Runaway Toyotas: From Denial to Acceptance

Runaway Toyotas: From Denial to Acceptance

Posted on January 26 by Phil Edmonston
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Sudden, unintended acceleration is a phrase all automakers and car owners fear, for different reasons. For drivers it means one's car can turn into an unguided deadly missile; for automakers it means that millions of dollars will be spent for corrective repairs, lawsuits, and PR campaigns. Some models may not survive the bad publicity. When probed by the U. S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Toyota denied for five years they had a sudden unintended acceleration problem with their entire lineup that had allegedly caused 19 fatalities. Then in late, 2009, the automaker admitted sudden acceleration was a problem due to the placement of floor mats and announced a floor mat recall. Toyota added that NHTSA was satisfied with the company's response. NHTSA quickly replied NO WAY! and continued its probe. Several months later, Toyota recalled the floor mat recall and added two additional campaigns: one to fix a sticking gas pedal and the other to install a manual over-ride. The recalls affect 6.5 million Toyota and Lexus models (some cars are covered by several recalls). Furthermore, in an unprecedented action on January 26, Toyota suspended the production and sales of the following vehicles until a final fix is determined: 2009-2010 RAV4 2009-2010 Corolla 2009-2010 Matrix 2005-2010 Avalon 2007-2010 Camry 2010 Highlander 2007-2010 Tundra 2008-2010 Sequoia The initial 'stonewalling' by Toyota harkens back to a decade ago when Toyota first blamed engine oil sludging on owners neglecting to change their oil in time. Then the company admitted it was a design problem and agreed to rebuild or replace the engines if owners could produce confirmation of every oil change. After small claims courts and class-action claims popped up everywhere, Toyota dropped the oil receipt requirement. The sudden acceleration issue seems to have gone through the same Toyota process of denial followed by acceptance. Says Jim Motavalli, a New York Times contributor to The Mother Nature Network:
Indeed, Toyota’s handling of this has been ham-handed, because it’s long been obvious that many of the reported cases have nothing to do with floor mats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating a 2009 Texas case in which a Toyota Avalon spun off a Dallas road and into a pond, killing four. The floor mats? They were in the trunk. The recall should have been comprehensive from the get-go. A Los Angeles Times report, hotly contested by Toyota, concluded, “A peerless reputation for quality and safety has helped Toyota become the world’s largest automaker. But even as its sales have soared, the company has delayed recalls, kept a tight lid on disclosure of potential problems and attempted to blame human error in cases where owners claimed vehicle defects.
Motavalli concludes that sudden acceleration may also be related to electromagnetic interference in throttle-by-wire systems and suggests this possibility be checked out. In the meantime, drivers trapped in a run-away car are advised to press firmly on the brakes and shift into Neutral. Yeah, you bet your life!

Phil Edmonston

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014
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Phil Edmonston

Phil Edmonston, Canada’s toughest customer, is a former MP and a long-time consumer advocate. For over forty-five years, he has written more than 150 consumer guides in the bestselling Lemon-Aid series. About three decades ago Nissan and Honda sued Phil for five million dollars — and lost.