Shame on Toyota
GM blames recall on Toyota supplier
By Bernard Simon in Toronto
Published: March 2 2010 14:28 | Last updated: March 3 2010 01:01
General Motors has blamed a supplier partly owned by Toyota for a faulty car part that led to the recall of 1.3m Chevrolet and Pontiac cars in North America.
Bob Lutz, GM’s vice-chairman, on Tuesday told the BBC in Geneva that the supplier – separately identified as JTEKT, a joint venture between Toyoda Machine Works and Koyo Seiko – had not met “all requirements for reliability and durability”.
His criticism came as Toyota, its reputation battered after recalls affecting more than 8m cars and trucks, sought to re*assure US lawmakers at the third congressional hearing in the past 10 days into the safety and reliability of its vehicles.
The Toyota issue has also raised questions about broader US car safety policy, with some lawmakers calling for a re-examination of the government’s oversight of the industry.
Ray LaHood, US transportation secretary, said that regulators may require all carmakers to install “brake override” systems on new vehicles.
Many cars use such “smart pedals”, which may reduce instances of sudden acceleration that are at the heart of the Toyota inquiry. “We are looking at whether that should be a mandatory feature for all automakers,” Mr LaHood said.
Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s chief global engineer, rejected allegations linking unintended acceleration to vehicles’ electronic systems rather than the mechanical defects identified by Toyota. The Japanese carmaker reported an 8.7 per cent fall in its US sales last month.
GM announced that it was recalling 1.3m cars in North America due to a power steering problem linked to 14 crashes.
US regulators opened a probe in January into 905,000 Cobalt models in the US after receiving more than 1,100 complaints of power steering failures.
GM said the vehicles could still be “safely controlled” but greater effort might be needed under 15mph. Drivers would see a warning light and hear a chime if the steering failed.
JTEKT is based in Japan but has five manufacturing plants in the US. A call for comment to the company’s US head office in Michigan was not returned.
Toyota unveiled several fresh measures to help rebuild its reputation following the recalls of vehicles with potentially defective accelerator pedals, floor mats or braking systems.
It began offering leasing and interest-free financing deals, as well as two years of free maintenance. Bob Carter, head of the Toyota brand in the US, said that, apart from a drop in first-time buyers, “we haven’t seen a major outflow of Toyota buyers to other brands”.
Susan Docherty, GM North American sales chief, said none of the Chevrolets or Pontiacs affected by Tuesday’s recall would be sold until the steering motor had been replaced.