The Toyota recalls began with 4.3 million vehicles due to floor mats jamming the accelerator pedal. Toyota's accelerator pedal issues have to date resulted in nearly 9 million recalls worldwide and the suspension of sales on 8 of their vehicles. Then, news broke that Toyota's recall wasn't completely voluntary:
"The reason Toyota decided to do the recall and to stop manufacturing is that we asked them to," Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood said. In an interview with WGN radio in Chicago, Mr. Hood went on, "We were the ones that really met with Toyota, our department, our safety folks and told them, 'you've got to do the recall.' They decided to stop the manufacturing.
Last week, Congress decided to hold a hearing on February 25th to find out what Toyota knew about the error and how long they knew about it before they acted on it.
In addition to their recall is their decision to close a plant in California which will lay off 5,000 workers and potentially affect the livelihood of 45,000 people employed in support industries. The plant Toyota is closing manufactures the Corolla, which was the number one selling car in this past summer's Cash for Clunkers program. In a letter to the Prime Minister of Japan, Yukio Hatoyama, the UAW stated:
"It's outrageous that the number one-selling car in Cash for Clunkers was the Corolla, the car that is manufactured in the NUMMI plant. After receiving more money in this bailout program than any other company, Toyota is turning its back on American workers and American taxpayers by closing the plant in the state where they sell the most cars in the U.S., shipping these jobs to Japan and then importing the cars back to the United States for sale," said King.
"Toyota management is seeking to move work from auto transport companies that have delivered their new cars and trucks for decades," Hoffa said. "The loss of this work could lead to the destruction of the largest auto transport companies in the country and the loss of thousands of good, middle class jobs. Toyota promised to support American communities; they're instead threatening the very types of good jobs that our communities need in this time of economic crisis."
Not a great week for them.
Then, to add even more woes to Japan's auto industry, late last week the news broke of Honda's recall of over 600,000 vehicles worldwide due to a window problem.
So, based on these developments, I thought now would be a good time to revisit the question of why you should purchase an American made vehicle.
Toyota and Honda's reputations for safety and dependability helped increase their sales worldwide and gave the impression that their dependability was better than that of the Big Three. With the recent news, I think we can agree that is not necessarily the case. Even months before the recalls, American made vehicles were being recognized for their dependability. In the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Vehicle Dependability Study, Buick tied Jaguar as the most dependable brand while GM ranked in the top 3 of 8 categories. U.S. News and World Reports ranked the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, 2010 Chevrolet Malibu and 2010 Ford Fusion as the top 3 affordable midsized cards. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety listed the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Avenger, Dodge Journey and Jeep Patriot as Top Safety Picks for 2010 - only two Hondas and not one Toyota were chosen.
As for foreign companies supporting the U.S. economy as much as the Big Three? The UAW letter highlights that discrepancy; additionally, a research study by the Center for Automotive Research showed that at the end of 2007, international producers employed roughly 113,000 people in the United States, compared to the Big Three who employed 239,941. And, even though the foreign vehicles are made in America, the profits don't stay here, they go back to that auto company's country and support their economy.
For many of us, safety and dependability are deciding factors when purchasing a vehicle. Toyota and Honda can no longer tout that they are more dependable than the Big Three. Our communities are also directly affected by the auto industry. Toyota cannot say that it is standing by its promise to support our communities, and the Big Three can.
Over 229,000 GM and Chrysler vehicles have been sold through the Invest in America program. This has helped reinvest $5 billion back into the U.S. economy. This is money that is returned to our communities and directly impacts our schools, roads, community services and economy as a whole. What you spend your money on really does make a difference. Do some research before you buy - seek out a high quality, dependable American made vehicle, and you won't regret it.