Toyota dealers feel vindicated by probe

Throttle concerns were never a big deal in Japan

by Takahiro Fukada and Mizuho Aoki

Toyota dealers interviewed by The Japan Times voiced relief Wednesday over the result of a 10-month investigation by NASA and the U.S. Transportation Department clearing the automaker’s electronic throttle systems, saying they never lost confidence in the safety of the cars they are selling.

“Honestly speaking, the U.S. has finally understood . . . (Toyota cars) did not really have any problems,” said a 30-year-old Toyota dealer in Tokyo who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Although the scandal over unintended sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles has damaged the carmaker’s reputation, he said the latest announcement will help the firm regain public trust and he will be able to sell Toyota cars with confidence.

A 49-year-old dealer in Aichi Prefecture, where the giant automaker is headquartered, said the latest U.S. report “may be a relief for customers who had concerns over Toyota cars’ safety,” but he doubts whether the latest news will have any impact on his customers.

“Here in Japan, Toyota cars are not considered unsafe or dangerous,” said the Aichi dealer, who did not give his name. “When all the media coverage (on Toyota car safety) appeared, it didn’t have any influence (on our business).”

The U.S. Transportation Department’s report released Tuesday states that the electronic systems controlling Toyota Motor Corp.’s vehicle engines had nothing to do with the sudden acceleration events.

Another Toyota dealer in Tokyo agreed the news reports on Toyota cars over the past months didn’t have much negative impact on sales in Japan.

“I’ve sold many Prius units, but nobody canceled because of the media coverage (questioning Toyota cars’ safety),” the dealer in his 30s said.

Admitting he had received many questions about safety, he said once he fully explained the technology to the customers, most were satisfied.

“By giving them explanations in detail, many began considering buying one,” said the Tokyo dealer. “I have really good customers. So I had nothing to worry about.”

While many said the scandal didn’t have much impact on their business, some said the U.S. report came too late.

“Since it took as long as one year, it is a little too late even if (the U.S.) now says there was no problem,” said a 36-year-old dealer in Osaka Prefecture who also declined to give his name.

Believing Toyota cars had no technical problems, as widely reported in the U.S., he recalled the time when those problems were revealed in the U.S. and wondered what all the fuss was about.

“It honestly required some of our time and labor to deal with . . . our customers on the matter,” he said. “After hearing (the latest news), I honestly wonder what (the fuss over Toyota’s rapid acceleration reports) was about.”