By on January 28, 2010


Here is a round-up of the Toyota news that is flowing furiously out of all news outlets. Everybody, from the Wall Street Journal to Al Jazeera weighs in on the issue. Grab a cup of coffee. Or something stronger.

More recalls: Toyota announced late Wednesday that it must recall another 1.1 million vehicles “to address the risk that floor mats could trap accelerator pedals and cause bursts of sudden acceleration,” says Reuters. According to Reuters, “Toyota now has recalled nearly 6m vehicles for problems with the accelerators used across its lineup.” This is not counting the 2m vehicles in Europe that will be recalled.

EU recall official: Toyota Motor said today that it definitely will be expanding the recall to Europe, says AFP via Google. “Toyota will implement a recall in Europe,” said company spokesman Paul Nolasco. “We are still not sure about the models and the number of vehicles.” Initial estimates, published by The Nikkei [sub], spoke about another 2m cars in Europe. Plants will not be closed in Europe, because different parts already are being used in new production.

Recall spreads to China: China’s quality watchdog agency said “bu hao” to Toyota and ordered  the  recall of at least 75,000 vehicles  in China,” says London’s Times.

Could cost $1.1b a month, Toyoda’s head: Toyota’s decision to stop U.S. production and sales of eight models to fix defective accelerator pedals may cost the company as much as 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion) in operating profit per month, says Bloomberg. Traditionally, smaller problems cause Japanese CEOs to apologize, bow, and abdicate. Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco declined to comment on whether President Toyoda might step down as a result of the recalls. Toyoda is the grandson of the carmaker’s founder.

Banished from the rental lot: Avis, Hertz, Budget, Enterprise, Alamo and National stopped renting out all Toyota vehicles that are affected by the recall, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Bad vibes: GM halted sales of about two dozen unsold Pontiac Vibes, which are essentially the same car as the Toyota Matrix. The Vibe was built at the NUMMI plant. According to USA Today, some 99,000 Vibes on the road are being recalled also.

The fix is not in: “We don’t know what the recall remedy is going to look like. We don’t know if we’re going to repair pedals or replace pedals, or some combination of both,” Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons said to USA Today. Toyota released a Q&A on the issue. Q: “When can consumers expect the remedy?” A: “We don’t have the timing yet.”

Dealers have no answers: „Toyota dealers across the country were getting calls Wednesday from concerned owners but had few answers a day after the company announced it would stop selling and building eight models because of faulty gas pedals,” says the Reno Gazette Journal. Standard answer of harried service personnel to concerned customers: “We have as much information as you guys have.” The Springfield News-Sun says that “Dealers are referring customers to toyota.com, where visitors can go to the “news alert” at the bottom of the front page.” That site is devoid of hard information. Example:  Q: “When do you expect to have a remedy?” A: “We’re making every effort to remedy this situation for our customers as quickly as possible.” Toyota doesn’t have answer either.

Plants will stay closed: “There’s no reason for the plants to crank back up until we’re sure what the final recall method will be,” Brian Lyons said to USA Today. “We’re not going to start the assembly lines until we have the complete picture.” He did not forecast how soon that will be.  See above.

10 years wait on parts? “This could be a very long drawn out process for Toyota,” said Rebecca Lindland, auto analyst with IHS Global Insight, to Boston’s WBZ-TV. “”Typically suppliers make 16 thousand of these parts a week.“ If 8m cars need new parts, it would take 10 years at the going rate.

Supplier perplexed: CTS, the company that supplies the gas pedal for Toyota, says on its website that “CTS has been actively working with Toyota for awhile to develop a new pedal to meet tougher specifications from Toyota. The newly designed pedal is now tested and parts are beginning to ship to some Toyota factories.” Interesting to note in the “what did they know and when did they know it” department. In another act of finger pointing, CTS says that “the products we supply to Toyota, including the pedals covered by the recent recall, have been manufactured to Toyota’s design specifications.” When asked by the Wall Street Journal why Toyota would stop selling and producing thousands of some of its best-selling models if the problem identified affected only eight vehicles, Mitch Walorski, CTS’s director of investor relations, said CTS officials were perplexed. Forget any ideas of shorting CTS. The whole Toyota business is only 3 percent of their sales.

What did they know and when did they know it? According to the Freep, the NHTSA investigated reports of unintended acceleration in Toyota’s best-selling model, the Camry, as early as 2004. A NHTSA report said examination of 139 complaints found no defects.

Toyota knew a year ago: Toyota says it knew there were problems with accelerator-pedal assemblies from supplier CTS late last year, but not enough to warrant a recall, reports USA Today.

Toyota’s stock: 7203.T on the Tokyo Exchange opened weak at 3,530 Yen, rallied to 3,680 in the morning session, only to plummet back to 3,560 Yen in the final hours of trading, as more bad news came in. The stock had changed hands for 4,235 Yen on Jan 20, and it was downhill from there. Canada’s Financial Post recommends the Toyota stock as a “buying opportunity.”

