Toyota Recalls More Cars, But Customers Stay Loyal

Loyal Toyota customers defend the embattled brand.

Feb. 9, 2010 — -- Toyota said today is recalling 437,000 of its fuel-efficient Prius and other cars due to brake problems, the latest in a string of safety woes at the embattled automaker.

While company officials scrambled to save face and reassure customers in the face of the new recall and that of more than 8 million other Toyota vehicles, some owners are loyally standing pat.

Dozens of readers sent messages Monday in defense of the brand.

"I will be as loyal and supportive to them as they have been to me," said Gilbert Villanueva, of Northridge, Calif. Villanueva said he has owned Toyotas for 32 years and currently a drives a 1993 Toyota truck and a 2007 Camry that has been recalled.

"They never let me down before," he said. "I am confident of their solution."

Toyota has reportedly recalled some 8 million vehicles worldwide, including 2.3 million in the U.S. following concerns of sticking gas pedals that lead to random acceleration. (Click here for Toyota's latest list of recalled vehicles.) Last fall, Toyota recalled millions of vehicles due to ill-fitting floor mats that also affected gas pedals.

"This is just a blip for Toyota," said Denise Mangini, a Parkland, Fla. resident and the owner of both a Toyota Camry, which is on the recall list, and a Toyota 4Runner, which is not. "They still make the safest vehicles on the road."

Michael Quincy, an automotive specialist at "Consumer Reports," said he's not surprised that Toyota customers are standing by their cars.

"I think Toyota has a very feverish following," he said, noting that the automaker has scored points with consumers for both its trendy Prius models and, notwithstanding the recalls, its safety record.

Toyota models, he said, perform well in crash tests run by the government and by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Drivers responding to Consumer Reports' satisfaction survey, meanwhile, rated the Prius as the top-scoring car for five years straight before it lost the title to the Dodge Challenger last month. The Prius' satisfaction rating is still 88 percent, Quincy said.

Toyota Defenders Blame Media, Government

Some supporters of Toyota argue the media has overblown the recall issue.

"I believe the media has been unfairly critical. Machines sometimes don't work the way they were intended," said Paul Lozzi, of Charlotte, N.C. "It is not like this has never happened to GM , Ford etc."

Others suggest the U.S. government has treated the Japanese automaker unfairly in comparison to its domestic rivals, particular General Motors and Chrylser, which were bailed out by the government last year.

At a hearing before Congress last week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said owners of recalled vehicles should stop driving them. LaHood later backtracked, saying he had only meant to direct that warning to drivers who had actually experienced problems with sticking pedals.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said last week that the U.S. government's stake in GM and Chrysler would not affect its handling of safety recalls.

It "would not have any impact on this administration's commitment to making sure that Americans are kept safe on our roads," he said.

Though Toyota supporters made up a slight majority of the more than 100 messages sent to, there was no shortage of Toyota detractors.

Some cited disatisfactory experiences with Toyota cars while a few said it was some Toyota dealers' responses to ABC News reporting that turned them off to the brand.

ABC News reported Monday that dealers in five southeastern states pulled their advertisements from local ABC television affiliates due to "excessive stories on the Toyota issues."

"I don't see Toyota as an infallible company that never makes mistakes," President Akio Toyoda said at a press conference Tuesday in Tokyo. "We will face up to the facts and correct the problem, putting customers' safety and convenience first."