Toyota announces a Fix for Sudden Acceleration: Focus on Stuck Mats

After years of applying band aids to its Sudden Unintended Acceleration problem, Toyota will finally offer a vehicle-based remedy to fix SUA problems involving floor mats that can entrap the accelerator pedals in eight Toyota and Lexus models.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced this morning that

Toyota plans to reconfigure the accelerator pedal on 3.8 million vehicles going back to the 2004 model year.  Other fixes include modifying the floor area around the pedal and in some models, installing a brake-to-idle override that allows the driver to quickly stop a vehicle in an unintended acceleration incident and newly-designed replacement driver- and front-passenger side all-weather mats.

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby! The Pneumatic Tire

Have you heard the one about The Pneumatic Tire? If you’re involved in tire litigation, the defense may have waved this august tome in front of a judge claiming that it is the Tire Bible handed down from on high by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, itself.

And this would be somewhat true. In 2005 NHTSA did contract J.D. Walter and Alan Gent of the University of Akron to act as assembling editors for a low-budget update of the 1981 edition of the Mechanics of Pneumatic Tires. With a total project cost of $89,575, Walter and Gent recruited top-level executives in the tire industry – including the good folks at Cooper Tire—to serve as authors and members of the editorial board.  The work was to have been thoroughly vetted at the agency, but according to several sources, NHTSA passed a very light hand over the project and the final version consisted of a wholesale borrowing from the original, complete with decades old data, with some new chapters added to reflect technological advances.

The End of the World as We Know it

The very best consumer products complaints database would be one which allows manufacturers to thoroughly vet each complaint – no matter how many years it takes; one that would be accessible to the public, unless that member of the public is a plaintiff’s attorney or a reporter; or one that prohibits complaints that might tarnish an industry’s reputation. In other words, a database that preserves the status quo.

Not So Fast…

Toyota’s metaphorical accelerator apparently jammed yesterday in its rush to declare itself not guilty on all charges of sudden unintended acceleration in its mass market and luxury lines. The automaker issued a letter affirming its innocence to its customers on the occasion of NHTSA dropping yet another investigation into SUA in Lexus vehicles and blaming the problem on accessory floor mats.

But NHTSA was just as quick in its reaction. Yesterday afternoon, it delivered the smackdown.

The Other Side of Occam’s Razor: Electronic Glitches

Pedal entrapment may be the easiest explanation for Sudden Unintended Acceleration events in Toyota and Lexus vehicles, but lost in the battle of the floor mats is widespread acknowledgement by automakers, electronics experts and suppliers that electronics regularly cause all kinds of headaches for manufacturers and consumers.

NHTSA Pronounces and Toyota Pounces: It’s the Floor Mats, Stupid

Showing admirable restraint, Toyota waited a whole five days before trumpeting the closing of Defect Petition 09-001 as proof positive “that no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver’s floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured.”

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