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Toyota Recall: Another Acceleration Crash; But Toyota Denies Defect

15 comments

After ignoring the sudden acceleration problem for more than five years, Toyota has expanded its multiple gas pedal recalls of more than 9 million vehicles for a fifth time to include Toyota vehicles sold in Israel.

Now, according to WFAA, there is a report of yet another Toyota sudden acceleration crash.

Even after eye witnesses heard the engine revving after the crash and even though the driver pressed the brakes so hard they were smoking, Toyota denied there was any defect that caused the crash.

So, Toyota, what caused the crash this time?

So far, Toyota has blamed crashes on driver error. But not this time.

Toyota has blamed crashes on floor mats. But not this time.

Toyota has blamed crashes on the floor pan. But not this time.

Toyota has blamed crashes on "sticky" gas pedals. But not this time.

So, what is the problem? Is this a tacit admission by Toyota of a greater underlying problem?

Just yesterday, Jim Lentz, president and Chief Operating Officer of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, admitted that there are lots of issues and many facets surrounding the sudden acceleration problem. At one point, Lentz even began listing several ways in which sudden acceleration may occur. However, Toyota still is addressing only two of the many, many sources of sudden acceleration.

Toyota continues to deny and ignore the possibility that the problem lies within Toyota’s computers and electronics. Since 2004, independent safety experts have pointed to problems with Toyota’s electronic throttle controls as a source for Toyota’s sudden acceleration problem.

Safety experts agree that this could be the tip of the iceberg and even more needs to be done. In fact, Toyota has not yet recalled some models or model-years with the highest rate of unintended acceleration complaints, such as the 2002-06 Toyota Camry. Toyota’s failure to include these vehicles gives its customers and the public a false sense of security.

I have been documenting the Toyota sudden acceleration and "sticky throttle" problems for months and you can learn more at our auto safety blog.

Learn more and become a fan of Langdon & Emison on Facebook.

15 Comments

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  1. Josh Smith says:
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    The brakes overpower the engine on any car produced today. The driver is either confused or a liar. His ‘smoking’ brakes would have stopped his car without trouble even at 140mph. This whole sudden acceleration crap has been with cars for decades. It’s called user error and the complicated nature of throttle-by-wire is being criminally abused by trial lawyers to cast doubt on a fine car. The needless hysteria over this issue makes me ashamed to be human.

  2. Darrell says:
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    My first reaction to the recent attention was the same as Josh’s. This situation doesn’t seem to add up. Toyota’s quality procedures are the envy of the manufacturing world. Their immediate response to an indication of a problem would be to quarantine the issue and perform a root cause analysis. The confusion would seem to imply that they have not been able to recreate the event in tests.

  3. Brett Emison says:
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    Dear Josh,

    Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. While I appreciate you for taking the time to comment, your assumptions about this issue are simply wrong.

    Consumer Reports – hardly a company with an agenda – has documented that Toyota brakes are underpowered and will not stop a vehicle accelerating out of control. Moreover, Toyota failed to incorporate a critical safety device – a “Smart Brake” – that would have prevented nearly all of the injuries and deaths arising from this sudden acceleration problem. The “smart brake” has been available for 15 years and could have been installed for less than $1 per vehicle.

    I have included the Consumer Reports video at the end of this comment.

    On a personal note, I am concerned with your disparaging comment toward trial lawyers. I see you defend a massive corporation that knowingly injured and killed hundreds of Americans while disparaging the very people working to keep you safe.

    I am proud to be a trial lawyer. I am proud of my work helping real people whose lives have been ruined by tragedy. I am proud that I have helped the families of those who have been injured, paralyzed, maimed, burned and killed – not by any fault of their own – but by the fault of others. I am proud that I take the risk and responsibility for giving my clients back just a portion of the life they have lost. None of my clients ever asked for their fate.

    Thanks again for reading.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoIIT0WJS4s

  4. Kent Hersman says:
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    In response to the “Josh” post above, I would advise him to study the Vacuum system on many of the late model Toyotas.

    The thing that makes me ashamed is when comments are left on these sights by individuals who have no knowledge of the issue at hand.

    Let those of us who have been behind the wheel of a Toyota when uncommanded acceleration occurred speak out.

    To deny that a problem exist is what Toyota has done for years.

    Hysteria… The Hysteria exist when your brake pedal is at the stop and your car is accelerating toward a block wall with no gas pedal input. “Jam the car in Neutral, and Park if you need to stop fast.”

