By on February 1, 2010


According to a PR Newswire release, a class action suit has been filed against Toyota and supplier CTS, alleging “inherent design defects,” specifically a “lack of failsafes” in Toyota’s ETCS-i (Electronic Throttle Control System-intelligent), in use since 2001. As in not the pedal assembly. A similar suit was filed in the US last November. Today, Toyota’s Jim Lentz was emphatic that electronics were not the issue with the ongoing recall, but shortly after the US suit was filed, Toyota quietly announced that an electronic brake override system would be installed on certain vehicles with automatic transmissions. Is that as good as an admission of guilt? You can bet the lawyers are already saying so. The full release is available after the jump.

TORONTO, Feb. 1 /PRNewswire/ – A national class action has been commenced on behalf of all Canadian owners, operators, lessors and/or passengers of Toyota vehicles with the ETCS-i throttling system.

The claim seeks compensation for losses and injuries as a result of the purchase or use of numerous Toyota vehicles. The defendants named in the lawsuit are Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., Toyota Motor North America, Inc., Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc., Toyota Canada Inc., Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. and CTS of Canada Ltd., CTS of Canada Holding Co., CTS of Canada GP Ltd., CTS of Canada Co. and CTS Corporation.

The claim, filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, alleges that Toyota and CTS Corporation knew or ought to have known of inherent design defects in the ETCS-i System and its component parts that have been used in models of Toyota vehicles manufactured since 2001. The consequences of these design defects, including the lack of failsafes used by other auto manufacturers, have resulted in numerous reports throughout North America of uncontrollable unintended accelerations, including cases of collisions involving severe injuries and death to drivers and passengers of these vehicles.

Joel P. Rochon, a partner at Rochon Genova LLP said: “This is a complex problem spanning several years and many models–we are concerned that the recent announcement of a “fix” appears not to address the ETCS-i Systems itself, nor the issue of a lack of failsafe which would permit the driver to regain control of the vehicle in the event of an unintended acceleration.”

“Having only purchased a brand new car a few weeks ago, I simply cannot believe that Toyota would have sold me this vehicle”, said the proposed representative plaintiff Steven Hamilton. “I can’t even resell my car now–I am seeking a full refund.”

The allegations raised in the claim have not yet been proven in court. The plaintiff and the proposed class members are represented by the firm of Rochon Genova LLP.

SOURCE ROCHON GENOVA LLP

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49 Comments on “Canadian Suit Alleges Toyota Electronic Throttle Control Defect...”


  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    The best response I can think of for this post is “Like we didn’t know already”.

    I am sure that most of us figured back when the reports of unattended acceleration started to happen that is was caused by a bug that made the engine think the accelerator was being depressed.

  • avatar
    tced2

    It is not clear to me that CTS is the “engineer” of the throttle system – Toyota is the system integrator. CTS just makes one sub-assembly.
    “blood in the water”

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    Why would it be an admission of guilt? In the modern Toyota context, they should have every single base covered with this ‘unattended acceleration’ thing.

    And a electronic brake override is in most cars sold on the market, I’m not sure why Toyota didn’t have it installed to begin with. If they had this mess wouldn’t have been nearly so big.

    • 0 avatar
      AICfan

      But…how can you do a good brake stand with such a device on your car?

      Not like Toyotas can even chirp the tires…

      One thing – I’ve noticed the press seem to call this ‘unintended’ acceleration, not ‘sudden’ acceleration – maybe the use of ‘sudden acceleration’ and ‘Toyota’ gets too many chuckles in the newsroom?

    • 0 avatar
      210delray

      Most cars have brake override systems? Not by a long shot. From what I’ve read, only Mercedes, BMW, VW/Audi, Nissan/Infiniti, and possibly some Chrysler models have this system in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      AICfan,

      Most of the brake override systems do allow you to brake-torque the car, when the car is stopped or near-stopped. The service manual for my Nissan explains how to do a stall test on the CVT transmission, which wouldn’t be possible if the interlock operated when the car were stopped.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The opening line should read “ETCS-i”, not “ECTS-i”.

  • avatar

    What’s really fucked up about all this is i wanted to write a Review of the 2009 Camry and why I felt it was such a cool car if you’re on a budget.

    They really messed me up this month.

