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Toyota recall: Is this any way to treat a customer?

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Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

(Read caption) Toyota said Jan. 26 it would suspend sales of eight models at its dealerships, including this one in Pasadena, Calif. The move could hurt company earnings but may help repair its image with customers.

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[Editor's note: Click there for the sequel to the story. This post was also updated on Jan. 29. See notes below.]

It won't go down as one of the shining moments in corporate crisis management. Five days after deciding to recall eight of its models, Toyota finally decided to stop selling them.

Well, duh!

The immediate suspension of sales – and the anticipated temporary shutdown of the factories that produce them starting Feb. 1 – could blow a huge hole in Toyota's earnings at a time when the company is trying to recover from one of worst year's in automotive history.

But it's the right move, because something far more important than quarterly earnings is at stake: Toyota's reputation for safety and customer care.

Public reputations are, to put it plainly, delicate. Just ask Tiger Woods. With the decision to stop selling its eight recalled models because of a rare sudden-acceleration problem (see the list of affected models), Toyota has taken the first step at damage control.

But if it really wants to repair its image, Toyota needs to take many more steps. For a start, it could give Cherie Rossetti her money back.

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