Toyota driver: ‘Everybody messes up’

By Carlie Kollath and Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Toyota drivers are standing by the automaker, saying that despite the recalls, they would buy another vehicle from the company.
Much speculation has been swirling about the damage to Toyota’s reputation and image after the Japanese automaker recalled millions of vehicles due to safety concerns. Problems with gas pedals and floor mats led to the recall of specific years of several models, including Camry, Corolla, Avalon, Highlander and Tundra.
On Thursday, the Nikkei reported that Toyota will recall about 270,000 Prius in the United States and Japan to correct a brake problem. Also on Thursday, the U.S. Transportation Department said it has opened an investigation into brake problems in the 2010 Prius.
Yet, a Daily Journal survey of Toyota drivers found that while many of them are following the news about the recalls, they don’t think less of Toyota, which plans to open a plant in Blue Springs when the economy improves.
“I think everybody messes up,” said Leah Steinmetz, the owner of a 1999 Camry, which is not included in the recall.
She bought the car four years ago after her Ford Explorer gave her problems.
“This car has been through everything,” Steinmetz said. “It’s the best car I’ve ever had.”
Susan Johnson of Tupelo said she has a “Toyota family” that will be sticking with the automaker. Her loyalty also is helped out by her brother, who works for Toyota in Georgetown, Ky.
She’s had a Camry, Sequoia and a 4Runner. She currently drives a 2001 Highlander and her son drives a Prius.
“I still like Toyota,” Johnson said. “I still would buy another Toyota. It’s the only thing we’ve ever had.”
She said she chooses the automaker’s products because of the high quality and she has no fear about that changing in the future.
“They’ll get it fixed,” she said. “They’re just good cars.”
As for the current onslaught of recalls, she said Toyota has handled them like a regular company would.
“I think all companies kind of drag their feet before they do anything,” she said. “I think they have to get their feet to the fire.”
Mike McLellan, general manager of Carlock Toyota in Tupelo, said the dealership had received a small shipment of the small reinforcement plate for vehicles affected by the accelerator pedal recall.
“It’s not nearly enough, but we’ll be getting more,” he said, adding that the repair takes about 30 minutes.
McClellan said Toyota owners will be notified by mail in the next week or so if their vehicle is being recalled, but added that if drivers are worried, they can visit the dealership’s service department.
“We can tell them whether or not they’ll be getting a letter,” he said.

A little concern
Some Toyota owners are staying loyal but admit they’re worried.
Pamela Cox has three Toyotas driven by her family members, including a 2008 Camry her oldest daughter drives.
It’s been recalled for the floor mat problem but Cox said she hasn’t gotten notice whether or not it will have to get the accelerator pedal fixed.
“My youngest daughter drives a Highlander, but we’re not sure if it’s going to be recalled,” she said.
Having driven Toyotas since the 1990s, Cox said she’s been very happy with the vehicles.
But with the latest news about the Prius, Cox said some doubts have been raised in her mind.
“I have to admit I’m a little uncomfortable now,” she said.
On the other hand, Wayne Piatt said he’s not worried at all. He and his wife, Nadia, drive a 2008 Camry Hybrid which was recalled because of the floor mat problem. However, Wayne Piatt said there haven’t been any other problems and he is confident Toyota will fix them if there are.
“This is our third Toyota, and we’ve been happy,” he said. “I’m still going to buy Toyotas. It’s not like I’m going to go trade it in.”

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com. Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.