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.)