza.

The company's total U.S. investment has grown to more than $18 billion and, together with dealers and suppliers, Toyota has helped create more than 200,000 jobs in the United States. Not only has Toyota contributed nearly half a billion dollars to U.S. charitable organizations in the past 20 years, but our local dealers also lend their support in many ways.

Recalls are not unprecedented, and many other car makers are currently experiencing them as well. While the number of vehicles that Toyota has recalled may seem significant, it is worth putting this issue in context:

- Confirmed incidents of unintended acceleration are a very small fraction of Toyota's vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's online database indicates that most automotive manufacturers have received numerous consumer complaints of unintended acceleration, including the other four with the largest shares of the U.S. market, and have had to recall vehicles because of this issue.

- According to an independent report by Edmunds.com, Toyota still has the fewest complaints of all major auto manufacturers.

- Among the 2.3 million vehicles that were recalled along with those affected models that were temporarily unable to be sold due to a sticking accelerator pedal, fewer than 20 cases have been confirmed -- none of which has resulted in any accident.

TOYOTA TAKES responsibility, and is using this time to review all aspects of their vehicles and make them better.

We remain focused on our customers -- their safety and satisfaction. All of our dealerships have extended service hours, some operating around the clock with a second shift of technicians, to make repairs as simple and trouble-free for customers as possible.

Our loyal customers continue to support us and express their trust in Toyota. We sincerely thank them and promise that we will do everything in our power to show that it is deserved. The silver lining to recent events has been the renewed opportunity to receive feedback on everything we do. The situation has also reinvigorated Toyota's commitment to unwavering quality in products, services and the spirit of "customer first."

Nothing is more important to Toyota than the safety and reliability of the vehicles our customers drive. We have a long history of successfully navigating through difficult business cycles and challenging economic climates -- proof that we'll be here today and tomorrow to bring our customers the highest level of service that they have come to expect and deserve.

(The writer is president of Southeast Toyota Distributors, LLC, the world's largest independent distributor of Toyota and Scion vehicles.)

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johnston.cliff 02/28/10 - 02:54 am
America's government news

America's government news agency presents this situation as Toyota suddenly not caring about the lives of their customers and building cars with no regard to the possibility of computer control going rogue. I wonder if the American government news agency would be so aggressive with its reporting of this issue if the American federal government hadn't confiscated a major auto manufacturer and gone into the auto business.

dashiel 02/28/10 - 04:01 am
I'm not big on conspiracy

I'm not big on conspiracy theories, but there is a gnawing, unpleasant smell about this Toyota hatchet job. It could very well be coming from the rats that have traditionally used the American public to road-test their products. Ralph Nader exhausted this subject and it's no surprise that he is now such a popular and sought-after celebrity. (HA!) What's bad for business can also be fatal to you and me.

charliemanson 02/28/10 - 07:23 am
I bet A Taylor is glad she

I bet A Taylor is glad she sold her dealership. LOL.

ConcernedTaxpayer 02/28/10 - 08:17 am
If they are going to couple

If they are going to couple controls such as the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal electronically to the throttle and brakes, with no mechanical connection, then they should be required to provide a kill switch in case the electronics fail. I served on submarines in the Navy and we had manual backup for steering and dive controls in case the electronics failed.

humbleopinion 02/28/10 - 10:14 am
TOYOTA:Moving Forward! Even

TOYOTA:Moving Forward! Even if you don't want to.

Techfan 02/28/10 - 10:15 am
Mr Sheehy, I realize you sent

Mr Sheehy, I realize you sent this letter to numerous papers and web sites around the country as free PR (even if you did jump the gun a little since it's now 12 models), but we have the "Toyota issue" in the right context. In Japan, the agency responsible for safety and consumer protection is also the agency that promotes the growth of Japanese industry around the world (METI). Problems are dealt with secretly. You have hired former NHTSA employees to sweep problems under the rug (Santucci and Tinto). You have withheld info and tried to hide safety concerns for years (at least as far back as 2007). I notice that, in your article, while there is a plethora of info aqbout how wonderful Toyota is, there is nothing approaching an apology.

Pay What U Owe
Pay What U Owe 02/28/10 - 03:10 pm
CT - Brilliant comment and

CT - Brilliant comment and obvious solution. Kudos!

deportem 02/28/10 - 08:57 pm
This was a Toyota

This was a Toyota coverup-pure and simple! Why did 34(?) people have to be sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed? However, the US Government is no better. I have reported serious safety defects on my 91 Hondas-They both blew oil seals at 105,000 miles, which led to rapid oil loss and possible seized engines. Luckily both cars were being driven slowly and not on an Interstate at 70 MPH. My 2005 Chevy Cobalt blew a seal on the hydraulic slave cylinder and ruined my clutch plate. I couldn't shift into any gear. If I was pulling onto the Interstate and pulling into traffic, I could have been killed. The Feds never called me back. I guess near misses don't count!
The Toyota Company has been dishonored. What do its officers plan to do to bring honor and trust back to the company?

Inkwell 03/08/10 - 04:16 pm
for the past three years,

for the past three years, each and everyday as I drive my 2007 TOYPTA Prius Hybrid, especially during traffic stops, this is when I hear and feel the gas-engine restarting in order to recharge the Prius' Hybrid system, that I immediately become guarded and squeeze the steering-wheel and press harder on the brakes because of my "near death driving experience" on August 30, 2007. On this day as I was driving the TOYOTA Prius, sandwiched between a 16-Wheeler truck in front of me, a CADILLAC SUV near my rear bumper, and while maintaining a speed of about 60mph on a curving road segment of Georgia' Secondary Highway-121S, is when suddenly the Prius surged with increasing speed approaching 80mph whereby I had to maintain my foot on the brake pedal for slowing effect and as a prevent measure to keep from ramming into the rear of the 16-Wheeler truck. I could not chance passing in the Left-lane due to oncoming traaffic nor did I chance driving off-road right into the roadside gutters as such speed. With luck, the "Traffic God" provided me a view ahead on the right of two roadside Trash Dumpsters that I chanced a safe exit. The two front-drive Hybrid
motors whined as I pushed the TOYOTA Stop-Button. Upon seeing smoke streaming over the front hood, I immediately bailed out of the vehicle. a witness stopped to assist me as I was removing my luggage and travel kit from the Prius. AAA Auto Service was called at about 2pm and arrived to tow the TOYOTA Prius about 45 miles back to the original TOYOTA Dealership/Service Center in North Augusta, south Carolina. Yes, five days later, an Invoice was provided me that the Service Center "discovered" my "Carpet-Mat" became stiff and wedged itself onto the gas-pedal. Now, after being stonewalled, I hope some form of restitution will be made to others and me. Note: PHOTO AVAILABLE OF ORIGINAL CARPET-MAT & FOOT ON GAS PEDAL. ALSO, CARPET-MAT IS CURRENTLY IN USE.

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