Is This the Best You Can Do?

Time to gas up the Toyota PR engine. Yesterday, ABC News broke the latest allegations of Multi-District Litigation – that Toyota technicians had duplicated owners’ SUA events in incidents that didn’t set DTCs, and in two cases, bought back the vehicles and swore the customer to secrecy. (Remember that expensive advice Toyota bought in February from the BSG Group? “Portray transparency, open and honest.”) In response, the World’s Number One Automaker sputtered:

“Recent news reports have stated that Toyota dealership technicians were able to duplicate customer claims of unintended acceleration; that Toyota repurchased the vehicles in question; and that Toyota failed to properly inform the National

Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the situation.

Toyota quickly and thoroughly investigates any customer reports of unintended acceleration in its vehicles through its rapid response SMART evaluation process. Field technical specialists (FTS) and engineers were deployed in response to reports of two acceleration events that dealer technicians reportedly observed. At these dealerships, Toyota FTS and engineers were unable to duplicate the condition and the vehicles were repurchased from the customers for further engineering analysis.

After having thoroughly analyzed these vehicles and driven them for thousands of miles, Toyota FTS and engineers have not been able to replicate the customers’ acceleration concerns nor found any related issues or conditions in these vehicles. In fact, test driving of these vehicles is ongoing and they are operating safely.”

Translation: Yeah, it happened. Yeah, we saw it happen. But hasn’t happened again – yet. Ergo: It ain’t broke and we don’t have to fix it.

Sheesh, talk about running on empty. The excuses are starting to read like a Letterman list: Top Ten Reasons Why Toyota Doesn’t Need to Address Its SUA Problems.

Today also brought a slight correction to NHTSA’s claim that Toyota didn’t tell the agency about the buybacks in 2009. The agency checked its records and conceded that Toyota had informed it of buybacks on three occasions.

But let’s not miss the point, shall we? The MDL alleges that Toyota techs have been witnessing SUA problems firsthand since 2003. Did Toyota tell the agency about all that? Could be – most of Toyota’s responses in past investigations have been granted confidential. For the agency’s sake, hope not.