Wednesday, February 3, 2010
If you've been in a completely non-industrialized part of the world for the last month or two, you might have missed that Toyota has recalled about 9 million vehicles due to unintended acceleration problems and problems with pedals getting caught in floor mats. They have also stopped manufacturing or selling the affected models until a fix can be put in place. This is disastrous news for a company that has built its business on reliability.
Pundits have been all over the news discussing Toyota's future. On Marketplace this afternoon, one commentator said that it can take an entire generation -- 20 years or so -- for a company to recover from a problem like this. The host commented that an informal poll around the office showed that no one was going to buy the Toyotas even after they were fixed.
I understand why the brand has taken a hit. I understand that you can't turn a profit if you can't manufacture and sell your product. What seems unreasonable, however, is the sheer level of fear this is causing people.
Based on the mass anti-Toyota feelings around the country, you might think that hundreds or even thousands of people have been seriously injured or killed in accident involving these defects. People are treating their Toyotas as if they might turn on them at any moment, so the actual numbers involved might surprise you. For the floor mat problem, the NTSB has identified 2 incidents that caused 5 deaths. For the accidental acceleration problem, the NTSB has identified no fatalities at all. Other organizations say there have been 2,000 incidents with 19 deaths in the acceleration defect. So, at worst, we're talking about 24 deaths over up to 10 years.
I don't mean to discount the tragedy that has befallen the families and loved ones of these 24 people. Any traumatic death is awful, particularly when it is avoidable. I wouldn't be in this line of work if it weren't. You might feel that this number of deaths represent an unacceptable risk. If you do, it might be time for a little reality check. More than 43,600 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2006. If Toyotas present a completely unacceptable risk to the point that you will never drive one again, then, you probably shouldn't be driving at all, since driving itself is much, much more risky than any one brand.
We are sucked into this recall and its hype because it's Toyota and because it affects so many cars and hence so many consumers. Certainly if we can avoid another 24 deaths in these vehicles, we should. We shouldn't, however, confuse a big story with a big risk. We do riskier things than drive a Toyota every day.
Meet the Quarterback
- Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
- is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at www.SchoolCrisisConsultant.com
Contact the Quarterback
- ► 2011 (66)
- Tsunami Warnings in the Pacific
- Tacoma School Shooting: A Threat to a Colleague is...
- Seaworld Visitors Get More Than They Bargained For...
- Even Quarterbacks Need a Vacation
- The Austin Plane Crash
- Fear of Flying
- A New View of 9-11
- The Alabama Shootings
- Would You Luge Tomorrow?
- They're Gunning for Me
- Where's the Line Between Cautious and Snow Wimp?
- Religion and CISM and Public Schools
- Mass Casualties from Kleen Energy Explosion
- Living the Nightmare at Discovery Middle School
- What Is It About Shark Attacks?
- Toyotaphobia Sweeps the Nation
- Mourning the Ones at Fault
- It Hurts Us More Than it Hurts Them
- ▼ February (19)