Toyota: The Other Numbers

This morning National Public Radio reported Toyota sold 5 million vehicles in the last six months.  These strong sales numbers mean the company may be poised to regain the number one automaker slot from GM.  This talk of Toyota numbers had us here at Safety Research & Strategies looking at some other data -- complaints involving Toyota unintended acceleration and what’s been reported publicly in the last year.

And we would be remiss if we failed to note Toyota’s latest directive to the press about how to properly address Safety Research & Strategies president Sean Kane.  But first, the numbers:  We reviewed unintended acceleration incidents involving Toyota vehicles reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) between June 1, 2011 and July 17, 2012.  To identify these reports, we examined the NHTSA data for all consumer complaints containing keywords related to UA that were submitted during that time period. We then reviewed each complaint record to determine if it described a UA incident. So here they are:

- 368 total incidents

- 36 involved vehicles described as having had at least one UA recall remedy performed prior to the incident.

-  95 reported injuries; none of these incidents resulted in a fatality.

So what do we make of this?  Despite the Very Important Scientists and the Secretary of Transportation LaHood’s proclamation that “The verdict is in” and “There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas. Period,” consumers are still taking the time to report their experience to the government – and many report incidents that don’t seem to be explained by floor mats, “sticky” pedals, or driver error.  You can read them here.

And back to Toyota’s directive about properly addressing Sean Kane… Following Senator Charles Grassley’s July 12 letter to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland raising concerns about whether NHTSA’s Toyota UA investigations were too narrow and the agency’s position on the tin whiskers phenomenon, a notable problem raised by NASA, Toyota issued a press release claiming that the government’s work was “sufficiently thorough in regard to a phenomenon known as ‘tin whiskers.’” Oddly Toyota felt the need to admonish reporters about how to properly identify Sean Kane and Dr. Michael Pecht, the founder of CALCE (Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering) at the University of Maryland, should they decide to quote either source:

“On a related note, we trust that if you quote Sean Kane or Michael Pecht either directly or by reference in your story, you will clearly identify them as paid consultants engaged by attorneys suing Toyota for money.” (see Toyota's press release here)

In return, we have our own request for the media who if they quote Toyota either directly or by reference in their story that they clearly identify them as such:

“Toyota is a large corporation selling millions of automobiles worldwide that are paid for by consumers with money.”

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