Worth a look: Should Toyota’s recall be blamed on quality?

Matt SavageLike you, I have heard about the myriad of problems Toyota has been having lately. I heard about the sticking accelerator, the brake problem on the Prius, and a vehicle recall that will top 8 million. USA Today listed this as “Toyota’s quality fiasco” http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2010-02-05-toyota-recall-friday_N.htm. Toyota’s president Akio Toyoda has stated “Let me assure everyone that we will redouble our commitment to quality as the lifeline of our company” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/toyota_recall. As I read this, I wondered, is it really a quality problem?

No doubt Toyota has a problem, but was the accelerator problem caused by poor quality? You might recall that one solution to the accelerator problem was related to the floor mat. The floor mat would be modified so that the potential for it to cause the accelerator to stick would be minimized. So what is the root cause of this problem? Were the fibers used in the floor mat faulty? Were the floor mats sized incorrectly? Did the materials supplier produce defective materials? There are many possibilities.

Toyota is known for their precise specifications. So let’s assume that the floor mats, brake pedals, brake lines, etc. were manufactured to a tight tolerance and functioned as they were designed. If this is the case, isn’t the problem related to the design rather than the quality of the parts produced? If root cause analysis identifies that the problem is with the design, then the media should call it “Toyota’s design fiasco.”

Of course at the end of the day, what really matters is that all automotive manufacturers learn from Toyota’s problems and take steps to prevent an issue such as this from occurring again.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on “Toyota’s quality fiasco.”

5 thoughts on “Worth a look: Should Toyota’s recall be blamed on quality?

  1. Not to be too clever, but this is not about quality, but Quality, which includes Design – as in Designed to avoid unsafe conditions which cause recalls and PR nightmares.

  2. Too intangible to be design alone. Quality is a precurser to the end users perception of value. It surfaces, in this case, after accounting, engineering, manufacturing and a few others all have their say. I suspect a few lawyers have an opinion of value at this point. Are other manufacturers doing assesments of their systems as part of this unfortunate wake up call, or is the pack focused on bringing down the weaker animal as big business so often does? I say this is a quality issue because every one of us should assume the responsibility to ASSURE that these things don’t happen.

  3. Ongoing Toyota recalls are doing so much harm to their premium brand. more than 2 million vehicles in the United States to correct sticking gas pedals. over 4 million autos in the United States to correct pedals getting lodged under floor mats. 690,000 cars in China defective electrical window switches. Toyota managers on Television to apologise for recall and still the press highlight problems as the company gets more nervous. I wonder how much brand value this has cost them.

  4. Was it Deming or Juran who said that there is no such thing as a “Quality Problem”? Or perhaps it was Phil Crosby.

    Little matter, the key point is that their intent was to make it clear that “Quality Problem” is far to broad brush to be of any value in driving the problem solving process.

    Peter Rollin

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