Toyota's late recall raises questions about its credibility

08:21, March 02, 2011      

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Nearly one year after Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda apologized to Chinese consumers and vowed to ensure the quality of Toyota vehicles in March 2010, the Japanese car company made another recall announcement in China.

Toyota Motor (China) Investment Co. announced that it would recall 5,202 imported Lexus cars in China to fix a malfunctioning gas-pedal, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said on February 25.

Toyota's announcement of the recall plans in China came one day after the AQSIQ, China's quality watchdog, demanded an explanation from the Japanese carmaker regarding problems with the Lexus.

However, the belated recall raises concerns among Chinese consumers about the auto giant's credibility as its previous global recall plans tagged "ignore" to China.

Due to concerns over possible fuel leaks, Toyota Motors said on Jan. 26 that it would recall 1.7 million vehicles worldwide, including 1.28 million vehicles in Japan and 421,000 vehicles in the U.S., Britain, Germany and other markets. However, the recall did not involve China.

In response to inquiries from Chinese consumers, the company claimed that cars sold on the Chinese mainland did not use the same defective engines or accessories.

"As a Toyota car owner, I doubt the company's credibility. How can cars of the same type not have the same problem? How can Toyota treat Chinese consumers differently? It's disappointing that it failed to make an explanation," said a man surnamed Ye, who works in Shanghai.

Some even suspect that Toyota might cheat consumers during the previous global recalls from 2009 to 2010. During the period, Toyota recalled nearly 16 million defective cars, but only 800,000, or less than 0.5 percent, were from China.

Chinese consumers are sensitive to recall events. Recalls of any auto brand would worry the Chinese auto market because the industry lacks a strong supervision mechanism and car manufacturers have poor credibility.

Jia Xinguang, an independent auto industry analyst in Beijing, said that Toyota's reluctance to involve the Chinese market in its previous recall plans showed that Chinese consumers were in a weak position to protect their rights.

"Toyota has everything to itself. We all depend on the company to reveal the truth. Chinese consumers are very passive in taking legal actions in these matters," Jia said.

He said that, for years, quality disputes have been an issue between individuals and enterprises. The country's supervision over the auto market is relatively loose, compared to other countries.

As the world's largest auto market, China sold 13.64 million cars in 2009, while recalling only 1.36 million defective cars. The U.S., on the other hand, recalled 17.84 million vehicles, with new car sales at 10.43 million.

He urged the government to upgrade its regulations on recalling defective cars to ensure that consumers receive equal treatment.

Also, Toyota set its 2011 sales target in China only slightly higher at 910,000 vehicles, in an effort to rein in its excessive and sharp expansion that have caused problems within the company in recent years.

Its sales volume in China accounts for 10 percent of its total sales in the world. Last year, Toyota sold 846,000 vehicles in China.

Toyota's global sales in 2010 rose 8 percent to 8.42 million vehicles, just ahead of General Motors' 8.39 million. This makes Toyota the world's largest carmaker for the third straight year, said Toyota in January.

But it is the only carmaker that saw a decline in the U.S. auto market in 2010, with its growth rate down 0.4 percentage points from that of 2009.

Source: Xinhua
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