Fitch downgrades Toyota: Rating company Fitch put Toyota on watch negative, Reuters reports. “The recalls and sales and production suspension cast a negative light on Toyota’s reputation for quality, just as the company emerges from an unprecedented downturn in the auto industry,” said Jeong Min Pak, Senior Director in Fitch’s Asia-Pacific Corporates team. “This could hamper the company’s potential sales and profitability recovery, especially in the U.S. market.”

Toyota causes January sales slump: “Meanwhile, Toyota’s problems threatened to pull down industry-wide auto sales for January and hit resale values for used cars,” an analyst said to Reuters (via bnet.com) “U.S. auto sales in January, due out next Tuesday, are expected to show the market has softened from the 10.8 million-unit sales pace of the fourth quarter of 2009.” A case of unintended deceleration?

Sudden acceleration self-help: The press is abuzz with advice on how to deal with runaway cars. According to the LA Times, Toyota recommends  “stepping on the brake pedal with both feet, using firm and steady pressure. After hitting the brakes, shift the transmission into neutral.” Any questions? “Call the Toyota Customer Experience Center at (800) 331-4331“

Circling vultures: Toyota’s competitors will benefit from ToMoCo‘s bad fortunes, said Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan, to the Nikkei [sub]. Ford and GM are already baiting Toyota owners with $1000 to switch.

Al Jazeera is on the story: Taking time off from distributing Bin Laden’s latest announcements, Al Jazeera calls the matter “a devastating blow to Toyota and Toyota’s reputation.”

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60 Comments on “Toyota Recall News Reel: Disaster City...”


  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    According to a story on the front page of today’s Detroit Free Press, reports of unintended acceleration on certain Toyota models started back in 2004.

    When it rains it pours:
    http://www.freep.com/article/20100128/BUSINESS01/1280466/1319/Toyota-recall-Red-flag-raised-in-2004-in-Camry

  • avatar

    Added. Thank you.

  • avatar
    WMc

    “The Fix is not in”
    That is the key issue facing Toyota at the moment, and one which is causing this situation to spiral out of their control.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      “Toyota knew a year ago” is also pretty damning.

      We expect Ford to ignore faulty fuel pumps, and GM to pretend that its head gaskets are just fine. But for golden boy Toyota to sweep such an obvious safety issue under the rug is tarnishing to its reputation to say the least.

    • 0 avatar
      WMc

      I agree that trying to play down the seriousness of the issue for a year isn’t exactly consistent with the “Toyota Way” of doing things.

      However, I wager that the public and media would quickly forget this issue if Toyota had a concrete plan to resolve the problem conclusively. Ideally it should have been in place before sales and production were halted, but it appears that the NHTSA forced their hand.
      As it stands, they seem unsure what’s really causing the problem (floormats? pedals? electronics?), and this is only fuelling the panic. Every day that passes without an adequate ‘fix’ will worsen the impact on their reputation.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      “I agree that trying to play down the seriousness of the issue for a year isn’t exactly consistent with the “Toyota Way” of doing things.”

      Actually, it is part of the Toyota Way. Toyota ducked engine sludge and rusted out truck frame issues for a long time before they finally bit the bullet.

    • 0 avatar
      Geotpf

      The story about the “Toyota knew a year ago” bit seems to be this: Toyota was aware that the pedals could wear down over time, but thought it was a “drivability” issue, not a safety one (might take more effort to press on the gas, that sort of thing). They didn’t realize it was a safety issue until recently. This is also why they were relucant to stop sales-looks like the problem only occurs after a vehicle has been used for a long time. A vehicle sold new today won’t have the problem for several years.

      No matter any of that, this is a total clusterfuck. Toyota is completely screwed.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    The concept of sustainability has many sides… Or Toyota’s sojurn on the river Styx.

    Just as in nature, an organic population expands up to the limit of its food source, in business, a deteriorating corporate performance, or corrosive culture, extends within the organization until it is stopped by events (internal or external) and actions (internal or external).

    … thus bad behaviours or performance, in the corporate world, are not infinitely sustainable.

    If a situation is properly dealt with by internal actions (best prior to the emergence of external events, but even afterward), then the performance and culture can improve without harm to the company’s external reputation.

    If, however, events are Not properly dealt with using internal actions, then the imposition of external actions will definitely do damage to the prestige of a company, the reputation of its products, and its bottom line.

    If, it is later proven that the gap between knowing, and doing, or between doing properly and doing with an internally-focussed agenda, then the prestige, reputation, and profit of the company and its products can suffer serious and enduring harm.

    On this issue, Toyota appears to have crossed the internal/external rubicon of broken corporate culture and poor decision-making sometime last year, seemingly sacrificing quick and open actions focussed on existing customers for hidden and sluggish actions where customer-orientation was less than paramount.

    Now, Toyota is being swept along on a swift current of external events, on a Styx-like river, and all that remains now is to see how far they must travel on Chandron’s ferryboat and what damage their actions will cause them, their customers, shareholders, and employees, to suffer along the way.

    Comment:

    I keep hearing that Toyota “has the resources to weather” these events … but what means weather?

