Toyota Lexus Woes: Unintended Acceleration
1.0 Background information
Toyota Motor Company is the world’s leading automobiles manufacturer. The company manufactures diverse kinds of vehicles which include subcompacts, luxury and sports vehicles, tucks, minivans, and buses. Basically, Toyota uses combustion and fusion engines as the main engine technology to run its vehicles. It boasts of a wide range of automobiles driven in all parts of the world, ranging from conventional cars to luxury brands. Precisely, some of its most popular models include the Camry, Corolla, Land Cruiser, Luxury Lexus line, and the Tundra trucks among many other models (Toyota in the World, 2010). Apart from manufacturing automobiles, Toyota also manufactures automobiles parts which it sales to its globally positioned dealers as part of its revenue maximization strategy (Brian, 2001; Morgan & Liker, 2006).
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Toyota Lexus is the luxury vehicle division of Toyota Motor Corporation. Lexus that was first introduced in 1989 in the United States and now it is sold globally. It is by far the largest selling make of Toyota luxury cars. The origin of Lexus can be traced from a clandestine flagship sedan project that began in 1983 following the desire to develop a car module that would put Toyota in place of its own in the automobile industry. This ambitious idea developed into the original Lexus LS. In the ensuing years Lexus has continued to add more features to its cars making the brand more sophisticated and satisfying to the customers. Today, Lexus market has extended the boundaries of United States and Asia to other continents and since then Toyota has opened branches in other countries (Chester, 2004).
2.0 Statement of the problem
The Toyota Lexus hitches have been documented by a significant number of authors and automobile industry pundits alike. Shirouzu (2010) documents that since the problem was first detected some three ago over six million cars have been recalled all over the world. [See appendices 1for a structured graph] Kitamura (2010) confirms that Toyota Motor Corporation has received numerous claims and complaints over the last three to four years from its customers about its luxury Lexus brand. However, this Lexus problem seems to have started some time back. For instance, one Toyota customer, Peter Boddaert driving a black Lexus LS400 was taken by a fright when suddenly the car raced forward and rammed the back of a van as he was switching lanes. Apparently, this was the third time his car had accelerated without a warning, at a time the Lexus woes began gained substantial attention in the form of claims made to authorities (Kitamura, 2010). Based on such claims from customers, it has come to light that drivers experience unintended, unnecessary, and uncontrollable acceleration with their Lexus automobiles.
In reference to a survey carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA), Erin (2010) points out that the first case of the unintended acceleration in Lexus cars was first booked in 2004, with similar reports continuing to trickle in up to date. Acting in desperation, Toyota expressed speculation that this problem may have been caused by a foreign substance that may have gained entry into the engine during manufacturing of the valve springs. Such foreign bodies then would act as impediments to the efficient functioning of the springs by either weakening them or even causing them to break. This problem is made worse when the accelerator comes into conduct with the floor mats then it gets stuck under the rubber of these mats.
The bottom line of this technical hitch is that Lexus rivals in the luxury category of automobiles such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz have gained a great opportunity to strengthen their market grip. But the most agonizing thing is that the image of the top automobile manufacturer is blurring and sales are reducing and many customers are switching to other manufacturers where their safety will be guaranteed. From a slightly different perspective the Lexus hitches has threatened to split apart the precariously co-existing yet efficient Toyota management team, with Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the founder who also is the Toyota Motors Corporation President initiating a personal war of words with the Vice Chairman, Katsuaki Watanabe following claims that the non-family management team is not fully committed to fulfilling customer concerns but only bent to making huge profits at the expense of the far reaching quality and efficiency goals that forms parts of Toyota mission and vision (Shirouzu, 2010, p. 1). Such wars are likely to exacerbate the Lexus hitches issue even further if not urgently and amicably solved.
3.0 General Aim of the Intended Research
To crack the technical puzzle surrounding the unintended acceleration in Toyota Lexus cars as well as to establish how such problem is linked to the simmering management squabbles, with the view of advancing a practically efficient solution(s) to the two established problems.
4.0 Scope of the Intended Research
The proposed research study will tackle the woes facing Toyota Motors Corporation with special attention given to the recent technical hitches engulfing its Lexus brand. Specifically, the study will narrow down on the recently established problem of unintended acceleration among the Lexus luxury cars. Significant attention will also be given to the management squabbles engulfing the company, which pits the non-family management team represented by Mr. Wanatabe, the current Vice Chairman and the Toyoda family represented by Mr. Akio, the current President.
5.0 Specific Objectives of the Study
To find out the problems facing Toyota Lexus now days and settle on the major problem.
To determine the causes of the identified problem.
To find out how Toyota Motor Corporation is handling the identified problem.
To find out whether the problem may have been a form of technical sabotage from a section of the technical management team.
To establish the customers’ reactions to the problem and how Toyota is handling the reactions
To establish some of the remedies that can help solve the problem.
To find out how Toyota rivals in the automobiles industry such as Ford, Volkswagen and others are faring on in the light of these woes.
6.0 Situation Analysis
Most Lexus drivers have claimed that Toyota has been underestimating this problem evidenced from repeated dismissing claims from drivers worried that something was wrong with their vehicles, even in the face of numerous acceleration complaints (Kageyama, 2010).
In the process to rectify this problem Toyota has adopted several measures among them recalling some 8.5 million vehicles to address issues related to unintended acceleration, offering fixes to floor mats and gas pedals. Another measure has been the altering the design of the valve spring and making it thicker for new Lexus that are in the manufacturer line. For instance, in August 2008 Toyota changed that spring part, making it thicker, to prevent the problem (Associated Press, 2010).
