Does that headline sound familiar? It should. Even though the Associated Press just reported about this yesterday, you’ve been hearing about it here at InjuryBoard since January. After Toyota was hit with a record $16.4 million fine for hiding a dangerous safety defect, the country is finally taking notice that not only did Toyota hide the defect from US safety regulators, but Toyota was actually fixing the "sticky" pedal defect in Europe while it was denying the defect even existed in the United States.
WASHINGTON — Long before Toyota told U.S. regulators about sticking accelerator pedals, the Japanese automaker warned its distributors throughout Europe about similar problems, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.
Concerns about sticking gas pedals and complaints from Toyota owners in the U.S. were rising at the end of 2009. The documents show that weeks earlier, on Sept. 29, its European division issued technical information "identifying a production improvement and repair procedure to address complaints by customers in those countries of sticking accelerator pedals, sudden rpm increase and/or sudden vehicle acceleration."
Distributors throughout Europe and in Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Israel received the technical information.
Are European lives more valuable than American lives? What about Russian lives? What about Kazakhstani lives? Are any of these lives worth more than American lives? Why was Toyota fixing the cars in those countries but telling US officials, "Hey, there’s no problem here"?
Toyota’s American chief lied about this to the American people on the Today Show. Again, I reported on this on February 1, 2010, when it happened:
When Did Toyota Learn About This Problem?
Lentz also said that Toyota first learned about the sudden acceleration problem in October 2009. However, Bloomberg News reported yesterday that Toyota knew about the exact same "sticky" pedal acceleration problems in Europe since August 2008.
I have documented here for months how Toyota ignored the sudden acceleration problem for more than five years.
If Toyota was willing to lie about the "sticky" pedal problem, what else is Toyota lying about?
Do you think Toyota would lie about electronic causes of the sudden acceleration problem?
Toyota has spent millions of dollars trying to convince the public that electronics are not a cause of Toyota’s sudden acceleration defect. However, a panel of leading experts, including the former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"), held a press conference last week to refute Toyota’s claims that electronics play no role in Toyota’s sudden acceleration problem.
You can view the entire press conference here.
Last 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. We also learned last week that federal safety investigators asked Toyota in 2007 to install software that would prevent sudden acceleration.
Toyota’s focus on PR, 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 focused on protecting its image rather than protecting its drivers. Toyota continues to put market share and profits ahead of safety and human life.
Toyota went so far as to create internal company documents bragging about how Toyota "wins" when safety loses. In fact, Toyota bragged about saving more than $100 million when it used its special interest lobbyists — former NHTSA safety officials hired by Toyota — to avoid a sudden acceleration recall in 2007. Only a month after Toyota’s bragging document was produced, a family of four was killed when their Lexus vehicle accelerated out of control in California.
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.
Brett Emison is currently a partner at Langdon & Emison, a firm dedicated to helping injured victims across the country from their primary office near Kansas City. Mainly focusing on catastrophic injury and death cases as well as complex mass tort and dangerous drug cases, Mr. Emison often deals with automotive defects, automobile crashes, railroad crossing accidents (train accidents), trucking accidents, dangerous and defective drugs, defective medical devices.