    Consider:
    - In its quest for domination, Toyota’s made massive sunk investments into products (FS p/u) and markets (USA) that will continue to underperform for some time to come;
    - global recession;
    - recall (intensified by global factors like common product components, seamless information flow via internet, insider information via blogs, better communication and coordination between international goverment agencies;
    - likelihood of class-action and very-open personal-injury lawsuits;
    - very interesting story for the media to delve into on the international, national and local levels;

    Just when the story will have seemed to die down, some investigation, or lawsuit, will bring it back into the public’s consciousness.

    I see this saga as dogging Toyota for some time, draining momentum and resources from Toyota, and dramatically opening space for the competiton.

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      All true points. The difference with this recall and the potential impact on buyers is the ever-decreasing news cycle. When the wheels fell off Audi sales after “60 Minutes” report, Audi eventually recovered.

      When Ford SUVs seemed predisposed to rollover crashes because of tires, there was no mass exodus from Ford products. Or SUVs. Or tires.

      Both Audi and Ford were victims of their own users. Yet, that never quite bubbled to the surface.

      The difference, now, is Toyota owners will definitely hear if their car is recalled. A lot of people who don’t own Toyotas may not hear about the recalls. Or, they may hear about the recalls but will be distracted by Octomom or Lady Gaga or Jay vs. Conan. The importance of TV and newspaper has diminished.

      Yup. It’s a short news cycle. Car recalls only matter to car enthusiasts and their owners. For everyone else, there’s Brangelina.

    • 0 avatar

      Rod Panhard: As mentioned before, I followed the Audi disaster very closely. I lived and worked in the USA. Audi’s Marketing Director was a friend of mine. Volkswagen was a client. In 1985, Audi sold some 75,000 cars in the U.S. 1986, the 60 minute show aired. Signs reading “No Audis” appeared on NYC parking garages. Sales plummeted to about 14,000 units. 10 years later, Audi still had not quite recovered. Only15 years later, people started to forget, and sales came back to what they were in 1985.

      The 60 minute story, which was a fake, cost Audi 15 years. And it was a niche brand, not a domineering brand like Toyota, that made quality its mantra.

      20 years later, here is today’s list of “Hot Topics” on Google

      1. toyota recall
      2. state of union speech
      3. new ipad

      I the “Hot searches” dept:

      1. greg oden dirty pictures
      2. toyota recall models affected
      3. byertown area school district

      This will have serious repercussions, for many years.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      This will have serious repercussions, for many years.

      I don’t think it will, and for the reasons Ron illustrated: the news cycle is very short, and media skepticism is much greater than during the Audi 5000 era.

      The repercussions that will last years are financial, not reputation: this will impact Toyota’s bottom line, and might constrain development efforts. It’ll probably make them a little less of a blue-chip prospect for a year to two. That’s why this story is a quarter-column in the business section, rather than a half-page out front, even here in Ontario where CTS is located and where Toyota has two assembly plants.

      As far as consumers are concerned, this won’t make a whit of difference because, as discussed before, it isn’t going to cost people money, nor significantly impact their day-to-day. I think we, seeing numbers like “x Million Recalled” are forgetting that, for most people, this is one trip to the dealer for an issue that’s not immediately affecting them.

      Anyone remember the Ford** cruise control issue? I asked casually, and most people didn’t. They did recall the Firestone one, but what really stuck in their minds was the Ford they had X years ago that cost them a grand for a new motor or transmission.

      ** I don’t mean to pick on Ford, per se, but they’re the example that comes to hand.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Remember Arthur Anderson? They were once one of the “Big 5″ dominant accounting firms, and they all but died off thanks to their involvement in the Enron scandal. I’m not predicting Toyota’s demise at this point, but they are in fact very close to completely grenading their company with this issue.

      Class action lawsuit will come from two fronts:

      1) Every accident involving a Toyota where unintended acceleration MIGHT have been a factor.

      2) Trade-in and resale values of Toyotas are dropping like a rock. Buyers of Toyotas counted on the company’s reputation and advertising. Now they own cars and trucks which are depreciating at light speed. Bring out past Toyota advertisements touting outstanding resale values, safety and quality in front of a jury and see what happens.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      “The 60 minute story, which was a fake, cost Audi 15 years.”

      Bertel, did Audi ever sued 60 minutes about this?

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      The news cycle is short, but the internet is were most people consume thier information today (especially relating to cars) and this will never go away, when people search toyota it will appear over and over again.

      Where as the search results in past have shown:

      1. Great
      2. Great
      3. Great

      They will now show:

      1. Unintended Acceleration
      2. Largest Recall in History
      3. Great
      4. Toyota stops selling cars
      5. Great

      Anyone who doesn’t think this will have a huge impact on toyota for a long long time is wearing blinders.

    • 0 avatar
      Bruce from DC

      Good points. Perceptions have a lot to do with people’s purchasing decisions. Toyota’s number 1 selling point for many years, has been that, while it may not have the spiffiest styling, may not be the fastest around the curves, may not be the biggest fuel-sipper, it is dependable . . . it is a “car you can trust.” In fact, I would submit that it is that reputation that allowed Toyota to successfully introduce a car with exotic (i.e. “unproven”) technologies (the Prius) to the public.

