While full details are still making their way down the pipeline, the general story is that Toyota’s small-car division Daihatsu, which makes the Raize, Vios, Wigo and the Avanza/Veloz twins, had allegations of fraud lobbed against it because of a modification on the Vios and Wigo units that it produces for Toyota.
This kind of modification wouldn't otherwise catch the attention of most people, but it's how and why it was done that's become the subject of scrutiny.
A little cheat?
According to Daihatsu, a notch in the door panels was found in units sent to the ASEAN New Car Assessment Programme (ASEAN NCAP).
As it turned out, this notch prevented the door panel from breaking into large, sharp chunks that had the potential to cause serious injuries to occupants in the event that the curtain airbags are deployed – a flaw that would otherwise cause the cars to fail.
A report submitted to Daihatsu outlined the problem, which was that the notch was subsequently missing in production models that found their way to dealerships all over Asia and the Middle East.
It should be noted, however, that Daihatsu's official statement on the matter is that the company had no idea this modification was made specifically for crash-testing purposes and that the group responsible was acting "without approval from the company."
What happens next?
In this kind of event, two things have to happen.
First, a redesign has to be submitted, crash-tested and approved, and all subsequent units have to carry this modification. Second, a recall is issued for vehicles that were sold with defective door panels and replaced for free.
So far, there has been no public recall issued. However, a public apology has been issued not only by Daihatsu president Soichiro Okudaira, but also statements denouncing the supposed cheating have been issued by both current Toyota president Koji Sato and former Toyota president Akio Toyoda.
It should be noted that this isn't the first time the head honchos of the company and its subsidiaries have taken a harsh stance on cheating, with a recent emissions scandal in Toyota's Hino division causing the company to fall out of the Japanese giant's graces.
Retests look good
On top of this, the company has conducted tests on unmodified units, in line with the standards of the ASEAN NCAP.
And in the two tests, the affected cars did not experience the supposed breakage.
Still, erring on the side of caution, Daihatsu decided to stop production and hold distribution of these models until a third test can be made to confirm the results, in the presence of objective inspection and certification authorities.
It's likely that any recall decision is depending on the results of that last test, but if the first two are any indication, there probably is no cause for concern on that front.
Philippine market safe
But what does all this mean to us, the end consumer?
First of all, Filipinos have nothing to worry about – the new Wigo, Vios and their ASEAN derivatives aren’t sold yet in the Philippines, so the models we will get will arrive after the matter has been resolved.
And while the same Daihatsu platform is used by the Avanza and Veloz, the door panel itself is vastly different from the sedan and hatchback, meaning the chances of any untoward incident is minimal.
Second, and more importantly, Toyota and its subsidiary getting in front of the problem as quickly as they did indicates that they take issues like this very seriously.
Their response to the scandal has been the definition of professional – a denunciation of the action, a promise to rectify it, as well as punishment for those involved.
Lastly, this and future models, regardless of manufacturer, will start exercising more caution, resulting in better quality cars in the future.
And when the quality goes up, especially for vehicle safety, everybody wins!
Would you buy one of these cars knowing the scandal that happened? Let us know in the comments below.
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Mark has been into cars since he was in kindergarten, and he carried that into his college life studying as an Engineer. His outlook on life is the same as his outlook on cars - "When in doubt, power out!"