Keeping Perspective on Lexus Recall

Lexus GS 450h Engine

Bloomberg is reporting that Lexus has been aware of the engine problems behind the recent recall since 2007:

The carmaker received the first customer complaints in March 2007 in Japan regarding defective valve springs that may cause engines to stall, Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said by phone today from Tokyo.

The problem occurs when foreign substances enter the material used to make the part, causing the spring to weaken and break, Tokyo-based spokeswoman Monika Saito said. While Toyota decided to address the problem in August 2008 by altering the design of the valve spring and making it thicker, the company didn’t feel that a recall was necessary given the rarity of the problem at the time, she said.

Toyota received 220 complaints in Japan and 210 from overseas, Saito said. The company decided to initiate a recall after acknowledging a rising trend in the complaints, she said.

While this quote may sound well-reasoned, the article’s title Toyota Received Complaints About Lexus Defect in 2007 is anything but, insinuating that Toyota has been dishonest and slow to react. It’s this tone that’s used in articles all over the Internet, which in turn is feeding an unnecessary hysteria.

What’s missing from all these articles is any sense of reasonable expectation. Surely, no one believes Lexus should have issued a recall the minute that first faulty valve spring was discovered in 2007? More test cases were necessary, and once that number was reached, Lexus reacted. Recalls of this magnitude are a result of extensive research and much analysis, and it’s not something that happens over night. To expect otherwise would put so much pressure on all manufacturers that it would certainly bankrupt the entire automotive industry.

There’s no question that a mistake has been made, but let’s keep it in perspective: to date, 0.15% of owners have reported a problem, with the estimate that only 0.2% will ever be affected by this valve spring issue. Lexus is performing an extensive and expensive recall when it’s the last thing the brand needed. This doesn’t strike me as a company trying to hide something, instead it shows me that Lexus is putting their customers first, regardless of the cost.

[Source: Bloomberg]