      It seems to me that the “sticking gas pedal” problem very much undermines that “car you can trust” perception. There also is a synergistic effect. As others have pointed out, Toyota has engaged in a pretty obvious de-contenting of its vehicles (sold under the Toyota brand), beginning with the late 1990s. By now, buyers have figured that out. So, the combination of de-contenting and the erosion of the “car you can trust” reputation could have a synergistic negative effect. Add to that Consumers’ Union’s having raised the yellow flag on some new Toyota vehicles — and the fact that the typical Toyota purchaser is aligned with the values espoused by CU — and you have the makings of a significant problem.

      With respect to Audi’s “unintended acceleration,” I believe there was a similar synergistic effect. Audi rolled into the US market in a big way in the late 1970s. But the Audi Fox, great car that it was, was terrifically unreliable. I had a close friend who bought a new Fox in 1974, the same year that I bought a new Mazda RX-2 rotary. He was always complaining about the electrical gremlins that plagued his car, along with cooling system failures, etc. Likewise, when Audi introduced the new 100 sedan (called the “5000″) in the US market, in IIRC, 1979 the message was that, unlike the previous iteration, this one was reliable. It wasn’t. I owned a 1980, and I know. Add these problems to the “unintended acceleration” fiasco and Audi became the car to avoid in the mind of US buyers.

      And, contra someone else’s statement in this thread, IIRC, sales of Ford’s Explorer tanked — and have never recovered — after the rollover/tire failure fiasco. Even though the revised Explorer with the expensive independent rear suspension was nothing like the one that seemed to roll. No, other Ford products were not affected. But the Toyota “stuck accelerator” problem seems to not be limited to one model.

      Regarding Audi

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      JohnH: The death knell for Andersen was when AA returned its CPA-practice licenses, the government prosecuted it for criminal behaviour and won, this, as well as the fear that AA’s endorsement on your audit statement would be worthless, and, worse, a clear sign that you were engaging in Enron-like behaviour is what sent customers scattering.

      The Supreme Court overturned the gov’ts initial victory on appeal, but this did nothing to re-animate the long-cold corpse or earlier high-principles of Arthur Andersen (the company and the man respectively.

      Somewhere along the way, as the accounting side became hostage to the growth and profits generated by the consulting side, Andersen’s culture changed to something quite different from:
      (source Wiki:) “Andersen, who headed the firm until his death in 1947, was a zealous supporter of high standards in the accounting industry. A stickler for honesty, he argued that accountants’ responsibility was to investors, not their clients’ management. During the early years, it is reputed that Andersen was approached by an executive from a local rail utility to sign off on accounts containing flawed accounting, or else face the loss of a major client. Andersen refused in no uncertain terms, replying that there was “not enough money in the city of Chicago” to make him do it.”

      Could it be that Toyota also sacrificed its guiding mojo on the altar of growth, profit and domination?

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      @Bruce from DC: Explorer sales remained strong for a few years after the big recall, only falling along with every other SUV later in the decade. Heck, they’re grafting the nameplate onto an upcoming D3-platform CUV.

      I’m with psarhjinian on this one, check back in a couple years.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      I think it is hard to say how bad this will be because we haven’t seen the end of it. It will be interesting to know, for this recall and the floor mat recall what Toyota knew and when. If it turns out that Toyota has known for a good amount of time before issuing the recall, my guess is that it will be very bad for them.

      This will have a long and drawn out court battle and people will get reminders for years to come, like Toyota finishes replacing pedals, Toyota begins selling X model again, Toyota settles lawsuits, Toyota found at fault in lawsuit etc etc. I don’t think it will be the death of Toyota, but what Toyota knew and when will be very crucial to people perception of the company.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Another summary, haven’t read yet, just opened the page and it’s on their rolling thing

    http://www.motortrend.com/features/auto_news/2010/112_1001_toyota_recall_crisis/index.html

  • avatar
    Roundel

    I posted this sentiment in another thread, but i think its more relavent
    On a side note… when is toyota going to call a spade a spade. More “floormate recalls” are being added to “sticky gas pedals” This is most likely about the throttle or ECU, not pedals. Why are they skirting what it actually is. Now poeple have an inordinate fear of rubber floormats for no reason.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      This is most likely about the throttle or ECU, not pedals.

      Why does it have to be about the ECU?

      The ECU has multiple redundant, fault-aware inputs and outputs; the pedal has one, and little if any opportunity to make it fault-tolerant. Back before we had ECUs, sticking mechanical parts were more common.

      Now poeple have an inordinate fear of rubber floormats for no reason.

      Considering that floor mat misuse actually did kill someone, I think that’s a fair fear, especially since it’s very clear how floor-mat obstruction really could happen.

      You should also have a healthy fear of a pop-can getting stuck beneath the accelerator which is, again, more likely than a stuck ECU.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      scary rubber floormats? a new fetish is born!

      to be serious, i would have greater fear of the pop erroding the enamel on my teeth than its container getting entrapped behind my accl pedal.

    • 0 avatar
      Roundel

      There is still such a thing as as bad software…. It is most likely not an actual mechanical device, but some kind of code gone wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It is most likely not an actual mechanical device, but some kind of code gone wrong.

