Toyota Motor Corp. is in the midst of a worldwide recall that has affected more than 8 million vehicles, but those shopping cars locally will find no faulty vehicles on the lot at GO Toyota in Clinton, company officials said.
Steve Stefanovich, president of GO Automotive, said a tireless effort has been made since the first of three recalls was announced last month to repair all problems and answer any concerns from customers. Letters are being mailed out — some already have been — to local customers informing them of potential issues in their vehicles.
“Their care and their safety is of the utmost importance,” said Stefanovich. “We have taken this very seriously, because we certainly don’t want any of our customers to be unsafe, and we want minimal inconvenience to any of our customers.”
In order to better accommodate those customers, GO Toyota has expanded its service department hours to a full day Saturday, while also in the process of hiring another technician to handle the overflow. Along with its service hours, the dealership has also expanded its shuttle service to cut down on the inconvenience to customers, Stefanovich said.
The measures have been made in the wake of a global recall of millions of Toyotas.
Toyota Motor Corp. recalled 437,000 Prius and other hybrid vehicles worldwide this week to fix brake problems, bringing the number of vehicles recalled globally by Toyota to 8.5 million, including previous recalls for floor mats that can trap gas pedals and faulty gas pedals that are slow to return to the idle position.
Stefanovich said he had not received the first complaint prior to the first recall announcement.
“We had not seen anything, up until the day this was announced, and weren’t even familiar with this being a problem,” he said. “It was all brand new news to us. When the public heard it, that was the first time we heard it. The common misnomer is that all Toyotas are affected. It’s only a few models, and it’s not all of them.”
The company is recalling the 2010 Prius gas-electric hybrid — the world’s top-selling hybrid car. The automaker is also recalling two other hybrid models in Japan, the Lexus HS250h sedan, sold in the U.S. and Japan, and the Sai, which is sold only in Japan. In the U.S., Toyota will recall 133,000 Prius cars and 14,500 Lexus HS250h vehicles. Nearly 53,000 Priuses are also being recalled in Europe.
When the recalls came, so did the phone calls to the Clinton-based dealership.
“A lot of phones starting ringing when the news broke, because of the way it was portrayed in the national news,” Stefanovich said. “People were being concerned that didn’t need to be concerned. The public hasn’t been told the whole story.”
The whole story is that such recalls are commonplace to cut down on accidents, and, in this case, are quickly remedied.
Stefanovich said many of the headlines were made because of Toyota’s place at the top of the automaking industry. Toyota, he said, has been in business for 70 years. Eighty percent of all Toyota vehicles sold in the last 20 years are still on the road today. The recall affects a small number in the scheme of the industry and all steps are being taken to rectify situations in vehicles, he said.
At GO, those steps have already been taken.
“We stopped selling our new models in waiting for particular parts to come in so we could install them and make all proper recall repairs,” Stefanovich remarked. “The whole purpose of a recall is to take tests and identify something we can make better.”
A field expert has been sent around to dealerships to make sure all proper measures are taken in quality control. Parts are shipped to GO and the deficiencies, whether a pedal or a floormat, are able to be serviced in minimal time.
“Depending on which recall it is, it takes anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours,” noted Stefanovich. “About half of our inventory was affected and about half was not affected. All cars have been serviced and the recall has been taken care of. Every car on our lot, it either wasn’t affected or has been repaired.”
Recall ‘not a
All told, the recall affected about 40 cars on the GO lot. Throughout the process of fixing existing issues, numerous other cars have been shipped to the Clinton dealership. All new cars coming on to the lot have already been serviced with regards to the recall, company officials said.
“If it had been a problem, it’s been taken care of,” said Chris Fann, general manager of GO Toyota.
“No one will be delivered a car that has a problem,” added Stefanovich.
Recalls are “not a unique process” when speaking about any product, he said. Toyota is not even the only automaker issuing recalls this week.
Honda has issued a recall on nearly 1 million vehicles to fix driver-side air bags in the 2001 and 2002 Accord, Civic, Odyssey CR-V and some 2002 Acura TLs. Of the roughly 1 million, about 40 percent are in the U.S.
“With Toyota, there’s truly a huge commitment to their product and safety,” said Stefanovich. “The last few days, we’ve been talking with our service customers. The overwhelming feeling we have received from those customers is that they’re with us.”
Fann said everyone had a “Toyota story.” One customer had his for 12 years, another had theirs for 20. Fann and Stefanovich each have their stories of their own, and their families in Toyotas.
“If we thought there was any issue, I think that would change,” said Stefanovich. “Chris and I are probably more disappointed about this than anyone else. Causing any inconvenience or doubt in anyone’s mind is not what we want to do.”
Stefanovich said he hopes the dealership’s place in the community, and Toyota’s strive for excellence, will keep consumer confidence high. GO Toyota, a perennial President’s Award winner, has been in business for decades in Clinton — and has enjoyed success.
“That’s because of our concern for our customers and because we are part of our community, and want to continue to do that,” said Stefanovich. “We’ve staffed up so we can handle routine maintenance and other concerns, along with the recall issue. In a short time, this will be behind us, just as other recalls have been for other companies.”
The most important thing, Stefanovich noted, was customer safety.
“We see this as a great opportunity to be in contact with our customers,” Stefanovich said. “We just want to make sure everyone’s safe and we’re going to take care of them. Toyota has an extraordinarily great name in quality and safety. That has grown the company and will continue to grow the company.”
“We feel like it’s going to make Toyota better, head to toe,” Fann attested. “It’s just continuous improvement.”
Anyone with a question or concern about the recall or other Toyota-related issues is encouraged by Stefanovich to call 910-592-2389.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 121, or by email at email@example.com.