Toyota Recall: Lots of Toyota Recall News This Week
Brett EmisonMarch 26, 2010 10:32 AM
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Earlier this week, safety experts found a "smoking gun" Toyota document from 2002 where Toyota identified electronic problems that caused "engine surge" in its 2002 Camry vehicles. But that wasn't the only Toyota recall news this week.
Toyota Asked To Install Computer Software To Prevent Unintended Acceleration In 2007
The Los Angeles Times reported that federal safety regulators asked Toyota in 2007 to install software that would prevent sudden unintended acceleration after receiving complaints that Toyota vehicles could race out of control.
Federal regulators in 2007 asked Toyota Motor Corp. to consider installing software to prevent sudden acceleration in its vehicles after receiving complaints that vehicles could race out of control, company documents show.
Yet the automaker began installing the safety feature, known as brake override, only this January after a widely publicized accident involving a runaway Lexus ES that killed four people near San Diego.
Safety regulators acknowledged late last week that they pressured Toyota anew last fall to consider the override software in the wake of that crash, which set off a chain of events leading the company to issue nearly 10 million recall notices worldwide.
E-mails and a company memorandum obtained by Congress show that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigators discussed brake override with Toyota officials in August 2007, and that in 2008, a year before the San Diego crash, the automaker ordered an internal feasibility study of the technology.
"These documents raise some questions about whether Toyota was doing enough to deal with" sudden acceleration, said Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigations panel. "It's obvious that other manufacturers were doing something. Maybe more than Toyota is doing even now."
I have been asking why Toyota had not installed "smart brake" technology for months. This technology has been used by other car makers -- including Nissan, Infinity, Chrysler, Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW -- around the world for at least 15 years. We learned in January that a brake override system would have cost Toyota less than $1.00 per vehicle. Now we learn that Toyota had been pressured by safety experts to install this technology since 2007, but did not. Toyota deliberately chose to put profits ahead of safety and human life.
Toyota Shareholders Sue Over Fallen Stock Price
ABC News has reported that Toyota shareholders have sued because of the sudden drop in Toyota's stock price stemming from Toyota's sudden acceleration problem. Shareholders believe Toyota deliberately misled investors and the public about the sudden unintended acceleration problem in millions of Toyota vehicles.
From the ABC News report:
At least three proposed class-action lawsuits filed by Toyota investors say the company gave false initial assurances that the sudden acceleration problem was a simple matter of floor mats trapping gas pedals, helping prop up the stock price.
The shareholder cases are part of an avalanche of potentially costly lawsuits against Toyota Motor Corp. over the acceleration issue, including those filed by crash victims and their families and those brought by Toyota owners contending their vehicles are worth far less because of the recalls.
The investor lawsuits say Toyota spread misleading information through press releases, conference calls with stock analysts and TV interviews to assure stockholders and the public that the accelerator problem was easily fixed or might be the driver's fault.
Instead, the lawsuits contend, top Toyota executives have known for nearly a decade that faulty electronic throttle controls caused vehicles to sometimes careen wildly out of control but covered it up to protect the company's reputation for safety — and its stock price. The company has not issued any recalls involving flaws in the electronic throttles and has repeatedly denied they are the problem.
Toyota Has Most Sudden Acceleration Complaints
USA Today reported that -- since at least 2004 -- Toyota has had the more sudden unintended acceleration complaints than any other auto maker.
In a pattern almost unbroken since 2004, speed control problems are a higher proportion of Toyota's driver complaint filings than they are for other big automakers, a USA TODAY analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data from 2000 to mid-March of this year has found.
The analysis showed 11.7% of the vehicle components named in driver complaints to NHTSA about Toyota-made vehicles in that period were in the safety agency's "vehicle speed control" category. That is the NHTSA complaint category that covers most incidents of unintended acceleration, the problem underlying Toyota's huge recalls in recent months.
The five others among the top six automakers in the U.S. market ranged from General Motors' 2.2% to Ford's 4.8% over the decade.
Recalls Triple As Electronics Run Cars
BusinessWeek reported that US vehicle recalls due to electronic systems have tripled and investigations have quadrupled over the past 30 years as more and more vehicles rely on computers to control such fundamental tasks, such as acceleration.
