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Toyota Tries to Drive Forward While Recalls Keep Coming

Wednesday, 19 May 2010 | 9:52 AM ET
2010 Toyota Prius
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2010 Toyota Prius

They want to move forward.

But making sure they don't repeat past mistakes keeps reminding them (and the public) of where they've been.

It's the yin and yang of where Toyota executives find themselves this spring and summer.

They would like nothing more than to move on past the recall crisis that nearly crippled the company, but getting lawmakers and the public to stop discussing/thinking about the automaker's reliability problems, there's a fresh reminder.

The latest comes today from Japan, where the company announced it is recalling 4,500 Lexus models in Japan and perhaps as many as 11,500 worldwide for steering issues. Two years ago a company selling over seven million vehicles having to recall 4,500 would barely warrant a mention.

Not anymore. Ever since Toyota got caught dragging its feet handling recalls, every safety alert from them generates news stories.

Need more proof?

On Thursday, Toyota executives will be back on Capitol Hill to answer questions about the company's testing of electronics in its vehicles. It's a follow-up to the high profile congressional hearings held in February. No major news is expected to come from Thursday's hearing. Still, you can bet there will be plenty of reporters there to report on where Toyota is in its efforts to clean up its act.

This is the world Toyota finds itself in these days. As much as it runs commercials about a renewed commitment to safety and building the cars and trucks Americans want, it still faces reminders of its troubles.

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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