January 15, 2010
Earlier this week, The Safety Record reported another Toyota SUA incident involving a 2007 Avalon and a New Jersey driver who managed to get his over-accelerating vehicle to the dealership with smoking brakes and an engine at full throttle. For those of you who missed it:
This owner had experienced several unintended acceleration incidents – incidents in which the vehicle accelerated without driver input. The most recent occurred on Dec. 29 as he drove on the highway. The man was unable to stop the vehicle with the brakes alone, but he was able to shift the vehicle into Neutral. As the engine continued to race to full-throttle, he immediately called the local Toyota dealer, about two miles away, to alert them he was bringing the vehicle to their lot. He drove the car to the dealer by shifting from Neutral to Drive, foot on the brake, with the engine at full throttle.
Upon arrival, he parked the vehicle and left the engine running. The engine continued to race at full throttle. The dealer service personnel inspected the vehicle in the full-throttle condition with no floor mat or other mechanical interference. A technician attempted to reduce the engine RPMs by physically manipulating the pedal, to no avail. The vehicle was then shut down.
The Toyota dealer contacted Toyota’s regional representative in Caldwell, NJ who later inspected the vehicle. The details of this inspection were not provided to the owner. However, Toyota authorized replacement of the throttle body and accelerator pedal assemblies and sensors and paid for the $1700 repairs and rental car costs. The owner was told that the vehicle’s computer had stored no error codes. We have learned that the parts from his vehicle were going to be shipped to California for study. While the dealer didn’t say that they had identified the root cause, Toyota was willing to give the vehicle back to the owner.
Toyota has always claimed to NHTSA that no electronically-induced SUA event could have occurred without the vehicle computer taking note in the form of a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC). No code = didn’t happen electronically. NHTSA, has, so far, bought the party line. No matter how many drivers insisted that pedal interference did not explain their SUA event, Toyota and NHTSA linked arms and told them that they were very much mistaken.
This time, with the evidence smoking and heaving in front of the dealer’s face, the media breathing down their necks, and another suspicious Toyota crash, in which four occupants of a 2008 Toyota Avalon died after the sedan inexplicably went off the road, crashed through a fence and landed upside down in a pond (with the floor mats in the trunk), Toyota has taken a different tack. They’ve apparently taken it upon themselves to tell the agency all about it and invite NHTSA investigators to their inspection party.
Things that make you go Hmmm.