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.”

A day earlier, Toyota Motor Sales President Jim Lentz began his testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s government oversight sub-committee by flogging Toyota’s confidence in the mechanical causes of SUA and the efficacy of the recalls.

Then, Lentz blinked.

Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts admonished Lentz for insisting that electronics played no part in the automaker’s SUA problems, while Toyota installed a brake to idle override in some recalled models:

“But you can’t have it both ways,” Markey said.  “You can’t say there’s no problem but you’re trying to find a way to override something that’s not a problem.  It leaves people with the impression that there must be a problem.”

“But that’s why you have to continually test and test and test,” Lentz said, “in the event that something develops.  It could be – it could be a change in EMI.  It could be a number of different things that we have to continually test and verify.”

Within five days of Toyoda’s assurances, several consumers offered a little anecdotal evidence to NHTSA. Here are four new complaints all generated in February, shortly after Toyota “fixed” the vehicles.

A 2009 Matrix owner had already had three SUA events while braking at a stop sign, when the recalls were announced. A little more than two weeks after Toyota performed the recall fixes she reported:

“On February 26th, I was driving about 5 mph in a parking area with my son. I put my foot on the brake and I felt the car push forward. I put my other foot on the brake as well. My son said ‘It’s doing it again mom!’ I put it in neutral and we both heard the engine wind out like I had pushed the gas pedal to the floor. This obviously means the recall ‘fix’ isn’t working! I contacted my dealer and am getting a loaner car. I am very concerned what this means in terms of future safety and my monetary investment in this car.”

The owner of a 2008 Avalon reported this post-recall-fix Feb. 25th incident:

“A few days later, the car was in reverse and was slowly backing out of a residential carport when it accelerated on its own and the car did about 3 loops around the garage area of the home causing damage to the car, benches, tree, bushes, lamp post, etc. This happened after the recalled defect was repaired. Owner of vehicle put in claim to her own insurance company, put in a call to the 800 Toyota number and had car towed to where she purchased the car. Everyone seems concerned, but only wants to repair the damage to the car rather than get to the root of the problem. We thought Toyota had the fix, but apparently not since accelerating and going out of control on an accelerated pace.”

The owner of a 2010 Camry filed this complaint:

On 2/12/10 my 2010 Toyota Camry received an acceleration fix. In addition I was informed a fail-safe computer program was put in. On 2/17/10 as I was entering my parking slot, the car did an unintended sudden acceleration without my foot being on the accelerator. I was pressing the brake. I jammed both feet into the brake. After 3 seconds, as my car was climbing up a snow bank, it stopped. The engine was idling while my gear shift was in drive. This is the second level on the fail-safe system. This means that: “If both accelerator position sensors fail, or if one throttle position sensor fails, the ECM will…return the engine to idle speed. Had the incident happened one minute earlier, I would have been in a high car/pedestrian area and would not have been able to avoid an accident. The whole event took 5-6 seconds before the car suddenly stopped. The fix done by Toyota is not the fix for the acceleration problem.”

The driver of a 2007 Camry XLE says that five days after getting the recall fix, this happened on Feb. 27:

“The contact states that his wife was driving when she was coasting to a stop sign at 10mph or less when she notices that her RPMs starting going up. The contact states when she took her foot off the brake the vehicle immediately accelerated on its own. The contact states that she was able to get to her friends house nearby. The contact also states that they lifted the accelerator up and then watched it immediately go back down on its own. The dealer was contacted about this issue and the vehicle is there now.”

Let’s see, not the floor mat, not a sticky accelerator pedal. What ever could be causing these incidents? We think Lentz was on to something, when he told Michigan Rep. John Dingell:

“We never rule out anything that could cause sudden, unintended acceleration.”

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