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Why Does Toyota Have So Many Recalls?

No matter where you look, articles are detailing major recalls of vehicles by Toyota. That isn’t to automatically label Toyota as a bad brand. It is a numbers game more than anything else. When a company sells as many cars and trucks as Toyota does, there are bound to be more issues.

The start of major recalls for Toyota

According to Toyota, the company sold 2,112,941 vehicles in 2020. That made it the number one selling manufacturer for the ninth year in a row.

Back in 2009, Toyota was the subject of a large recall due to incorrect floor mats. These mats would either not fit correctly or come loose and get stuck, leading to uncontrolled acceleration. Toyota recalled 3.8 million vehicles in the US.

Shortly after, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) pressured Toyota into recalling additional vehicles. For buyers, this left a haze of confusion over the brand’s reliability.

Was Toyota a bad car manufacturer? No, but some signs pointed to there being an issue with quality control at the time. Also, manufacturers like Ford, Chevrolet, and Hyundai were producing well-performing cars.

Was Toyota going to turn things around and pinpoint the exact spot during production that was causing issues? Perhaps.

Recalls across multiple brands

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In 2020, Toyota had another major recall. CNN reported that in January, it was 700,000 vehicles. By March, the total was 1.8 million.

This included many vehicles such as 2013-2014 Lexus GS 350, 2014-2015 4Runner, Land Cruiser; Lexus GX 460, IS 350, LX 570. In addition, Toyota recalled the 2018-2019 Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Sequoia, and Tacoma. The list goes on.

The recall noted that the vehicles could stop operating and cause the engine to stop working. The dashboard could light up, and the car could stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

Of course, Toyota and Lexus do not want to be associated with low-quality cars. By acting fast and recalling more cars, the company lessens the chance that more drivers will get hurt.

Using parts across makes and models

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But why are these recalls increasing in size and frequency? If we look at Wharton University’s investigation, a portion of the issue is the parts themselves. To cut costs, many cars use the same parts across manufacturers and platforms.

Thus, there is possibly an issue with many other cars if there is an issue with one car. This explains the huge number of cars noted in the recalls.

Susan Helper, an economics professor at Case Western Reserve University, suggests that perhaps all new technology is compounding the issue. Cars used to be mechanical systems. These days, cars are mechanical systems integrated with electronic systems.

“Some of it has to do with the newness of some of these systems. We have not had 100 years to study electronics the way we have with mechanics,” Helper noted about Toyota’s response to recalls in 2010.

Using parts across various makes and models is a cost-cutting measure that helps make these cars more affordable. On the catch side, it also means if one part has a problem, the problem will likely affect a lot more cars.

Toyota isn’t alone in this

Unfortunately, recalls are not limited to just Toyota. Sometimes it means adjusting a part, replacing a part, or even adding a new part. As long as Toyota and other brands are proactive when there is an issue, drivers should not be afraid of the brand.

Toyota did not return a request for comment about the recalls by the time of publication.