A recent story in the Los Angeles Times Business Section reports that Toyota
Motor Corporation—who recently issued the biggest vehicle recall
in history—has now disclosed a number of dealings with safety issues
that show efforts to keep such issues from consumers at large. For example,
the company discovered during a routine test on its Sienna minivan in
April 2003 that a plastic panel could come loose and cause the gas pedal
to stick, potentially making the vehicle accelerate out of control. They
quietly redesigned the part and by that June every 2004 model year Sienna
off the assembly line came with the new panel. The company did not notify
tens of thousands of people who had already bought vans with the old panel, however.
Toyota also revealed a number of settlements with drivers complaining of
unexpected acceleration that, while the individual cases were handled
with buybacks or other remedies, the public at large was never notified.
It was also revealed that in at least one of these cases, the dealer attempted
to place the blame on the driver instead of the vehicle.
Such tactics—while never expected from a company like Toyota with
their reputation for quality—are not new at all.
“Manufacturers and dealers put many consumers through what I refer
to as ‘the gauntlet,’” said leading
California lemon law attorney Norman Taylor. “In dealing with a defective vehicle and
what could potentially be a recall, they use deception, delay and occasionally
Taylor understands such tactics extremely well. He has been a California
lemon law specialist since 1987, and he and his firm, Norman Taylor and
Associates, have handled over 8,000 cases for consumers with a 98 percent
“This gauntlet typically begins when a vehicle owner arrives the
second time for a repair of the same defect,” Taylor explained.
“The threat of it being a potential lemon sets off alarms at the
A number of deceptive tricks can then ensue, including trying to convince
the driver it’s their fault, altering the repair order to show something
different than the actual problem, explaining to the owner that the vehicle
was designed to operate that way, and many more.
It is quite likely that Toyota was following the path that many manufacturers
take in avoiding a vehicle recall.
“Manufacturers will do almost anything to avoid a recall,”
said Taylor. “A recall will affect hundreds of thousands or even
millions of vehicles and cost the manufacturer dearly. The cost is also
to the manufacturer’s reputation.”
The consumer suspecting he or she is driving a lemon can avoid “the
gauntlet” and many of these problems by contacting a qualified lemon
law attorney right away.