Toyota recalls 3.8 million vehicles

Regular readers, especially those who work for or buy cars from Detroit’s automakers, often bemoan that Toyota’s recalls don’t get enough attention in the media. Well, here’s one hot off the press. Toyota said today that it is launching its largest recall in history, bringing back 3.8 million vehicles because an unsecure floor mat may hit the accelerator, send the car speeding forward and cause accidents. The fix seems simple enough, but that is a lot of cars.

Toyota has told drivers to remove the floor mat until the company comes up with a remedy. The following models are affected:

• 2007 – 2010 Toyota Camry • 2005 – 2010 Avalon • 2004 – 2009 Prius • 2005 – 2010 Tacoma • 2007 – 2010 Tundra • 2007 – 2010 Lexus ES350 • 2006 – 2010 Lexus IS250 and IS350

Every carmaker has recalls. But Toyota has had some big ones in recent years. The company recalled 533,000 Tundra pickups and Sequoia suvs in 2007 because of bad ball joints. The Tundra also had problems with the cam shaft in the Tundra’s 5.7-liter V-8. Toyota also had a problem with sludge accumulating in the engines of a handful of models. The company repaired the engines later on, but not after the publicity did some damage.

What’s with the recalls? Toyota went on an expansion binge over the past decade, launching new models and sprouting factories up all over the world. The race for growth overtaxed its engineers and problems cropped up. In fairness, Toyota is still a first-rate carmaker whose vehicles do well in quality surveys across the board. The company has also been pushing to handle these issues more effectively. But recalls are never good even if they are handled well. Toyota has throttled back on growth and in doing so, its engineers are getting back to basics. Smart move. Remember, GM was the industry’s kingpin when its quality problems began in the 1960s. Toyota seems to have taken that history lesson to heart. But its long-standing edge in quality may have already been dulled.

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