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Update: Toyota Recall: Experts Point To Electronic Throttles; Not Floor Mats In Sudden Acceleration Problem

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Safety Research and Strategies has responded to Toyota’s letter to its customers regarding its documented sudden acceleration problem:

Showing admirable restraint, Toyota waited a whole five days before trumpeting the closing of Defect Petition 09-001 as proof positive “that no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver’s floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured.”

In a letter to its customers, Toyota referred to NHTSA’s “extensive technical review of the issue, including interviews with consumers who had complained of unwanted acceleration, NHTSA concluded that …the only defect trend related to vehicle speed control in the subject vehicles involved the potential for accelerator pedals to become trapped near the floor by out-of-position or inappropriate floor mat installations.”

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Some of this is actually true. The agency has not found a vehicle-based defect that is causing unwanted acceleration. It doesn’t mean there isn’t one – it just means that the agency hasn’t found it. By any standard, the agency investigations are far from the thorough and can be accurately described as cursory by anyone with a passing understanding of defect investigation.

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In other words NHTSA:

  • Talked to owners who complained;

  • Drove the petitioners vehicle and didn’t experience SUA;

  • Asked Toyota what, if any, problems existed (none of course);

  • Found that the throttle control system may have had a problem but couldn’t find a cause;

  • Had limited information to work with;

  • Faced with limited resources and other more easily solvable safety issues, dropped any further investigation.

The most thorough of the government investigations appears to be the agency’s Vehicle Research & Test Center analysis of a 2007 Lexus ES350. This investigation, cited by Toyota above as evidence of the lack of a defect, suggests otherwise. Here’s what else the report stated:

“To comprehend the statistical significance of the probability for this event to occur, a survey was sent to a sample size of 1986 registered owners of a 2007 Lexus ES-350 requesting information regarding episodes of unintended acceleration. NHTSA received 600 responses for an overall response rate of 30.2%. Fifty-nine owners stated they experienced unintended acceleration. Thirty-five of those responding also reported that their vehicles were equipped with rubber Lexus all-weather floor mats and several commented that the incident occurred when the accelerator had become trapped in a groove in the floor mat. Interviews with owners revealed that many had unsecured rubber floor mats in place at the time of the unintended acceleration event, which included in some cases unsecured rubber floor mats placed over existing Lexus carpeted mats.”

The report is silent on several key issues, including owners who did not comment that the accelerator pedal was trapped in the groove of an all weather floor mat. And what of the remaining 24 who didn’t have all weather floor mats?

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If this is all due to errant floor mats, we have some questions:

Why do Toyota/Lexus models experience SUA absent all weather floor mats?

What changed in the floor mat design in 2002, when the complaint rates significantly increase?

How can a floor mat entrap a pedal during highway driving, when the operator has been driving steadily and does not depress the accelerator?

If Toyota/Lexus vehicle have floor mats so badly designed that they have killed at least 16 individuals and injured at least 243 injuries in SUA events, why is Toyota just getting around to fixing it now?

Why is Toyota claiming that floor mats are the cause of SUA incidents in vehicles not part of the floor mat recall? If they are causing SUA, shouldn’t they be recalled too?

ABC News has documented Toyota’s and Lexus’s sudden acceleration defect claims. You can learn more about Toyota’s auto defect problems at this recent post.

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

4 Comments

  1. Gravatar for Linda Sherman

    Right you are. It is obvious that this is a serious problem that neither NHTSA or Toyota (and other auto manufacturers)know what to do about.

    Toyota is concerned with their bottom line. This has not been a good year for auto sales. The SUA issue is making them very nervous.

    Throw a floor mat at it.

  2. Gravatar for Charlene Blake

    Mat causing the stuck Toyota (Lexus) accelerator? Hardly! This is yet another way for Toyota to blame the owner. Is there any major vehicle defect where Toyota will not blame the owner? Take a look at the "Toyota Owners Unite for Resolution: Engine Oil Sludge" online petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/TMC2003/petitio... . There are over 3,000 petition signatories already yet Toyota says that only 3,200 people had the sludge problem? Gross underestimation? Of course!

    Toyota's major safety issues are being blamed on the drivers of its vehicles! This is a low blow by a company! Talk to the owners who have experienced non-deployment of the Toyota air bags (if they are not DEAD!) and see what they have to say about safety issues in Toyotas!

    Take a look at the YouTube video entitled "Toyota Engine Oil Sludge" at http://www.youtube.com/watch... which has been up for only a couple of months but has gotten almost 3,000 views. Go to the "Toyota Oil Gel" web site at http://www.toyotaoilgel.com to see what one Toyota owner has put together.

    Next, read http://www.uc2.blogspot.com to fine out how one Toyota dealership treats an owner who wished to exercise his freedom of speech rights. Name-calling, flattening of tires, threats, and even attempts to run over the protesting Toyota owner are just some of this Toyota dealerships tricks to dealing with a dissatisfied customer!

    Toyota---SHAME on you for trying to once again incriminate the Toyota owners---and DEAD ones at that!! You need to confess about your quality issues and resolve the current and former issues that Toyota owners had had to face over the last few years!! Stop the facade---stop the blame game---stop the FRAUD!!

  3. Gravatar for FYI

    Toyota found to keep tight lid on potential safety problems

    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-secrecy23-2009dec23,0,557792,full.story

    A Times investigation shows the world’s largest automaker has delayed recalls and attempted to blame human error in cases where owners claimed vehicle defects.

    NHTSA reviewing third generation Toyota Prius braking

    12/24/2009

    http://www.leftlanenews.com/nhtsa-reviewing-third-generation-toyota-prius-braking.html

    (excerpts):

    At least dozens of owners of the latest, third generation Toyota Prius have filed complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in regards to alleged brake failures they’ve experienced. The complaints are centered around the transition from regenerative to traditional braking, and the possibility that extra force is required to properly slow the vehicle.

    When Toyota was approached by The Detroit Bureau about this matter they initially said they were unaware of the issue, but later released this statement, “We are aware of the complaints filed with NHTSA. The agency has not opened an investigation. We are investigating the issue based on internet traffic, customer comments to Toyota Customer Relations, and NHTSA complaints. It is too early to speculate the final conclusion(s) of our investigation and subsequent actions.”

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