New Report Points to Toyota’s Electronic Throttle Control

A new scientific report from Quality Control Systems Corp. finds that the proportion of consumer complaints related to vehicle speed control in some Toyota Camry, Tacoma, and Lexus ES vehicles is substantially higher in those models with electronic throttle control systems (Toyota’s “ETCS-i”) than it is for the same models without electronic throttle control. The report also finds the proportion of reported speed control failures among complaints in the non-recalled Toyota Camrys with electronic throttle control compared to the recalled Camrys with electronic throttle control particularly troubling.

The report, written by Randy and Alice Whitfield, tested Toyota’s conclusion that there is ‘no indication’ of a throttle or electronic control system malfunction in the recalled vehicles as an hypothesis using data taken from consumer complaints made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Mr. Whitfield stated: “On the basis of the consumer complaint data, we believe there is evidence both to question and to reject this hypothesis for the recalled vehicles in our study.”

The study was limited to the period beginning in 1999 until just before the well-known Santee, California crash so that the publicity surrounding the crash would not affect the study’s results.

The report adds new information about the actual differences seen in complaint patterns for specific models with ETCS-i in their engines compared to the same models without ETCS-i. Even among vehicles that were not recalled, speed control related complaints were reported at a higher rate for all three models with ETCS-i.

Differences in the reporting of speed control related complaints are also shown in the report for the recalled vehicles with ETCS-i compared with the non-recalled vehicles with ETCS-i. The Whitfields found that proportion of complaints related to speed control for the unrecalled Camrys with ETCS-i was 29%, compared with 25% for the recalled Camrys with ETCS-i.

Important questions have been recently raised asking whether accelerator pedal entrapment or stuck accelerator pedals fully explains many incidents of sudden, unintended acceleration. The report adds new data about the role played by electronic throttle control systems in the complaints to NHTSA by consumers.

Click here to download a copy of the report.