    KDH

  5. HEIDI says:
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    I WANT A GERMAN CAR BECAUSE THE BRAKES OVER RIDE THE ACCELERATION…YES!

  6. Robert says:
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    Unfortunately Brett, you need to check yourself BEFORE you post. Josh’s anger towards every trial lawyer as being another John Edwards notwithstanding, he’s right about the cars. As a pilot, mechanic, sportbike and speedboat enthusiast, things that go fast and the mechanical workings behind them are what I’m quite familiar with, just as you are the legal system. When the Toyota stuff first started appearing on the radar, red flags immediately starting raising in my line of thought. If you will do your research, starting with the Car and Driver article, USING THE EXACT CAR FROM TOYOTA THAT IS IN QUESTION, you’ll quickly realize that no engine, not even in a 500+ horsepower Mustang, can overpower the brakes. As far as your “smart brake” technology reference, every thing I found about them started off saying basically you shouldn’t really need them in properly working vehicle. And that video? That was the silliest thing I have ever seen. What idiot pumps the brakes on a car that is accelerating? Aren’t you trying to STOP it? How does lifting your foot OFF the brakes at any moment during the procedure slow the car down? Common sense has taken a back seat to provocative journalism, I’m afraid.

  7. Brett Emison says:
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    Robert,

    Thank you for reading and commenting. You are certainly not alone in your thoughts. However, it seems that you are discounting the panic experienced by most people in an emergency situation. As a trained pilot, mechanic, sportbike and speedboat enthusiast, you are trained to not panic, but most “civilian” motorists are not.

    You also discount the reality of brake fade. If a motorist — experienced or inexperienced — does the wrong thing and pumps the brakes (which is what many drivers were taught before the advent of anti-lock braking systems), the brakes fade completely in a very short time under an out-of-control acceleration event.

    Recall that the deadly crash that brought this problem to the public’s attention involved an off duty California Highway Patrol officer – a man clearly trained in advanced and emergency driving techniques. He could not stop the runaway Toyota carrying three other members of his family. If he could have stopped the vehicle, he would have.

    Just yesterday, Toyota officials admitted they had replicated a test by engineering professor that re-created the Toyota sudden acceleration problem by inducing a short circuit. You can see more at the following links (http://tinyurl.com/yzc3v6e) and (http://tinyurl.com/yezxkww) .

    At every turn, Toyota has done the wrong thing — resort to lie after lie after lie (http://tinyurl.com/yahzrok).

    Toyota needs to do the right thing and finally fix this deadly problem.

  8. Brad says:
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    Robert,

    I too am a pilot and an enthusiast of things that go fast and the workings behind them. I think your comments regarding braking abilities are a little off base.

    You start by comparing a 500+ HP Mustang to a Toyota?! The Toyotas that are experiencing these problems have long had issues with weak brakes. Furthermore, I think you’ll agree that your standard 500+ HP Cobra with Brembo brakes is a little different than a Toyota. The higher performance the vehicle, the more excess braking ability is designed into the system. I haven’t looked into it, but I suspect Toyota doesn’t use racecar parts on their family sedans. Do you think a V6 Mustang with unmodified brakes would have as much luck slowing down a 500+HP runaway engine from a 70 MPH start? I would argue no, simply because there isn’t as much excess braking ability in the lower performance car…

    As for the “idiot” pumping the brakes – is it so outrageous to think that someone would do something “silly” when faced with this type of emergency? As a pilot I hope that you look at aircraft accident reports (I do) and recognize that people do all kinds of unpredictable things when faced with life or death situations. For example why did the captain in the Colgan 3407 flight try to pitch up when his aircraft stalled?

    What we should do is learn what we can from these Toyota accidents so that if we are faced with a similar situation, whether in a Toyota or another make we know what to do, and we should hold Toyota accountable for its despicable conduct throughout this mess.

  9. Robert says:
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    Clearly, neither one of you read the Car and Driver article, because it negates both your posts. But since it appears I’m the only one doing any footwork and/or using linear logic, I’ll continue.

    “You start by comparing a 500+ HP Mustang to a Toyota?!”

    Did I? Where did I do that? Maybe if I had said something like dropping a Roush Mustang engine into a Camry and expecting the brakes to perform the same, then yes, you may have a point. But if you would have READ the C/D article, the Mustang brakes stopped the Mustang, and the Toyota brakes stopped the Toyota. What else is there to say?

    “it seems that you are discounting the panic experienced by most people in an emergency situation. As a trained pilot, mechanic, sportbike and speedboat enthusiast, you are trained to not panic, but most “civilian” motorists are not.”

