Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Toyota Recall is Not News

I have been watching the Toyota recall with some amusement.   I figure that most cars I have owned have had a  problem with the gas pedal sticking.

The pedal on my 1964 Plymouth Fury would tend to stick if I didn’t lubricate the linkages periodically.  I eventually found a stronger spring floating around in the garage somewhere,  and that fixed it.

My dad’s 1970 Chevy Impala pedal stuck too.  The gas pedal cable had developed a frayed spot and it caught on its sheath.  I remember putting my foot under the pedal to pull it back up.  It got worse as time went on.  Finally it stuck so badly that my dad had to drop the car out of gear and turn it off.  He then got the cable replaced.  No lawsuit, no recall, just normal maintenance.  Stuff wears out and fails.

My 2001 Mercury Sable had the pedals so close together, and so evenly matched in height, that I often would hit both pedals when trying to brake.  It took some getting used to.  I imagine that a number of people sent their Sables sailing through their garage doors.

And every car I have ever owned has had the floor mat ride up on the pedals at some point.

So how many people have been killed by this Toyota “problem”?  As far as I can tell from the news, there were 4 people killed in an accident in California and another four in an accident in Texas.   This is such a ridiculously low death rate per car manufactured that there would probably be more value in terms of lives saved per dollar spent if they just offered a free program to replace pitted windshields or worn out brake pads.  The free maintenance inspection that comes with the pedal fix will probably save many more lives than the fix itself.

I remember around the year 2000, Ford had a problem with tires disintegrating on top-heavy SUV’s that killed somewhere between 200 and 400 people.  It was a big deal in the press at that time, but the Toyota recall is getting even more press.  I don't understand why.

Maybe it is because we expect American cars to have a continuous stream of failures, but Japanese cars are supposed to be perfect.  Or maybe it is because every time something fails we now call it a defect, where in the past it was just a part wearing out.  Or maybe it is because we expect to be taken care of, without ever having to worry about anything nowadays.

I donno, but I think I want to go out and buy a 1956 pickup truck that is so full of design “defects” that if it were built today, the CEO of the company would be thrown into prison.

The 1956 Ford F-100 pickup truck had the gas tank inside the cab with you, right behind your seat.

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