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Toyota Complaints Drop Drastically

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On: Sat, Jul 17, 2010 at 9:53PM | By: Chris Weiss

Toyota Complaints Drop Drastically

It's been a long time in the making, but there is some good news for Toyota, if only in the short term. According to Reuters, complaints about unintended acceleration have dropped significantly, as media focus has shifted away from Toyota's safety problems. The drop in complaints and media scrutiny should help Toyota rebound and earn back consumer trust and respect after an embarrassing year of major safety recalls, bad press, and fines for inaction.

Beginning in September of 2009, Toyota announced a string of major recalls that affected an eventual 10 million vehicles in total. Two major recalls were made due to unintended acceleration problems. Floor mats and sticking accelerator pedals were cited as the causes of the unintended acceleration, but the media questioned whether there wasn't a greater issue with the electronic throttle-control system.

So far, both Toyota and NHTSA testing has failed to reveal any problems outside of the floor mats and sticking accelerator pedals. The NHTSA is still involved in a thorough review of the recalls and it's likely to be months before it wraps up its investigation and present its findings. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that initial findings by the NHTSA have indicated that a percentage of unintended acceleration complaints were due to driver error and were not caused by vehicle deficincies.

While it remains unclear what percentage of vehicles crashed because of drivers and what percentage were victims of faulty engineering, customer complaints about sudden acceleration problems have been on the decline in recent months. More than 1,500 people have complained about unintended accleration in Toyota models so far this year. According to Reuters' numbers obtained from NHTSA documents, two-thirds of those complaints came in February and the vast majority were filed between January and March. From April through June, there were only 100 complaints, and most of those were filed in the early spring.

Some of the decline can be explained by the slowing of publicity around Toyota's recalls. Reports of driver error and suspicions of fraud have likely helped to ease complaints, as well.

Toyota has fixed 3.7 million—roughly half—the vehicles that it recalled for acceleration issues and is due to file a report with the NHTSA on its official progress. The fact that complaints have dropped indicates that Toyota's fixes are working.

Even if the outcome of the NHTSA investigation and recalls continue favorably for Toyota, the automaker faces a long road in earning back public confidence. Once considered a symbol for quality and durability, the Toyota badge has become more of a running punchline this year. Toyota has been able to use aggressive sales incentives to lure some buyers and keep sales from plummeting, though. In fact, the company experienced some of its strongest sales of its fiscal year during the first three months of this year, at the height of complaints and Congressional investigations. Toyota still faces difficult hurdles toward restoring its image and stock prices.

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