Toyota of Albany faring well despite recall fiasco

KK Snyder

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Despite ongoing work to satisfy the Toyota acceleration pedal recall, the owner of the local Toyota dealership says it’s business as usual on his lot.

Alan Murphy, owner of Toyota of Albany, said the demand for recall work has eased in the past 10 days, but the first eight weeks were hectic. So far they’ve performed the 15 minute task on about 600 cars – 400 for their own customers and 200 on cars bought at other dealerships, he said.

While some backlog of auto service needs unrelated to the recall was experienced in recent weeks, Murphy said the workload depends on the day of the week and how many folks drop in for servicing rather than scheduling an appointment.

“There are only eight hours in a day and we have 14 techs and about 20,000 units in the area,” he said, noting that about 60 percent of customers schedule an appointment for the recall work. “The crew is handling (the workload), though we have worked some additional hours.”

Ironically, Toyota of Albany has actually had to contact customers and ask them to bring their cars in for the recall work, he said.

“The recall has had almost a reverse affect. We’re having to solicit customers to get the recall work done. They’re not having problems so they figure they’ll just wait and get it done next time they are in for routine servicing.

“We’ve had about two customers who were nervous about the problem,” said Murphy, who purchased the existing dealership in 2008. “We haven’t had a customer complain about acceleration in the past six years.”

To help ease customer concerns, Toyota of Albany set the recall work up in an assembly line format so customers can see exactly what is being done during the short task.

When asked if local sales of new or previously owned Toyotas have been affected by the recall, Murphy reported that Toyota’s sales were up almost 40 percent in March, with regard to the entire corporation. He says the company has been unfairly targeted following the recall, despite the fact that General Motors is the number one manufacturer with acceleration complaints.

“All manufacturers have the same problem. There are two companies in the United States that build accelerator pedals and everyone uses them. One (company) is good and one has problems,” explained Murphy. “The real problem, as I see it, is that other manufacturers have the same problem, they just aren’t doing the recall.”

Instead, he said, some dealers and manufacturers are offering an extra $1,000 to customers trading in Toyotas. Murphy contends that, companywide, there were only 13 acceleration complaints among 22 million vehicles and that no accidents were caused by the problem, though several have made claims to the contrary. He cited at least two of the individuals reporting accidents caused by the accelerator pedals are being charged with making false claims.

In January, Toyota issued a recall on 2.3 million vehicles due to reports of sticking accelerator pedals, but delayed that recall until pressured to take action. Documents provided to Congress and the Transportation Department, including company emails, reveal company executives were aware of the acceleration problem prior to bowing to the recall demand.

Among those documents, made available to the public last week for the first time, was an email sent in January from Irving Miller, then a group vice president for Toyota Motor Sales USA, to another Toyota staff member. The email stated: “The time to hide from this one is over. We need to come clean.”