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Toyota's quality slips, again

It’s been a rough week for Toyota. First, the company gets slapped by Consumer Reports, which said that Toyota’s quality slipped so much that it will no longer recommend every car just because it has a loopy “T” on the hood. CR won’t recommend the V-6 powered Toyota Camry sedan nor the Tundra pickup because their quality results were below average. Overall, Toyota slipped in CR’s latest survey. Its namesake brand now ranks fifth, behind Honda, Acura, Scion and Subaru. The next day, Toyota said it would recall 470,000 cars in Japan.

What’s more is that U.S. carmakers Ford and General Motors fared pretty well. Ford made big gains with its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands all ranking between 11 and 15. GM did pretty well, too. Buick cracked the top 10. Chrylser, hhowever, had just a few models on CR’s ‘recommended’ list. To keep things in perspective. Toyota’s three brands all are among the top 10 for reliability. The wheels aren’t coming off the Camry.

But these are still really bad signs. Toyota has had some high-profile recalls in the past couple of years. Last year, company President Katsuaki Watanabe bowed in apology and said Toyota would fix the problems. A year later, we’re still seeing big recalls and slipping results in quality surveys. CR is a bible for many consumers. Here’s the rub: Detroit’s Big Three can’t cut costs fast enough or rebuild their brands quickly enough to knock Toyota down a few pegs. But if the Japanese juggernaut keeps moving in reverse on quality, Detroit might be able to find a way back into the hearts of some buyers who were lost so long ago.

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