      Which is pretty hard to do, compared with mechanical interference with the pedal. Maybe it’s my inherent bias, and maybe it’s because I have to deal with an awful amount of Luddism professionally, but I find people are far more willing to blame software and computers (because they’re not as simple) than human or mechanical error.

      The thing is, the mechanical bits wear, fatigue, get dirty and are subject to all sorts of external factors. Software…doesn’t. When software goes bad, you’re generally looking at definite, reproducible conditions and a much wider problem sample. I’m not saying it can’t be software, but it’s far, far more likely to be physical.

      I think a lot of people want this to be software because they don’t like drive-by-wire throttles, but between floor mats (which we’ve seen demonstrated) and wear or contamination of the pedal assembly, it seems unlikely that it’s the case.

    • 0 avatar
      dkulmacz

      psar,

      For any given issue of this type, perhaps it is indeed more likely to be a mechanical failure than a failure in software. However . . . it is also much more likely for a mechanical failure to be found and fixed. A software bug causing this type of issue may be very rare, but if it exists at all then it may be exceeding hard to find, let alone fix. It’s entirely reasonable that over the millions of vehicles that are in total being driven for billions of miles, a very subtle bug could rear it’s head in a few cases and cause big problems. Yet software designers could bang their heads on tables for years and not figure it out.

      If I were a betting man, I would wager that the CTS pedal is not the answer . . . just as the floormats were not the answer.

      If you’re not careful, it’s not that hard to turn a well-designed system into a temperamental PITA as you modify it over time. If you start with something that is less than robust, your problems are just that much worse. You get the Winchester Mystery House. I would not be shocked if a complete bottom-up redesign of some sections of module software is required to really root this out (if indeed it’s software).

      And a sidenote, after reading all the comments here over the past few days . . . I work at Ford, and certainly do not feel any satisfaction over this situation. I have sympathy for all those involved, whether they be employees, dealers, or effected customers. I would hope that if nothing else this will teach some of the hardcore haters that there are no angels and no demons in this industry. We’re all human, and bad stuff can happen to the best of them. Think about the shoe, and the foot it is on. They can switch. If you think your personal favorite is being unfairly painted with a broad brush . . . perhaps you’re right. And perhaps the other guy was also right when he said it.

      Peace.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Are Toyota dealers allowed to sell used cars that are subject to the recall? Even if it’s not legally required, seems it’d be risky for any outlet to sell a model known to have a safety-related defect.

    Anyone know exactly why, other than floor mats, the recalled gas pedals are sticking?

    This storm has a silver lining for consumers. It may bring an end to shabby opportunism such as overpriced mandatory options (e.g. “paint protector”) and extra markups imposed by distributors and dealers. I would like to assure Toyota that all is forgiven–just give me a third off on a Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Not speaking as a legal expert here, and caveat emptor aside, I would think anyone who sells one of these cars, before it has been subject to Toyota’s (yet to be announced) definitive recall campaign, opens oneself to a lawsuit in the event of an accident.

      Can one of the the legal eagles amongs the TTAC B&B please ring-in here?

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      That should answer your question, taken from Canadian Toyota dealer in Toronto, it’s a used 2010 Corolla (subject to recall as far as I understand). Here’s link:

      http://toyotaonfront.autotrader.ca/used-inventory/index.htm?reset=InventoryListing&SByear=2010

  • avatar
    segfault

    The newly designed pedal is now tested and parts are beginning to ship to some Toyota factories.

    Exactly where they should be shipped. We’ve got to get the factories running and making money for Toyota before we bother to fix the deadly cars that are already on the road.

  • avatar
    WildBill

    Might be time to pick up a sweet used Toyota if/when the market for them goes down. Their reliability is still legendary.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What did they know and when did they know it? According to the Freep, the NHTSA investigated reports of unintended acceleration in Toyota’s best-selling model, the Camry, as early as 2004. A NHTSA report said examination of 139 complaints found no defects.

    Because I’m lazy, anyone know how many SUA or SLOC are reported per year/model, versus how many end up as legitimate? I ask because I’ve gone through the NHTSA database and the complaint signal-to-noise ratio is enough to make your eyes water.

    Toyota knew a year ago: Toyota says it knew there were problems with accelerator-pedal assemblies from supplier CTS late last year, but not enough to warrant a recall, reports USA Today.

    This one is a problem, depending on what Toyota’s timelines are (eg, “late last year” could be “December”, in which case we’re talking about a month). I know from software work that it can take a good amount of time to even identify a bug, let alone test it it out and get a fix ready. If “late last year” was before the floormat recall, then they’re in real trouble in terms of liability.

    I’d certainly be leery about stirring the pot, especially if the bug has multiple causes (eg, the floormat issue) and we’re not entirely sure of at least one of them. Opening the door before you have a good idea of the problem is a really good way to expose yourself to all sorts of liability.

  • avatar
    Omoikane

    We shall see Bertel.
    As you said, Toyota’s not Audi.
    My bet is the sales numbers will only suffer for the next 2 months, until the dealers get their cars fixed. There wasn’t much inventory to speak of- RAV4 was down to 9 days. Virtually all Toyota plants were running extended shifts and pretty much all Saturdays trying to keep up with demand.
    Cars are already being shipped with the new parts installed.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Omoikane-san,

      I have read reports, conflicting, of TMC having no solution, and parts already on the way to the plants.

