Roll out the Recalls!

The 2008-2010 Toyota Highlander Hybrid becomes the latest vehicle to be added to Toyota’s growing roster of makes and models to receive a new, trimmer accelerator pedal to avoid floor mat interference. Yesterday, Toyota sent a communication to its dealers announcing Phase 4 of “Safety Recall 90L on 2008 through certain 2010 Highlander Hybrid vehicles for potential floor mat interference with the accelerator pedal. All Highlander Hybrid vehicles are equipped with a Denso pedal. The same templates and gauges provided to dealers for the Camry (Phase 1) will be utilized.”

How Many Recalls Does It Take to Fix a Toyota?

So far, Toyota has launched five recalls to address what it claims are the only causes of unintended acceleration: sticky accelerator pedals and floor mats. And yet, these “fixes” have failed to fix some vehicles.

Since the recalls were announced in September, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received 97 complaints from owners who said they experienced one or more bouts of sudden unintended acceleration after the dealer performed the recall repair. Randy and Alice Whitfield of Quality control Systems Corporation have been downloading the complaints as they come in and are posting links to their complaints on their website:

Here’s a sampling of what’s out there (click on the ODI number to be taken to the original complaint record on NHTSA's site):

How Do You Stop a Toyota Hybrid? Myth V. Fact

California Prius owner James Sikes’ wild ride down a San Diego highway has been endlessly dissected. In one week, an army of investigators have uncovered and publicized every salacious and damning detail of the man’s existence here on earth. This sideshow, however, like other distractions in the rapidly evolving Toyota sudden unintended acceleration problem, has buried a much more important question: How do you stop a Toyota hybrid?

Response to Toyota and Exponent Regarding Dr. David Gilbert’s preliminary report “Toyota Throttle Control Investigation”

The purpose of Dr. David Gilbert’s research study was to contribute to a better understanding of Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) system malfunctions and the failsafe detection capabilities of some Toyota vehicles equipped with ETC.  His research primarily examined the failsafe detection capabilities of electrical circuitry, particularly, at the Accelerator Pedal Position Sensor (APPS) and the voltages and associated wiring circuits.

Toyota Unintended Acceleration Complaints Update

We have completed our latest review of the Toyota unintended acceleration complaint data.  Following are the sources of these complaints:

•Consumer complaints to NHTSA through February 25, 2010;

•Toyota-submitted claims to NHTSA investigations into SUA;

•Incidents reported by media organizations;

•Consumer contacts made to our firm and other firms who are reporting incidents that they have received through March 2, 2010. (Note:  Most of these complaints are also part of the NHTSA complaint data as we have encouraged owner's to report their problem to the agency.  Duplicates have been removed.)

The Cracks in Toyota’s Recalls are Showing Again

The witness chairs in the House hearing chambers hadn’t even cooled, when Toyota owners who dutifully took their vehicles into the dealership for a pedal fix were reporting more sudden acceleration incidents to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

On February 24, the president of Toyota Motor Corporation, Akio Toyoda, raised his right hand before an investigative congressional oversight committee and swore: “I'm absolutely confident that there is no problem with the design of the ETC system.”

Dimitrios Biller and the Book of Knowledge

Last week, Ed Towns, Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform went to town on Toyota, asking five very pointed questions about the automaker’s “Books of Knowledge,” compendiums purportedly containing, among other things, damning information about the automakers acknowledgement of design issues and countermeasures, by component and vehicle. References to these so-called Books of Knowledge appeared in documents produced under a committee subpoena from former Toyota counsel, Dimitrios Biller. In a letter to Yoshimi Inaba, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, Towns asked him to respond to e-mails such as this June 2005 correspondence to Toyota executive Webster Burns, regarding the Greenburg SUA lawsuit:

"When this lawsuit was threatened, no one was surprised. This issue [sudden unintended acceleration] had been the subject of a number of meetings and the exchange of a number of documents between TMS and TMC, (did anyone ever gather and organize all those documents and memorialize the "meetings"? If so, were [sic] are the documents and information about the meetings?) [emphasis indicates Biller's comments] and the possibility of a class action lawsuit was used as one way to try to get TMC to work on a series of proposed countermeasures.”

Juanita Grossman’s Story: How Do You Slam Into a Building with Both Feet on the Brake? Nobody Knows.

Juanita Grossman was a petite 77-year-old woman who died from the injuries sustained from barreling into a building full-speed in her 2003 Camry in March 2004. When the emergency medical technicians arrived to transport Mrs. Grossman to the hospital they found her with both feet still jammed on the brake pedal.

Mrs. Grossman was still conscious, and in the days before she succumbed to her injuries, she kept telling her family: The car ran away on me. The car ran way on me. These statements and the placement of both feet on the brake – verified by two independent witnesses at the scene of the crash – did not rouse the curiosity of Toyota or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which was in the midst of an investigation into Toyota’s electronic throttle control system when ODI investigators learned of her death.


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