Toyota Has More Troubles Than Just Sudden Acceleration
Brett EmisonOctober 28, 2009 11:34 PM
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The Safety Record is reporting about Toyota's mounting troubles that go beyond the sudden acceleration problem that is potentially caused by floor mats interacting with the accelerator pedal.
Last month, Toyota launched its largest recall in the company's history for all-weather floor mats that may entrap the accelerator pedals after four died in a Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) crash in California; the company is currently under investigation for a severe rust problem with Tundras; and litigants are clamoring for what's in those four boxes of documents that former corporate attorney Dimitrios P. Biller -- who has accused Toyota of destroying evidence in rollover cases -- dropped off at a federal courthouse in Texas.
Toyota has recalled the floormats of 3.8 million vehicles -- including the Camry, Lexus, Avalon, Prius, Tacoma and Tundra. This massive recall was in response to the tragic California sudden acceleration crash that killed a California Highway Patrolman, Mark Saylor, along with his wife, daughter and brother-in-law.
... [T]he National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ["NHTSA"] has tied the fatal crash to the one outstanding Toyota SUA investigation still open at the Office of Defects Investigation. NHTSA has been investigating SUA complaints in Camry, Tacoma, Sienna and Lexus vehicles since 2003. Ten of those investigations were closed after a finding of accelerator pedal interference -- from an unsecured accessory floor mat or an interior trim panel -- or closed with no conclusion.
Not all Toyota owners believe the sudden acceleration problem is tied to the floor mats. At least one Toyota owner, Jeffrey Pepski, experienced a sudden acceleration problem without the all weather floor mats and was able to pull the accelerator up with his foot, yet the Toyota continued to accelerate out of control.
"I was trapped in a runaway vehicle," Pepski recalled. "I was able to push down on the accelerator as well as push up the accelerator with my foot. If the floor mat had been the cause, I would have dislodged it and the acceleration I was experiencing would have gone away and that didn't happen."
How can you protect yourself if your Toyota vehicle is running out of control? If you have a push button start/stop, you must press and hold the stop/start button for three seconds. After three seconds the engine should shut down. However, many Toyota and Lexus owners are not aware of the additional time needed to shut down the engine in an emergency situation.
You could also shift the vehicle into neutral. However, the "gated shifter", which has a series of detents to separate the gears can make it difficult to find the neutral position in an emergency. Other manufacturers -- such as BMW and Audi -- have safety programming that will automatically shift the vehicle into neutral if the car detects the driver attempting to accelerate and brake at the same time. However, Toyota and Lexus have chosen not to implement such a safety feature.
Lacking the return-to-idle featured, braking a Toyota or Lexus requires much more force and can result in significant brake fade or loss, particularly during long duration SUA events.
"Toyota has already hinted that it is looking into more substantive fixes beyond the floor mats," says Safety Research & Strategies President Sean E. Kane. "I suspect that when Toyota does implement a fix it will likely include software updates to address the on/off ignition delay and the brake-to-idle issue."
In addition to the sudden acceleration problem, Toyota is facing issues concerning a rust/corrosion issue in Toyota Tundras, deaths caused by relay rod failures in Toyota trucks and literally boxes of documents dropped at the courthouse steps in Texas by Toyota's former in-house counsel.
Toyota owners must be aware of these potential safety problems and take extra precautions with their vehicles. If you own a Toyota or Lexus, contact your dealer or representative to stay updated on recalls and other safety information.
You can also learn more about vehicle defects and safety at our web site.
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