Waxman Probes Toyota’s Deal with Doubt

When the auto industry needs America’s best scientific minds to validate a foregone conclusion, they turn to Exponent. As we reported during Toyota Tactics Week, David Michaels called out the Menlo Park, California defense-litigation firm in his 2008 book Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health:

Looking to the Past: Why Toyota isn't Audi

You wouldn’t troubleshoot the space shuttle by tinkering under the hood of the Spirit of St. Louis. But a surprising number of observers think that the answer to Toyota’s Sudden Unintended Acceleration problems can be found in the mechanical systems of a quarter century ago. Linking Toyota’s present troubles to those of Audi in the mid-1980s is a convenient shibboleth; it may even provide a lesson in corporate crisis management. But to figure out why so many Toyota makes and models across multiple model years are experiencing unintended acceleration in a variety of scenarios, we must resolve to understand modern automotive electronic systems.

Our Advocacy

One of the fiery moments in Tuesday’s hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee was Rep. Steven Buyer’s (R-Ind.) prosecutorial turn on SRS founder and President Sean Kane. Buyer attempted to undermine Kane’s testimony, and that of Dr. David Gilbert, whose early research into Toyota’s accelerator pedal position sensor showed that Toyota’s fail-safe strategy was supremely flawed, by suggesting that they had been tainted by their ties to litigation.

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.

Senate Commerce Committee Press GM and Chrysler

A bipartisan coalition of the 20 U.S. Senators comprising the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has written to Chrysler and General Motors urging the ailing automakers to back off of some of the more Darwinian features of their bankruptcies. Separate, but essentially identical, letters to James Press of Chrysler LLC and GM CEO Fritz Henderson raised questions about the fates of terminated dealerships and the technicians trained specifically to service their products. The letters also defended consumers, demanding answers to the companies' provisions for providing access to rural customers and to their planned walk-away from the victims of defects.

Brass Ones

Government Motors - I mean - General Motors is doubling down on 363. That's the magical section of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy code that allows filers to keep the good stuff and discard all the ick - one of the key pieces being liability for harm caused by defective products.

Kane Calls Assembly Vote on California Tire Age an Important First Step

SRS President Sean E. Kane hailed the California state assembly vote yesterday on AB496 Tire Disclosure Age bill, which cleared the state assembly, 48-21. The bill requires retail tire dealers to disclose the age of a tire to consumers in writing before the sale or installation of a tire.  Along with the tire age, dealers must provide the following statement about the increased hazards of aged tires:

Kicked Off the Rope Line?

The American Association for Justice and consumer advocates are planning a full court press at today's hearing before the full House Judiciary Committee on the Chrysler bankruptcy proposal. The groups are fighting to change one of the more egregious provisions. Under the terms that the federal government is advocating, the new and improved post-bankruptcy Chrysler would leave all those pesky plaintiffs and vehicle owners seeking compensation for the manufacturers' defective products in the rear-view mirror. The company would honor warranties and be responsible for recalls, but anyone injured before the bankruptcy would be yanked out of the line of debtors.

You Like Me. You Really Like Me.

Bob Ulrich delivered a bouquet of compliments to Sean Kane in Modern Tire Dealer's latest edition. Entitled, "Sean Kane's Passion Trump's the Industry's Inaction," Ulrich opines that Kane has been an amiable and effective, if misguided, advocate for tire aging. It opens thus:

"I like Sean Kane. Over the phone he comes across as a likeable guy with an admirable agenda: He wants to improve the tire purchasing experience for consumers."

Alternative Vehicles Gain Popularity, But Skirt Regulations

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V5, I4, July / August 2008

STUEBENVILLE, OHIO -Don't bother trying to buy a three-wheeled, two-passenger vehicle off the dealer's lot. Motorists who want to get their hands on Wildfire Motors' WF650-C will have to plunk down the full $7,064 purchase price in advance, and wait three months for delivery. As gas prices rise, consumers are turning to high-mileage alternative vehicles, such as three-wheeled motorcycles or mini trucks or small electric passenger vehicles in increasing numbers. They are marketed as "cars" or "trucks" with most of the capabilities of a passenger vehicle, but they are built to safety standards far below those required of traditional passenger cars and light trucks.