Things haven’t been going too well for Toyota lately. World’s largest automaker was forced to recall a number of vehicles in November of last year already when the incursion of a wrong floor mat was found to cause pedal entrapment. Last month, the company announced a recall of so much as 1.8 million cars from across Europe and 2.3 cars from the United States after a problem with the accelerator pedal was discovered. Eight different models are affected by the problem, sales of which have been suspended. An additional 1.1 recalls were issued last Thursday.
Tadashi Arashima, chief executive of Toyota Motor Europe, understands “that the current situation is creating concerns” which he deeply regrets. No accidents resulting from the malfunctioning accelerator pedals have been reported yet. “The potential accelerator pedal issue only occurs in very rare circumstances,” according to Arashima. Nevertheless, the company is taking millions of cars off the market.
How could this be allowed to happen in the so carefully regulated markets of the Western World? Shouldn’t agencies as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States as well as the dozens of similar organizations across Europe and in Japan protect the consumer from this sort of corporate irresponsibility? Shouldn’t the regular safety inspections as required by law, which demand of citizens that they pay up every so many years for the knowledge of driving a safe vehicle, have noticed this flaw in Toyota’s latest models? How is it possible that millions of unsafe cars hit the roads across Europe and America in spite of all the taxpayers’ money spent on trying to prevent exactly that?
The reality, of course, is that unless perhaps in a totalitarian state that controls every single aspect of production and sales, no amount of regulation can prevent that mistakes are made.
Does that mean that regulatory agencies are useless altogether? No. The fact that a private automaker as Toyota takes care of its own problems, does.
Safety defects and production errors will probably always happen. But the free market provides the most efficient and the most righteous mechanism for solving it. Toyota demonstrates that. Rather than risking lawsuits and a shattered consumer trust in its products, the company is acting rationally and responsibly by recalling millions of cars even if, in the short run, it suffers financially. It needs no government bureaucrat to protect the public safety. In a free market, prestige, especially for corporations that operate worldwide, is a powerful asset. If the consumer loses confidence in the reliability of its products, even the largest automaker in the world can go bankrupt — which is precisely why Toyota will go a long way to ensure that such confidence is maintained.