1.6 Toyota had a major problem with unexplained acceleration in several of its top models in 2010. It closed down production and stopped sales of multiple models. What types of research might Toyota have conducted to make these decisions?
Despite Toyota’s rich history dating back to 1957, the company came under fire when a potential safety issue, sticking accelerator pedals, was found in eight of its top models in 2010 (Toyota Motor Sales, 2014). The problem was identified in late January with Toyota briefly suspending the sale of the affected models. The company quickly responded with a solution to the problem in early February, just a few short weeks later. This paper will discuss the possible research types that Toyota may have employed in order to efficiently mitigate the issue.
It is safe to assume that a reporting study may have offered the terrible news to Toyota that fateful January in 2010. However, their justification for suspending the sale was probably supported by a combination of a descriptive study, an explanatory study, and a predictive study. In effect, the 2010 Toyota debacle is a good example of the application of all four types of applied research — “research dedicated to discovering solutions for immediate problems” (Cooper & Schindler, 2014, p. 23).
A descriptive study seems to just scratch the surface of the issue by collecting data that leads to questions such as, “What caused this to happen?”, “What models are affected?”, “How do we quickly and safely mitigate the issue?”, “How do we prevent this from happening in the future?”, and “What kind of consequences can we expect?”.
Truly answering these questions with well-supported and objective data would occur during an explanatory study — “attempts to explain the reasons for the phenomenon that the descriptive study only observed” (p. 23). In conjunction with the explanatory study, a predictive study would proficiently address issues of how the malfunction happened in the first place and, of equal if not more importance, how it can be avoided in the future.
It is clear that Toyota made use of these research types to their benefit. Despite heavy news coverage, Congressional hearings, paying three federal penalties, and a slight 0.3% drop in sales in 2010, Toyota improved internal checks and balances that ultimately led to improved quality and safety of its vehicles. Much is to be said about a company that suffered such a setback yet still remained the leader in retail brand with the Camry retaining its title as the best-selling passenger car in the United States (Toyota Motor Sales, 2014).