      Here you ring-in with “vehicles are already being shipped with the new parts installed” …

      I’d like you to source your comment, or withdraw it, because if it is not true, it is not fair, if it is true that TMC was putting production before repairing defective cars in the field, this is very Damning evidence that Toyota’s culture of quality-, safety-, customer-first is nothing more than empty words…

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    I stumbled upon this while reading the MT timeline to which Stingray linked:

    “Upon hearing about the recall I went to the MT site to obtain more insight. Not just the babbling of us posters, but real journalistinc insight, and what did I get get? Nada. Zilch. nutin. Went to a few other major auto publication sites. Same thing. Total silence. I thought I might find some details about the recall, maybe an explanation as to why Lexus was not included, but nope. Nothing. If you go to almost any other non-auto news site and it is a top story. Hmmmm makes you wonder.”

    http://forums.motortrend.com/70/8017501/the-general-forum/motortrend-on-the-takeagain/index.html

    • 0 avatar
      Geotpf

      Lexus is not included because no Lexus models use the pedal involved, manufacturered by CTS in Canada. In fact, all but one Lexus model are made exclusively in Japan, and no Japanese made vehicles are involved in the recall.

  • avatar
    MidLifeCelica

    I got a set of Toyota rubber floor mats for Christmas to replace the carpet-style mats which, on the driver side were badly worn, and on the passenger side, plagued with a permanent crease/hump in the middle. As I was replacing them, seeing the factory-fresh carpet underneath, I had this little self-dialogue:

    “Why does every car need floor mats, anyway?”
    “Duh, to protect the factory carpet from wear, you idiot!”
    “OK, if you’re so smart, tell me – why do cars all have carpet on the floor?”

    At that point I had stumped myself. How DID short-pile carpet become the universal floor covering for cars, anyway? It makes no sense, other than as a sound-deadening measure, and the cons far outweigh the benefits. No one puts carpet in the entryway of their house, or in their bathrooms because we know that dirt and water tracked over it will ruin it quickly. We always wear shoes and boots while in the car, so it’s not because it feels nice on the feet. Why aren’t cars floored with a nice tough color-matched rubberized compound, with solid plastic inserts at the high-wear areas like under the accelerator? Then we wouldn’t be having this discussion about mats…

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      How DID short-pile carpet become the universal floor covering for cars, anyway?

      It’s the same reason we have dashboards made of plastic that apes padded leather: because we’ve always done it that way.

      Cars used to be luxury goods (many are, but they used to be exclusively). Much of what you see or come to expect comes for a turn-of-the-century (1899/1900) idea of what “luxury” means. So you get carpet because that’s what luxury carriages always had, and you get soft-padded surfaces because that’s what luxury carriages always had.

      It takes a long time to break from tradition.

    • 0 avatar
      MidLifeCelica

      It takes a long time to break from tradition.

      You’re probably right about how this all started, but I’m not convinced by your last statement. The last 100 years has brought nothing BUT change to traditions in every aspect of our lives. There was initial resistance to many car-related innovations but now we expect them and even eagerly anticipate them sometimes. Maybe it’s just the attitude of “it ain’t broke, so why fix it?” in this case. In the meantime…I wonder if I could replace all my carpet with some nice vinyl flooring and start a trend?

  • avatar
    Jeep Guy

    I can see it all now……….. When Kyle Busch spins someone going into turn 3, it will be because the throttle stuck……. ROTFL

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    On Mechatronics, Complexity, and Uncertainty…

    In my earlier posts on the Toyota Situation, I’ve tried to give insight into why floormat issues had to be attributed to the fault of Toyota (bad design due to not understanding customer usage) rather than to customer misuse (and definitely not to customer’s lacking ‘nerves of steel’ or somehow having sprung from the bottom end of the gene bucket) both mistruths which Toyota, in a lack of good corporate behaviour, did nothing to dispute or dispel, as well as technical analysis into possible root-causes of “Pedal-Gate” (my other self-invented term, now become increasingly popular…)

    In addition, I’ve tried to indicate how Mat-Gate (my self-invented term) was a late-leading indicator of the deterioration of Toyota’s Quality and Customer-First corporate principles (earlier leading indicators were engine-sludge and rotting truck frames.)

    Despite being a natural skeptic, and having seen from the inside how bad corporate behaviour develops, and believing that Toyota has been (at least for me) transparently clumsy in its bad behaviour, I have tried to be fair and measured in my statements and limited in my suppositions.

    I’m not looking to do damage or harm where it is not due, or to further an adgenda for or against any particular OEM. What I am interested is the sociological aspect as well as the techinical and quality root causes behind this story.

    But given the facts and statements bubbling to the surface, which conflict, or downright collide, with Toyota’s own statements and actions, I feel I can be a little less circumspect in my suppositions.