Lawmakers and safety advocates probing Toyota Motor Corp.’s handling of sudden-acceleration complaints say the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has failed to keep pace with the technology. At least 27 individual lawsuits assert that electronics systems are responsible for deaths or injuries in crashes of Toyota vehicles.
“The proliferation of features in cars has really passed NHTSA by and caught them somewhat unprepared,” said David Champion, director of testing at Consumer Reports magazine. “I don’t think anyone thought too deeply before the Toyota issue came along about how to turn off the electronic ignition for a car, for example.”
Complaints to NHTSA about vehicle electronic systems rose 50 percent from the mid-1990s to 3,798 annually this decade, according to the data. They involve automakers throughout the industry, from Toyota, General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. to Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz.
The BusinessWeek report said that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") had only two electronic specialists on its entire staff and has no regulations for auto electronics. Electronics experts say the number of code-writing errors may be staggering.
A modern luxury car may have functions run by as many as 100 million lines of software code, enough to fill a stack of letter-sized pages the height of a 50-story building, said Andy Chou, chief scientist at Coverity Inc., which analyzes automotive and other types of software for defects.
Even the most carefully written software probably has about 1 defect per 10,000 lines of code, he said, based on an analysis the San Francisco company has done of its work during the past seven years.
“You could have literally trillions of paths that could have errors in them,” he said. “It’s just hard to test every possible behavior.”
Toyota Is Trying To Buy You Back
CNNMoney.com reported that Toyota is trying to buy back customers and market share by instituting billions of dollars in sales incentives.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Toyota is trying to buy back a lot of the sales it lost during the recall crisis earlier this year -- in the form of fat incentives for consumers.
But the aggressive incentive program from the Japanese automaker -- including zero-interest financing, subsidized leases and free maintenance for previous Toyota owners -- will come at a steep cost.
Experts estimate that Toyota will likely be stuck with the incentives programs for most of this model year, at a cost of more than $1 billion above what Toyota would typically have spent on incentives.
"Once an automaker offers a high level of incentives, it is very difficult to take it away on a model year without having a big drop in sales," said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends for TrueCar.
Toprak estimates that will cost Toyota about $150 million or more per month above its typical level of incentive spending.
Jessica Caldwell, director of pricing and industry analysis with Edmunds, said the $1 billion estimate for additional incentive spending is probably conservative. She expects the incentives won't be going away soon, even if the public-relations picture has improved for the automaker in recent weeks amid questions about some of those making claims about problems with their cars.
Toyota's focus on market share and profits rather than on safety and actually fixing the deadly sudden acceleration problem is both disturbing and disappointing. Rather than focusing on a solution to the sudden acceleration crisis, Toyota has remained steadfastly focuses on protecting its image rather than protecting its drivers. Toyota continues to put market share and profits ahead of safety and human life.
When automotive professor, David Gilbert, created a test that showed Toyota's electronics could cause sudden unintended acceleration, Toyota's litigation defense lawyers used an "unlimited budget" to buy testing designed solely to discredit Professor Gilbert's test (a test that Toyota officials admitted to Congress that Toyota had been able to reproduce).
Toyota engineers did not develop a test to see if they correct the design flaw that permitted electronically induced acceleration. Rather, Toyota's defense lawyers used hired guns to discredit an independent automotive professor that dared to challenge Toyota's public statements.
Throughout the sudden acceleration time line, one thing has been consistent: Toyota has consistently misled the public about the nature and severity of the Toyota sudden acceleration problem. When given the opportunity to come forward with information, Toyota has chosen lie after lie after lie.
You can view the time line of Toyota's checkered safety history here.
Toyota has a well-documented history of attempted cover-ups of safety problems. The Detroit Free Press has documented how Toyota has stonewalled the investigation of these problems since at least 2003.
After dragging its feet and being called "safety deaf" on the sudden acceleration recall, Toyota did it again when Toyota knew of the problems with its Prius brakes long before warning its drivers, customers and innocent motorists. Not only are the multiple Toyota recalls hurting consumers, they are hurting rental car companies as well.
Now, Toyota has said its own data recorders are not reliable. What are these black boxes saying that has Toyota withholding this evidence. If these black boxes said that drivers were hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake, you know Toyota would be holding these black boxes up in front of every television camera and microphone in the country. What else is Toyota covering up?
It's time that the public finally hold Toyota accountable for putting profits over safety and money over lives.
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