TEXT OF STORY
Bill Radke: Toyota acknowledged today there were design problems with the anti-lock brake system in the new Prius, which went on sale last year. The company says it had fixed the problem for Prius models sold since late January, but that it was still investigating how to inform people who had bought them earlier. Then there all those cars Toyota stopped making last week because of an accelerator problem that’s still being studied. The company says it will re-start production on Monday, with workers installing a redesigned gas pedal. Marketplace’s Alisa Roth reports.
Alisa Roth: When Toyota stopped selling the recalled vehicles, it also shut down the six assembly lines that were making them.
Jeffrey Liker is a professor of industrial engineering at the University of Michigan, and an expert on Toyota’s manufacturing systems:
Jeffrey Liker: The Toyota production system is really focused on flexibility.
Liker says Toyota’s used to making big changes on the assembly lines — slowing things down and speeding them up again at short notice.
Liker: They’ve especially done that in the last year, because the recession, because demand has been so volatile. For them to go from “we’re not making any parts” to suddenly “we’re making parts at full-line speed” is kind of elementary to them.
Toyota says it decides how many cars to make based on consumer demand, and that it’s prepared to adjust production when it sees what response is like.
But it may turn out the pedal’s not at fault. The government’s investigating, and if something else is causing the problem, Toyota could change its production plans again.
I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.
Radke: And in the last couple of weeks, Toyota stock has dropped almost 25 percent in Japan. That’s a loss of $30 billion in market value.
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