    That said, and relative to Roundel, Horner, et al., I have had a niggling concern that the non-sociological root causes here doesn’t end where the pedal assy snaps into the wiring harness …

    Having been involved with the development of complex mechatronic safety systems for automotive applications, I can tell you from experience that sensors (and there are many, for force, torque, angle, angular acceleration, temperature, mass air flow, manifold pressure, pre- and post-cat O2, et al.) scattered throughout a modern car.

    Whether the sensor is dedicated to a particular function, or is also used as a secondory source of corroborative data, what pulls all this together is software running in various ECU’s quite often communicating over a CAN-, Flexray-, or similar data-BUS.

    In addition to the sensors, which are for the most-part passive in nature, there are active items in the vehicle which react to commands from the ECU, given in reponse to the various sensor data processed by the ECU. These could range from a simple spark or fuel-injection command, to a position command for a throttle position stepper-motor (these examples being engine-related, there are scads of others from ABS/ESC commands to the brakes, to electric-motor-driven torque assist being delivered into your EPAS steering system).

    As you can see, these systems are extremely complex, and (the scary thing is) can’t be 100% tested for software code reliability … sure there are automated programs to check code, and OEM’s try to exercise due-care in the development of these systems, but as they become evermore complex, and ever more integrated, it can not be said with certainty that there will not be “edge of the map” or “off the map” systemic transient glitches which were never contemplated or predicted.

    Some of these glitches may be due to oversights in the development of the original systems, or may be newly created during the attempt to graft more functionality onto existing systems, or just due to poor vehicle integration efforts … (for a good example of, poor integration, consider the ~2oo3-ish recall of Chevy’s Corvette for an Electric Steering Column Lock which could lock at undesirable moments!)

    Some are easily solved by finding a problem in the code, re-writing it, and then “flashing” the E(E)PROM (provided the vehicle is so-equipped) other more complex problems that go to the root of compatability and integration are not so easily, quickly, or cheaply solved.

    Companies can move too slowly when they have a rare-occurrance issue (gives confidence there is time to solve the issue without having to rush), that requires an expensive fix (pauses managers from implementing a more expensive solution until all cheaper solutions have been proven infeasible), the problem here is that some corporate cultures are not good at differentiating between issues which can afford the luxury of time to find a cheap robust solution, and potentially-deadly issues demanding a quick expensive bullet-proof solution. The tipping point between the slow/cheap and fast/expensive solutions usually happens when accumulating anecdotal, empirical or statistical evidence makes it widely into the headlines and the public’s consciousness.

    And I have been having the niggling feeling that this may be the kind of issue which Toyota may have backed itself into.

    I haven’t finished my thoughts on this issue, and these change (usually for the more critical as this particular story unfolds) … but I thought I’d share these with the B&B…

    Sorry again for the long post.

    • 0 avatar
      Roundel

      Excellent Post Robert!

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Robert, No need to apologize sir your I find your stuff informative and unbias.

      If can go toe to toe woth psarhjinian and come out with a win or at least a draw, you are doing better than most of us can.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      If can go toe to toe woth psarhjinian and come out with a win or at least a draw, you are doing better than most of us can.

      I’m actually getting my ass kicked, but thanks for the vote of, uh, confidence.

      I do have a question for Robert, and it comes from my not being and automotive engineer: do you really think this is software? Wouldn’t you expect the conditions to be more reproducible and more widespread?

    • 0 avatar
      racebeer

      psar …. while trying not to put words in Robert’s mouth, I think what he is saying is that the failure is not in the software itself, but in the failure mode analysis (FEMA) that led up to how the software responds in particular circumstances. Toyota might not have anticipated, or saw as highly unlikely in their component analysys, an actuator failure to occur in the throttle circuit at the pedal, thus not anticipating a potential signal that would be in conflict with other sensor inputs to the ECU. So, they did not program a response to this situation. With all the iterations of things going both right and wrong, I think this is more of a breakdown in the FMEA process than a blatent coding error. To sum up, this failure mode was somehow eliminated from consideration, and thus no response was coded.

      But then again, I could be wrong ……..

    • 0 avatar
      Geotpf

      Neither the floor mat recall not the pedal recall involves problems with electronic systems at all. Both are purely mechanical issues.

    • 0 avatar
      dkulmacz

      Geotpf,

      But no one knows if either of these recalls addresses the root cause . . .

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      But no one knows if either of these recalls addresses the root cause

      Nobody knows that they didn’t, either. Right now, speculation either way is just that.

    • 0 avatar
      dkulmacz

      Two completely unrelated mechanical fixes to address the same problem? That just happened to occur on many of the same vehicles, at the same time? Sounds unlikely to me, but . . .

  • avatar
    Subifreak

    I drive a 2005 Lexus ES 330 and an earlier post here from the Motortrend link posted here (via the L.A. Times) this is page 4 of the article)…of the summary of events…

    November 29, 2009: A new Los Angeles Times story claims a number of Toyota drivers say their vehicles had still accelerated out of control with the floor mats removed. The Times also reports complaints of unintended acceleration increased after Toyota began using its drive-by-wire system in 2002, starting with the ES 300. According to the Times, unintended acceleration complaints on Lexus ES 300s jumped from an average of 26 per year in 2001 to 132 per year in 2002, and there had been 19 deaths since 2002 related to unintended acceleration in Toyotas, compared with 11 deaths connected to all other automakers combined. The story also notes Toyota has been investigated for unintended acceleration more times than any other automaker, and that 74 of 132 complaints lodged against the 2007 Lexus ES 350 were for cases of unintended acceleration. Toyota has no explanation, but says its drive-by-wire system is not to blame, again citing the November 2 NHTSA report.