On a recent investigation conducted by Toyota Motor Corporation on July 2010, it was found that about 2,000 cases of unintended acceleration found no problem with its electronic throttle system and that driver error was to blame in some cases. For instance, the company said that some drivers who said that their Lexus surged out of control might have pushed the accelerator when they meant to brake occasioning the “unintended acceleration” (Associated Press, 2010). Acting on those findings, Toyota concluded that “pedal misapplication” was the cause of unwanted speeding. This finding seems to have cleared some part of the big puzzle hence helping the company to concentrate on other areas of the mystery.
7.0 Proposed Data Resources
The proposed study will rely on both primary and secondary data sources to gather information that will advice its findings. The secondary data sources for this research will comprise of documentary sources like industrial journals and manuals with great emphasis given to journals in the automobile sector. Previous research studies on this particular Toyota problem will form the literature review. Newspaper articles on the Lexus problem and business magazines will form another secondary data resource. Other secondary sources will include safety research studies that are basically relied by attorneys and plaintiffs as a sources of evidential materials on safety matters in civil lawsuits, compiled the acceleration data using consumer complaints, media accounts; court documents will comprise the other secondary sources.
Primary data will mainly be obtained from questionnaires and interviews to Lexus car owners and dealers and if possible a few Toyota Motor Corporation top executives will also form part of the study demographic. The data from the proposed resources will then be interpreted and analyzed and later be used to draw conclusions and propose solutions to the problem.
8.0 Proposed Modeling and Conceptual Tools
The Lexus problem which has resulted to losses to Toyota Motor Corporation could have been easily controlled if the company had taken a considerable time to test its automobile prior to releasing it to the market. May (2006 p. 10) suggests that prior Lexus trial could have allowed time for repair and replacement of any defective part that may be causing the unwanted acceleration.
The step by the company to instruct owners to remove the driver’s floor mat since the accelerator pedal can get stuck by being trapped by the floor mat can’t be relied upon since the company isn’t fully convinced what the really problem is.
The company should recall all its cars that have this acceleration problem and those likely to redevelop such kind of a problem and start a new tested phase of manufacturing that is perfect so as to stand a better chance with the rivals. A close follow-up of its cars should be constant so that one problem like this unintended acceleration doesn’t affect so many customers at the same time.
10.0 Proposed Findings
Basing on the snap analysis of the few visited literature sources provisional findings can be provided. For instance, Mahler (2004 p. 12) justifies the move by Toyota to recall its faulty Lexus luxury range of automobiles as a great step towards rebuilding and restoring its reputation given the damage the acceleration hitches caused. Recalling all the faulty cars sends a clear message to its bulging global clientele that it is still capable of handling the situation, as opposed to a situation where it would have just advised customers with faulty cars to take them to designated garages.
Even so, this is just a short-term remedy to the critical “unsolicited acceleration” technical hitch. As such, the company needs to go some steps forward and establish the real cause of the problem so as to rekindle the dying confidence and trust from its global customers particularly those in the United States. Though Toyota has highly reliable team of engineers, who can crack the automatic acceleration puzzle, it will do no harm if the company approaches other industry players making almost similar model of cars with view learning how they have managed to handle similar problems if any. In fact, given the technical nature of the problem chances are that other automobile companies may have experienced similar problems at one time though in negligible levels.
The customer requirements should also come first. A thorough market research will enable production of an optimum product, that is, not too complicated for the customer but that which meets his prestige profile. Toyota Motor Corporation has been on the verge in boosting of its high degree of customer satisfaction but criticisms indicate that the top automobile manufacturer has been lagging in its response to quality lapses from its vehicles.
There is no doubt that at the moment Toyota needs a well crafted strategy that will help rekindle the lost customer confidence. This is a tricky situation the company has found itself in, as such it also needs to come up with both short and long-term solution to handle the situation. It would therefore be prudent for the company to consult or even engage capable personnel even if it will mean relinquishing some of the prominent portfolios held by the Toyoda family members who may be posing an impediment to strategy formulation and implementation.
Brian, L 2001, Lexus: The Challenge to Create the Finest Automobile, Dorchester, Veloce Publishing.
Chester, D 2004, Lexus: The Relentless Pursuit, Hoboken, Jon Wiley & Sons.
Erin, A February 25, 2010 ‘Complaints on Toyota went for naught’, The Boston Globe, accessed on 17 July 2010, http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2010/02/25/a_lexus_owners_frustrating_journey_through_complaint_process.htm /
Kageyama Y, 2010 Toyota knew about Lexus problem 2 years ago, Associated Press, July 6 p. 1 accessed on 17th July 2010, http://news.yahoo.com/business/
Kitamura M. 2010 ‘Toyota Received Complaints about Lexus Defect in 2007’ Bloomberg Business Week, July 06, p. 1 accessed on 17 July 2010, http://www.boston.com/toyota-received-complaints-about-lexus-defect-in-2007.html/
Mahler, J 2004, The Lexus Story: The Behind the Scenes Story of Automotive Luxury Brand in America, New York: Melcher Media.
May, M 2006, The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation. New York, Free Press.
Morgan, J ; Liker, K. 2006, The Toyota Product Development System: Integrating People, Process and Technology. New York, Productive Press.
Shirouzu, N April 13, 2010, ‘Inside Toyota, Executives Trade Blame over Debacle’, The Wall Street Journal. Accessed on 19 July 2010, from: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303395904575157452266613406.html/
The Toyota in the World 2010. Retrieved July 21, 2010, from: http://www2.toyota.co.jp/en/about_toyota/in_the_world/pdf2010/databook_en_2010.pdf/ / Toyota In The World 2010/
Recalls Trends as at April, 2010.
Source: (Shirouzu, April 13, 2010, p. 2of 4).
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