Tue, 02 Feb 2010 03:51:24 GMT — I just had our Toyota Highlander in to see our trusted mechanic Tony Masello the other day. The oil needed changing. The wheels needed balancing. The brakes needed a little lubrication. It was just maintenance work. The Highlander has been pretty reliable over its first 220,600 miles. That's what Toyota is all about...reliability. At least it was, until now.
Those of us who live by the recommendations of publications like Consumer Reports when purchasing cars put great value in reliability. It is a car characteristic nearly equal to performance. Over the last 25 years Toyota has led the way in reliability ratings. Its reputation is built on it. Reliability carried the Japanese brand to the top of the American auto heap.
Then the gas pedals started to stick. Some people died because of the sticking pedals. The cases began to mount. Finally, Toyota had to admit it had a problem. It admitted to having a problem before it really had a solution. That put a freeze on the sale of new Toyotas and forced a recall of 2.3 million that had been sold primarily over the last two years.
Toyota owners have been left in limbo. Those who know they have a problem like Preston Prue in North Syracuse have not been able to get it fixed. Those who wonder whether they might have a problem are nervously hitting the highway hoping their accelerator doesn't stick and cause a high speed crash.
I have been considering what car to buy next. After all even a Toyota with 220,600 miles can't keep running forever. We also own a Toyota Corolla. Neither car falls into the recall, but as I consider the next purchase may faith has been shaken in the reliability of Toyota. It has me looking at other brands rated high for reliability and performance like Honda, Subaru or maybe a Ford or Chevy.
The gap between the detection of the problem, admitting there was a problem and solving the problem have turned the sticky gas pedals into a public relations nightmare for the auto giant. It will certainly cut into their sales while creating opportunity for other manufacturers to step into the vacuum. In the meantime, maybe I'll push for 250,000 miles on the Highlander. Back when mine was made Toyota was still a reliable brand.
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