    …..but doesn’t this kind of make my point? How is the competency level (or lack thereof) of a driver the fault of an automobile manufacturer? And before you go PC on me, judge that statement on its merits, not how you FEEL about it. Look, I’m not saying Toyota has or has not done some crappy stuff, quite frankly, I don’t know. But neither do either of you. I’m afraid I’m the old-school take responsibility for myself type, and I think accordingly.

    “Recall that the deadly crash that brought this problem to the public’s attention involved an off duty California Highway Patrol officer – a man clearly trained in advanced and emergency driving techniques. He could not stop the runaway Toyota carrying three other members of his family. If he could have stopped the vehicle, he would have.”

    Yes, that was tragic, but neither of us can account for his level of competency. I can only speak on personal experience. On two separate occasions, I have had the opportunity to co-pilot with gentlemen who had far more years of experience and thousands more hours in their logbooks than I’ll ever have, and rest assured, these were pilots I would never fly with again. None of us knew the CHP personally, we can only peruse what we can from the unfortunate results, nothing more. I could say with 100% certainty that I would not think twice about putting my wife and 3 boys in the same car and driving it on a daily basis. (…but I’m just a Honda guy, sooo…) If you will do a little research, you’ll see that there are millions of loyal Toyota owners who stand behind their vehicles even WITH the recalls, and you couldn’t tell them otherwise, so try arguing with them.

    “As for the “idiot” pumping the brakes – is it so outrageous to think that someone would do something “silly” when faced with this type of emergency? As a pilot I hope that you look at aircraft accident reports (I do) and recognize that people do all kinds of unpredictable things when faced with life or death situations. For example why did the captain in the Colgan 3407 flight try to pitch up when his aircraft stalled?”

    Again, how is this the fault of the manufacturer? Brad, if you are a pilot, you of all people should understand the devastating effects the legal system can have on an industry because of the actions of a few people who had no business being in a situation that they were not properly trained for. It’s why we pay $185,000 for a Cessna 172 that has a real-world value of about $40,000. Liability. Pilots go punching into a thunderhead, the plane comes out the bottom in a million pieces, and somehow that’s the aircraft manufacturers fault. Study the case of the Piper Malibu, one of the most beautiful, well built and great flying single engine GA aircraft of our time. They started crashing left and right in the beginning and of course Piper became a feeding trough for every lawyer that came along. Did the plane come off the market? No! Did they start better pilot training programs? Yes! And that plane is still being built today.

    I guess I just look at things for what they are, not where off-the-cuff reactions try to push us. Didn’t we learn anything from the Audi “sudden acceleration” hysteria of the 80’s?

  10. Brett Emison says:
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    Robert,

    Thanks again for commenting. I understand that Car & Driver performed its test and Consumer Reports conducted its test. I think we can agree there are many competing tests out there, some cited by Toyota apologists and some cited by safety advocates.

    I will let “Brad” respond to Mustang example as I do not believe you were referring to my comment.

    As for Toyota’s duty to drivers of all competency levels, let me explain my position. Like it or not, Toyota markets its vehicles to drivers of all sorts. Many 15-year-old drivers learn to drive in a Toyota. Many business executives drive a Lexus. Many elderly retirees drive Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Frankly, it doesn’t take much to be able to drive a vehicle. Because of that, every auto maker (Toyota, GM, Ford, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, VW, Kia, etc.) have a legal duty to exercise — at a minimum — a reasonable degree of care in designing their vehicles.

    Part of that legal duty to its drivers includes anticipating potential defects and making sure that the vehicle is free from unreasonable dangers. A panic inducing run-away vehicle is an unreasonable danger for most drivers. Toyota has now even admitted it failed in its duty.

    I do know that Toyota has done some “crappy” stuff, because I have watched it unfurl and now Toyota has admitted it. You can fact check Toyota’s lies here (http://tinyurl.com/yahzrok).

    We may not be able to account for Mark Saylor’s driving ability, neither should we discount it. What we do know is that an off-duty California Highway Patrolman could not stop the runaway Lexus vehicle carrying the most precious cargo it could hold. I think we can agree that if he could have stopped the vehicle, he would have.

    As described above, manufacturers have a legal duty to anticipate unintentional (and sometimes even intentional) misuse of products. As a pilot, I am sure you are familiar with the phrase “murphy-proof” with respect to mechanical airplane parts. Toyota has a duty to ensure that its vehicles are “murphy-proof” in an emergency.

