Toyota Unintended Acceleration Complaints Update

Safety Research & Strategies has completed our latest review of Toyota unintended acceleration complaint data. Our database consists of incidents from the following sources:

So, Who Called Toyota?

In its rush last week to play corporate white knight and recall a bunch of brand-spanking-new Toyotas for sticky accelerator pedals, Toyota forgot one eensy detail: the recall regulations prohibit the sale of defective new vehicles and components.

Stop the Pedals!

Toyota announced on Thursday that it was recalling about 2.3 million vehicles to correct sticking accelerator pedals, after investigating isolated reports of sticking accelerator pedal mechanisms. Toyota claimed it was a wear issue – even though most of the models recalled included 2009 and 2010 model years. After the news broke, several stories noted that Toyota was continuing to sell the affected models without the remedy already applied.  While it is normal for manufacturers who recall vehicles to instruct their dealers to repair vehicles on their lots before selling them, Toyota’s announcement today covers a number of the best-selling vehicles and the company will halt production at its North American plants until it has a remedy plan. 

They Know Not what They Do

We, here at The Safety Record Blog, understand the hell of a story that breaks at 5 p.m. on a Friday, with every relevant source already on the way to his weekend and unavailable by cell. We do not understand all of the breathless second and third-day stories in which the reporter hasn’t taken the time to understand the context of the issue on which they are writing – to wit, Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration.

Headlines like: Toyota Knew of Sticky Throttle Problem Late Last Year, from USAToday’s DriveOn section, make us wince. Toyota has known that its vehicles suffer from unintended acceleration since May 2003, when the first consumers began demanding that NHTSA investigate this problem. That would be six-and-a-half years ago. Complaint rates, particularly on the popular Camry, coincide with the introduction of the automakers electronic throttle beginning with the 2002 model year.

Well, They Had to Do Something!

We polled a couple of graduates of the Toyota School of Hard Knocks for their reactions to Friday’s sticky accelerator pedal recall, and the consensus was: this wouldn’t address my problem.

Kevin Haggerty, owner of the 2007 Avalon that arrived at the New Jersey dealership in a state of automotive hysteria (the vehicle, not Haggerty), said he surprised by the specifics of this recall, but not by Toyota’s attempt to look responsive.

“They needed to come up with something, but I don’t think it’s going to end the problem. I don’t think the accelerator pedal stuck in my case.”

In a Los Angeles Times article, Toyota disputes this. Spokesman Bryan Lyons said that Haggerty’s experience “matches our recall finding exactly.” Of course, Toyota gave Haggerty’s Avalon entirely new pedal and throttle assemblies, but Haggerty believes that the automaker took the broadest possible repair approach for a reason:

Breaking! Roll Out the Recalls!

In a curious twist of timing, Toyota announced another massive recall related to Sudden Unintended Acceleration – this time 2.3 million late model Toyotas plagued with “sticking accelerator pedals.” The timing is suspiciously pre-emptive – the company’s feet were about to be singed an hour later by ABC World News Tonight, followed by a Toyota SUA story on ABC Nightline.

But that is hardly the only odd thing about the recall. In its announcement, the automaker said that it had received “isolated reports” of sticking accelerator pedal mechanisms:

“The condition is rare, but can occur when the pedal mechanism becomes worn and, in certain conditions, the accelerator pedal may become harder to depress, slower to return or, in the worst case, stuck in a partially depressed position.”

It’s Complicated: Concerned Citizen Drops a Dime on Toyota

As we all should have learned nine years ago from the Ford Explorer-Firestone tire maelstrom, it’s not often just one thing that creates a catastrophe of epic proportions.  Defect issues that rise to the top of the charts are frequently the result of a multitude of problems that align to create a widespread hazard.

Toyota Sudden Acceleration in Reverse

Earlier this week, The Safety Record reported another Toyota SUA incident involving a 2007 Avalon and a New Jersey driver who managed to get his over-accelerating vehicle to the dealership with smoking brakes and an engine at full throttle. For those of you who missed it:

This owner had experienced several unintended acceleration incidents – incidents in which the vehicle accelerated without driver input.  The most recent occurred on Dec. 29 as he drove on the highway. The man was unable to stop the vehicle with the brakes alone, but he was able to shift the vehicle into Neutral. As the engine continued to race to full-throttle, he immediately called the local Toyota dealer, about two miles away, to alert them he was bringing the vehicle to their lot.  He drove the car to the dealer by shifting from Neutral to Drive, foot on the brake, with the engine at full throttle.

“I don’t where I got the nerve, but it sure felt good.”

So says Christina Catalano, after her brief confrontation with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marcchione at a dinner yesterday night sponsored by Automotive News World Congress, as part of the North America International Auto Show in Detroit.

Catalano is the daughter of Linda Catalano who died on August 3, 2008.  The 55-year-old mother and grandmother had completed a garage sale and had left her home several blocks away to collect the remaining sale signs along the road.  She evidently stopped the vehicle along the roadway to pick up a sign.  She placed her vehicle into what she must have believed to be Park and opened the door and stepped out of the Chrysler Mini-Van to pick up her signs, with the engine running and the driver’s side door open.  The vehicle then “self-shifted” into reverse, knocking Catalano to the ground and dragging her underneath the left front tire, where it pinned her.

CPSC Workshop on Building a Public Database Less Adversarial

The tone was less adversarial and more collegial as the U.S. Product Safety Commission held its first public workshop (see The End of the World as We Know it!) on the establishment of a Public Consumer Product Safety Incident Database this week.

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