    However, the Times notes that the agency has only investigated the drive-by-wire system twice in its nine investigations and Toyota had issued three separate service bulletins for 2002 and 2003 Camrys concerning unintended acceleration issues with the drive-by-wire system. The Times says NHTSA had asked Toyota to look into an issue with the electronic throttle body on the 2006 Camry, which Toyota immediately delegated to the parts supplier. When the supplier reported there was no problem, NHTSA accepted the finding and quietly closed the report, keeping most of its 74 pages confidential.

    Based on that info (and it sounds like the NHTSA has some explaining to do here too) I have a feeling the recalls will be extended in the near future. Thoughts?

  • avatar
    Roundel

    Or the recalls will be targetted to what is actually the problem. Imagine a company wasting millions of dollars on a recall that doesn’t actually fix the problem. The throttle body and the drive by wire system would be prime suspects, then take a look at the ECU.
    Toyota needs to stop beating around the bush, or “mat-gate” could be turn a serious problem into a company failure.

  • avatar
    Mr. Sparky

    Toyota is having its “Pinto” experience. If you make cars long enough, the law of averages is bound to catch you.

    Heck, maybe will have a Toyota Death Watch in about 20 years.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I think you should replace the “Volt Birthwatch” to “Toyota Recall Watch” series.

  • avatar
    Omoikane

    Robert-san,
    don’t you worry about Toyota’s culture. While it has its shortcomings, Toyota’s culture far exceeds in quality Big3/UAW’s.
    I have yet to see in Toyota mattresses scattered around in the plants and people sleeping on them while clocking overtime; people drunk or high on the job to the point they could barely stand up; people signing in and jumping the fence out only to come back and punch-out at end of shift plus overtime, line workers sabotaging machinery and product- like I’ve seen way too often in the Big3 establishments.

    The slight timing difference between installing the parts on the line (starting Monday) and replacing them at dealerships (this weekend) has to do with training and logistics. Not culture.
    As for the proof you requested- after you made countless BS assumptions/comments without any backing- I don’t have much yet other than reports from inside the plants.

    http://b4.boards2go.com/boards/board.cgi?action=read&id=1264627557&user=coolhand88

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Toyota’s culture far exceeds in Quality Big3/UAW’s…Really?

      How many UAW/CAW plants have you seen shut down by the NHTA?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      This issue goes to the core of management credibility and customer-first philosophy.

      Toyota will be in for a lot of new scrutiny, and renewed scrutiny.

      Let’s let this play out, and then see how wrong I am.

  • avatar
    rnc

    “Self Edited due to sensitivity”

    This must be incredibly painful for the toyota zealots (especially those who for years took glee in the GM death watch, while extolling the virtues of thier great company that rose with the sun).

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Without question this debacle will cost Toyota sales and effect their longterm quality reputation. To what degree remains to be seen but this is a large chink in Toyota’s former reputation for industry leading quality. At the very least many Toyota owners will likely at least consider purchasing from another manufacturer where heretofore they wouldn’t have.

    This is a massive safety recall related to normal everyday driving involving their most popular models, how anyone could think the negative impact won’t be substantial is beyond me.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Three populations of cars are affected; those in production, those already built and in (or on their way to) dealers’ lots, and those in the hands of customers. It goes without saying just from a logistics standpoint that those in production, being the most localized, will be fixed first.

    I think its effect on Toyota’s fortunes will be similar to that of Chevrolet’s motor mount problems in the 60′s and 70′s cars or Ford’s shifting-itself-into-reverse problems that they had in the 70′s; a big deal at the time but virtually forgotten in a few years. Lasting effects on sales will depend on how the company as a whole continues to operate; whether it is seen to have a renewed focus on providing a safe product.

  • avatar
    bmoredlj

    Any way you look at this, if Americans keep buying Toyotas in the same numbers they have, they will have learned nothing at all from their experiences with American cars. The Detroit 3′s disregard for quality and the damage done to their reputation caused its steep slide in market share, and to gain any back (as at least Ford seems to be doing) they’ve had to make big changes in how they do things. Now that the Toyota cat’s out of the bag and they are no longer infallible to the general public, some kind of extended decline would seem appropriate, esp. since I’d estimate most Toyota owners aren’t so much brand-loyalists or fanatics as they buy a Toyota as an appliance they expect to perform flawlessly. If Toyota’s products have glaring or potentially dangerous flaws, those brand-indifferent people will scatter elsewhere.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Audi has been a marginal company in 1986 in the NA and is still a marginal company. Until mid 90-ties they didn’t have a competitive product in NA. That’s quite different from Toyota’s current position. Remember it took GM, a dominant car company, 40 years to go belly up. The best Toyota can do is to stick to their appliance car model and they will be OK.


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