Toyota recalls just the tip of the iceberg

By on April 14, 2014

Just as its reputation had been recovering after previous problems, the car manufacturer has recalled 6.4 million cars. However, this won’t be just the last time, or indeed only Toyota’s problem, if the current trend in the industry continues.

It’s no secret that Toyota – the world’s largest car manufacturer by sales – has been in crisis pretty much since 2010, when it began a series of recalls that has now spanned millions of vehicles.

Even by Toyota’s standards, its latest recall is a big one: 6.4 million cars across its Rav4, Corolla, Yaris, Yaris sedan and Camry models. Faults this time around include a dodgy steering column, weak seat rails, windscreen wiper motors, and engine starters.

Toyota’s biggest ever recall was in 2012, when it recalled 7.4 million vehicles because of defective window switches. It’s been pretty shocking to consumers, who until recently counted the car manufacturer among the higher quality of its rivals.

It isn’t just Toyota which has experienced problems, though: The number of car recalls across the board has risen over the past few years. According to a study by financial adviser Stout Risius Ross, 10 million cars were recalled last year because of safety-related issues – the most since 2009.

Now obviously, there are a few contributing factors: Firstly, global car production is up (it rose 3.6 percent last year) because of the world economic recovery. Also, safety standards have risen, which means car manufacturers are under more scrutiny than ever before.

But there’s another problem: Car manufacturers are increasingly either getting their parts from the same supplier, or buying parts off each other. And, as various brands conglomerate, it’s only getting worse.

Cars may look different, but what’s under the bonnet, in many cases, is the same. It means that when something goes wrong, it isn’t just one car that has to be recalled – it’s millions, across several brands.

By way of example, since 2011 Toyota and BMW have had an agreement to supply BMW diesel engines for some Toyota models. In December last year it was announced that the new Toyota Verso would be powered by a BMW engine.

Here’s hoping German engineering is better than its Japanese equivalent.

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