    If you really think that Cessna 172 has $145,000 in “liability costs” built into the price, you are sadly misinformed. Cessna charges that much because they can. As I pilot, I’m sure you have noticed that aircraft prices have decreased in the last few years as the economy has softened. Basic economics of supply and demand.

    I too look at things for what they are. I see the lies Toyota has told about its acceleration problem and I am outraged. I see the testing done by independent safety experts demonstrating the problem and I am outraged. I hear Toyota admit that it replicated the tests performed by the safety experts and I am outraged. I hear Toyota executive admit that they didn’t put safety first and I am outraged.

    I look and see a deadly defect and I want it made safer. Why is your outrage directed at me?

  11. Brad says:
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    Robert,

    I stand by my statement that a high-performance car has more excess performance built-in than a family sedan and that even bringing up a 500+ horsepower car (whether it’s a mustang, a Z06 Corvette, a Viper, or some European exotic) does absolutely nothing but muddy up the water.

    Furthermore, I think the C/D article you reference adds little credibility to your stance on this issue. In the C/D test we are dealing with highly trained drivers that know what is getting ready to happen. It’s like the Accelerate/Stop and Accelerate/GO charts used to determine balanced field lengths in Aircraft Flight Manuals (forgive me if I’ve lost you, but I’m a real pilot that flies jets for a career, not just a weekend warrior).

    These charts are created based on aborted takeoffs by test pilots in brand new airplanes, knowing that they will abort a takeoff as soon as they reach V1. Hardly the stuff that normal pilots do on a daily basis.

    The same is true with your C/D example. Until C/D puts a typical, unsuspecting 60 year-old woman in a runaway car, I’m going to say the test is irrelevant.

    Whether the standards for getting a driver’s license are strict enough is a debate for another time, but as long as the standards are what they are, cars SHOULD NOT be accelerating out of control on our roads. I don’t drive a Toyota and never will (not because of the SUA situation, but because they’re boring), but I don’t want to be an innocent victim sitting at a stoplight that gets hit by an out of control car.

    You ended with “I guess I just look at things for what they are, not where off-the-cuff reactions try to push us. Didn’t we learn anything from the Audi “sudden acceleration” hysteria of the 80’s?”

    I would reply: Haven’t you read any of Mr. Emison’s other blog posts? Take a look at some of the things Toyota has done to cover up the defects! Did you not listen to Jim Lentz yesterday testify to Congress that the “fixes” they are implementing now will not completely fix the problem and that in up to 70% of cases they have no idea what is causing the SUA?!

    When you say you “just look at things as they are”, I’d love to know what that means. I see it as a huge safety problem that Toyota has no idea how to fix!!

  12. Brett Emison says:
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    At today’s hearing, Akio Toyoda — head of the company — promised never to blame the customer going forward.

  13. Kent Hersman says:
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    Brett,

    Thanks for opening this discussion early on. Many of us knew, 3 weeks ago, what Jim Lentz would not admit until under oath.

    Without getting into, the discussion of pilotage, although I could; I will have to say, I have still not received a contact email considering my uncommanded acceleration and failed braking system.

    Nomatter what your profession, if you ever have a Camry run away from you, you will agree that action must be taken by Toyota.

    I think that it is interesting that all these, “Type A” pilots seem to know exactly what happens in a Toyota runaway. Few of them will consider that there are several of us that have experienced it.

    Anyone who denies the facts is as wrong as the corporate cover up. I hope Toyota gets it fixed, but the fallout could’ve been much less with some responsiblity.

    Again, Brett, great perspective.

    Kent

  14. Robert says:
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    “I look and see a deadly defect and I want it made safer. Why is your outrage directed at me?”

    “(forgive me if I’ve lost you, but I’m a real pilot that flies jets for a career, not just a weekend warrior). ”

    …..and on the basis of these two entries I think we should call it a day. This is quickly deteriorating into a jr. high MySpace cat-fight. Oh, and no, Brad, I don’t want to look at your Breitling.

  15. Brett Emison says:
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    Robert,

    Again, thank you for taking time to comment and engage in a thoughtful debate. I don’t believe our discourse has deteriorated and am sorry you believe that is so. I don’t believe in name-calling or personal attacks and will not resort to such conduct in this forum. A debate on the real issues is enough.

    It is clear we have a difference of perspective. What makes our country great is that many diverse people can have differing perspectives and debate them openly.

    I have a feeling that there is far more common ground between you and Brad and you and me that any of us realize. Deep down, all of us want to do the right thing.

    Thanks again for commenting. It is spirited readers that really make this forum informative, entertaining and worthwhile.