Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Toyota Motor Corporation: Airbag Controversy (2010)

Based on a Paper by Michael Smola
Summary by Chris Bohnwagner

 Toyota has had a long reputation as being a reliable car company, and they advertise it as one of their main selling points. Although they have had multiple problems in the past with parts in their cars not functioning well or not performing at all. In a recent example in October of 2010, Andrew Mitchell posted a video on YouTube showing pictures of an accident he had in his Toyota Yaris and explained how the accident was bad enough were his car spun around once and the airbag never went off in this severe accident. This raised a large amount of controversy, their was a large response to this video of people saying that they have had similar problems in their own accidents with the Yaris. In response to the video Toyota made accusations to the couple who made the video that they tampered with the vehicle to make the collision look worse then what it was. Toyota claimed that that they were trying to possible gain money through fraud, also there was a large response from Yaris owners who claimed they had similar experiences. A large issue is Toyota never looked into the problem they just brushed it off because they claimed it as an attempt for people to get money. Toyota already had a recall for the Yaris back in 2007 when they recalled almost twenty thousand of them for a problem with the side airbags. This was very costly for Toyota but was an example of how they were trying to fix their product to benefit their customers. In this case Toyota just determined it was a case of customers trying to scam Toyota and in response to other people saying they had similar issues that it was a rare occurrence and was no fault of their manufacturing.

In contrast to the four ethical theories Individualism, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Virtue theory Toyota  violated three of the theories. Individualism would agree with everything that Toyota did, this is because Individualism believes that you can make a profit however you want as long as you stay within the laws and Toyota never did anything illegal, they did what was best for their company profit wise. If they were to announce a recall for the Yaris they would have lost a large sum of money from doing so in turn hurting their business greatly. Also by doing the recall it wouldn't insure keeping the customers who are upset so an individualist would think they made the proper decision. Under Utilitarianism Toyota would have made the wrong decision in my own opinion in contrast to what Michael Smola had wrote, this is because under Utilitarianism you want to make the most people happy as possible. In the case where people were complaining of the vehicle's airbags not working during accidents Toyota should have taken action and instead of just ignoring and brushing off the complaints as false and of their consumers wanting money, they should have run tests to see if there was a problem. This would have increased happiness among Toyota customers because this would have shown that Toyota cares about helping out the customers and that they are not just using them for money. Although you could argue that this would displease the stakeholders because since they may have to replace all the airbags in the car it would cost the company a large sum of money which would affect the stakeholders.Toyota would have also violated the theory of Kantianism because a part of Kantianism is that you should give everyone the ability to make a rational decision so when someone is looking at cars to buy, Toyota isn't letting them make a rational decision by trying to hide the fact that there could be a problem with the airbags in the Yaris. Also Toyota is showing that they are using  people for a means to end, the end being money. They are making money off these people and when there could be a problem with their cars they produced and they don't want to spend the money to try to fix the problem or even investigate the problem, this shows they don't care about their customers at all. The Virtue theory includes four main virtues courage, honesty, self control, and justice. Toyota didn't violate all of these virtues but they did violate two of them, in the matter of courage Toyota failed because they didn't have the courage to try to fix the problem or investigate it, they just brushed it off. Also they weren't honest about the situation, Bill Kwong who is the media representative of Toyota claimed that there engineers looked into the situation and found nothing wrong while they never did investigate the problem at all. Toyota would have violated the virtue theory because of not showing confidence or honesty.

These facts and analyses are based on an original research paper by Michael Smola "Toyota Motor Corporations" (2012)
Berenis, Michael. "Toyota Yaris Airbag Deployment Failure Controversy." Examiner, 17 Nov. 2010. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.
"Toyota Recalls Nearly 20,000 Yaris." - What Car? N.p., 21 May 2007. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.

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