Thursday, January 28, 2010
U.S. automakers say "domo arigato" to Toyota
Maybe all U.S. automakers should call their next new vehicles by the name "Domo Arigato," which means "thank you very much" in Japanese. With the Toyota Motor Corp. on the ropes following a series of safety recalls that has so far reached 8 million vehicles and sent its stock price plummeting, the U.S. Congress announced an investigation into the formerly formidable Japanese carmaker's response to the crisis. In addition to recalling millions of cars in the United States, Toyota has suspended most of its U.S. manufacturing and sales and expanded its recall to include vehicles made in China and in Europe, according to the Reuters international news service. U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Thursday he planned a hearing to see "how quickly and effectively" Toyota has responded to complaints about malfunctioning gas pedals. "Like many consumers, I am concerned about the seriousness and scope of Toyota's recent recall announcements," Waxman said. The recalls and repairs alone will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to Toyota, which last year supplanted General Motors Corp. as the world's largest automaker. Combined with the expected loss of customers and the damage to its reputation, the crisis is a still-growing disaster for Toyota. The car company told its dealers on Thursday that it would take months to repair all of the affected vehicles. Toyota said it would send recall notices to vehicle owners in lots of 10,000 to try to avoid overwhelming car repair shops, according to spokesman Mike Michels. "Obviously, the dealers couldn't handle everybody coming all at once," Michels said. "So that does have to take place over time. This volume of vehicles will obviously take a number of months. I don't have an estimate on that." Some U.S. dealers told Reuters they were making plans to hire additional staff and extend their hours to handle the repairs.