Monday, March 22, 2010

Toyota ‘Brake’ing down?

Nearly everyone who has any access to some form of news media has heard of Toyota’s woes in recent times. What started off as a big recall for defective floor mats has culminated in a massive media blitz amidst reports of cars running amok like they were possessed. The spirit from ‘Poltergiest’ would have been proud of these cars. This has polarized the population into two main groups. One group believes that it’s the company at fault for selling cars with electronic ghosts in them. The other believes a small issue has been blown out of proportion with more ulterior motives than just public safety. Being an automobile fanatic, I have been following these events quite closely.
Before I begin, let me clarify that I am no Toyota fan. I have never owned one of their products and do not intend to in the future. I have driven some of their cars and I feel they are quite boring to drive. They will get you from point A to B safely and reliably, but they offer little else. They are more like an appliance which you use daily. Which is of course fine for the average person. Actually make that millions of average people. And I do not mean this in a derogatory manner. It’s just that Toyotas are rarely driver’s cars. And as far as the Prius goes, I detest hybrids. Period.
That being said, I am a little skeptical when people are out on the street waving their arms about a Prius running wild. A 4.3 litre V8 Ferrari is terrifying, but a 1.8 litre Prius? Adding to this is the idea that the people driving them did not come across as drivers with decent amount of skill or for that matter, common sense. One of them actually sat in his runaway car for 23 miles without putting it in neutral or hitting the emergency brake or switching the engine off. He even claimed to have reached down and tried to pry the stuck pedal loose. Now this is quite impossible to do in any car, lesser so one travelling at 94 mph. So forgive me for thinking there is more to this than meets the eye.
Is it just stupid drivers? Is it a plot by Govt. Motors (GM)? I do not know. But the downside to this obsession is that road safety takes a backseat. Toyota sells more than 2 million vehicles a year in the US alone. And these are largely driven by people who also call, text, eat and do many unmentionable things while they drive. The percentage of cars affected is quite small. But the media frenzy has ensured that there are a lot of nervous drivers on the road. And nervous drivers make more mistakes. Also the fact that such a large number of cars are recalled means there is a greater problem. This will probably never be of concern. Toyota sales are already going up since they have been proving the claims wrong. And soon the media will move on to something juicier. The funny thing about regulations is, a few cars with stuck pedals are a major issue. But thousands of drivers’ texting while eating a burger at 75 mph is not.
Meanwhile, global warming seems to have hit Tata Motors badly. Brand new Tata Nanos are spontaneously combusting without any apparent reason. Hopefully it is a ‘Nano’ sized problem for the world’s cheapest car.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home