Unless you have been living under a rock the past few weeks, you have probably heard about the massive recall involving Toyota vehicles and the investigation around unintended acceleration. In 2009, Toyota released its largest recall ever, asking over 4 million vehicle owners to bring their cars in to the dealer for a fix. The original issue was found after a police officer and his family were killed when the floor mat on his rental Lexus got stuck under the accelerator, pinning it to the floor until he ran into another car. Then early this year, Toyota was forced to recall another 2.3 million vehicles world wide in an effort to contain the issue before it caused more deaths. The latest blow to Toyota's quality reputation involves Consumer Reports magazine pulling its "Recommended" status on the vehicles involved in the recalls.
While I am all for this, as vehicles that could kill you shouldn't be recommended, it is just further proof that Consumer Reports is very biased. If you flip through a CR mag, you will be hard pressed to find a Domestic model that is Recommended. A "Recommended" rating means the vehicle is well built and has shown a good standard of quality. The Domestics are improving, but most Toyota, Honda and Nissan vehicles get a Recommended rating even if the model is new to the market. The Domestics have to prove a full year of sales with high quality ratings before they can be recommended.
The startling news here is that after the accelerator pedal recall is solved, many believe CR will give the Toyota models affected their Recommended rating back! Are you serious? A GM vehicle has a radio go bad and it won't be recommended, but a Toyota could kill you and it only loses its rating while the fix is going on? Shouldn't Toyota have to prove a year's worth of solid sales data that shows the issue is contained? Why are the American automakers held to a different standard?
Consumer Reports tests vehicles for driving dynamics, fuel economy, build quality and more, yet a vehicle is only recommended if it has high quality. The Cadillac CTS just won a CR luxury car comparison test, yet it is not recommended because its quality has been below average. Yet a Lexus that has accelerator pedal issues can be recommended before and after this recall, simply because its quality is above average. The car may be boring to drive, not perform as well or feature as much technology as the CTS, but that apparently doesn't matter.
This negative image portrayed by Consumer Reports has hurt the Detroit area, and the U.S. economy as a whole more than many could imagine. The Domestic automakers used to control over 70% of the market just 35 years ago, and now they are below half. More and more jobs are being sent overseas and people blame GM, Ford or Chrysler, when in reality the real issue is people like Consumer Reports. They convince people not to support American cars because they are below average in quality, yet if people bought American cars now that their quality has improved, they would have the money to build even better cars! Ford was recently rated the highest quality automaker (based on initial quality data) by the third party J. D. Power & Associates.
Hopefully in the future, Consumer Reports will be a bit more fair when dolling out their "Recommended" rating instead of just assuming a Toyota is high in quality because it's a Toyota.