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Relatively few complain about Toyota

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Despite a torrent of high-profile recalls that have tarnished Toyota's once stellar reputation, a study published Wednesday reveals that the automaker actually gets fewer customer complaints per car than the majority of its competitors.

Edmunds.com reviewed more than 200,000 complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over the last decade and found that Toyota ranked 17th among the top 20 automakers in the overall number of complaints per vehicle sold.

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The results come amid a series of recalls totaling more than 8.1 million Toyotas worldwide, including 400,000 of the popular 2010 Prius hybrid for problems associated with sticking brake pedals, software glitches and faulty floormats.

The study was based on the percentage of complaints each automaker received versus the total number of vehicles they sold in the United States between 2001 and 2010.

As a result, British carmaker Land Rover had the highest proportion of complaints relative to the number of cars it sold. The company received 0.6% of the total complaints in the database, while its sales amounted to only 0.1% of all new cars sold in the United States.

Meanwhile, Toyota had 9.1% of all the complaints in the database. But the company was number 17 on the list because its sales made up 13.5% of the U.S. market.

According to the study, Toyota had fewer complaints than its American rivals. Ford (F, Fortune 500) was number 10 on the list, while General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) came in at number 11.

The only automakers to receive fewer complaints than Toyota were Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and the Mercedes-made Smart Car.

Among the other automakers that ranked high on the list were Suzuki and Isuzu, which came in at numbers 2 and 3 respectively. German automaker Volkswagen came in at number 4.

The complaints lodged against Toyota ranged from minor problems with lighting to more serious issues such as sudden acceleration and difficulty steering. But the study did not rate the reported incidences for severity.

Edmunds.com said that it found some unreliable reports in the database, including one complaint indicating that 99 people had died in one vehicle as a result of an accident. It also said that about 10% of the complaints appeared to be duplicates.

Quality control: Not just Toyota's problem

While the issues raised by Toyota's recent recalls shouldn't be overlooked, quality control concerns are apparent across the entire automobile industry, said Jeremy Anwyl, Edmunds.com chief executive.

"A broader view shows that consumer complaints reflect an industry issue, not just a Toyota issue," said Anwyl. "It is no longer an option for car companies to dismiss consumer complaints, even if the event is difficult to replicate or diagnose."

Some automakers assume that customer complaints are the result of driver error and not necessarily a reflection of design problems, said Jeannine Fallon, an Edmunds.com analyst.

"It depends on the culture of the car company," she said. "But it's clear now that Toyota has not had very many conversations with NHTSA." To top of page

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