    • 0 avatar
      Runfromcheney

      My mom is looking for a new car and I really liked the Camry. (as in I liked it as the kind of car you would recommend to a friend who doesn’t like cars) I recommended it to her and she said that she isn’t going to even consider ANY Toyota because of the unattended acceleration problems.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnAZ

      @Runfromcheney
      Wow, That’s important new news. You don’t even have to have someone in the car for it to accelerate?

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    It was so cold in Toronto today I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets.

  • avatar
    ott

    Gardiner, you crack me up!

  • avatar
    Steven02

    I think that this is going to be bad for Toyota. The brake override should be there.

  • avatar
    Gregg

    Edward, Are you guys parting out a Toyota in the back
    yard?

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    Well since they are saying it affects cars after 2001, I plan on taking a quick look at our 2002 Highlander this evening.

    Not sure if it’s DBW or not but I would like to know whether it’s so afflicted and advise the missus on the correct action should a problem occur.

    Amazing that Toyota didn’t put a fail safe in the firmware.Like someone already said the “brake on” flag already exists when you move the transmission lever.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The consequences of these design defects, including the lack of failsafes used by other auto manufacturers, have resulted in numerous reports throughout North America of uncontrollable unintended accelerations, including cases of collisions involving severe injuries and death to drivers and passengers of these vehicles.

    There’s one design defect, two if you count the floor mats, which is dubious in this context.

    I’d also like to know if they’re planning to go after every throttle-by-wire maker that didn’t include a brake-throttle cutoff. Oh, and anyone who made a car with a non-DBW throttle, because those are inherently unsafe and also lack failsafes. While we’re at it, let’s sue everyone who makes cars, because there’s a possibility someone could come to harm.

    Joel P. Rochon, a partner at Rochon Genova LLP said: “This is a complex problem spanning several years and many models

    If it’s solved by two zip-ties and piece of metal, it’s not a “complex problem”.

    –we are concerned that the recent announcement of a “fix” appears not to address the ETCS-i Systems itself, nor the issue of a lack of failsafe which would permit the driver to regain control of the vehicle in the event of an unintended acceleration.”

    This smacks of sophistry on the part of the law firm: “we all know there’s a problem” isn’t exactly hard evidence. You’re going to have to actually, you know, prove it, with actual evidence showing how the inputs and outputs of the ECU can cause the condition in question, and how it’s not the floor mats or the pedal assembly sticking.

    And the lack of a brake-throttle cutoff does not constitute “a lack of failsafes”, unless you’re going to extend that logic (and your lawsuit) to cover every manufacturer’s product since 2001 that doesn’t contain such a system.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      I suspect that if they get sued in a strict liability state like Texas or Florida, they’ll lose because the jury will not find solice in your arguement.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      psarhjinian
      Toyota has 2 different recalls that would not have been deadly if they had this system in place. That is the difference. Not only that, the amount of complaints Toyota has is great than the rest of the manufactures combined when it comes to UA.

      I think all auto manufactures should have a brake over ride, but they aren’t going to go after the others unless there was some harm done. You can’t sue over potential harm. If that was the case, I would be a rich man already. Say Honda doesn’t have a brake over ride. But Honda doesn’t have any problems with pedals getting stuck. Why would you expect them to sue Honda for this?

      The reason to sue is the actual defects of the system coupled with the DBW system not having failsafes. If another manufacture has UA problems and is lacking failsafes, they are going to be sued as well when people are injured. You hear about this one because of the media frenzy that is now accompanying the recalls. Car companies are sued all the time for defects causing people harm.

      My guess, this will be a safety requirement for all cars with DBW in a few years.

  • avatar
    eastcoastcar

    Too bad Toyota has been cheapening their designs. “Fat Engineering” used to give Toyota the edge, but they went “Very Thin” it seems. But Toyota isn’t the only one who has. What all this tells me personally as a car buyer is to get the cheapest thing possible, run it into the ground and then get another one, rinse and repeat. And invest in collectibles for a ‘nice’ car to drive on weekends. We are ready for disposable cars (a subject on this site a few weeks back). Like a laptop or an Mp3 player. If “Thin” is where Toyota is headed, then fine, but let them drop their prices by 70% to compensate for their new, willful, lack of quality. I’d like to know how many more senior executives in charge of ‘xxxx’ Toyota has added while dropping the quality of their vehicles. We’re being MBA’d to death that is for sure.

    • 0 avatar
      AccAzda

      The term… you are looking for is

      PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE.

      And.. its not just in cars… its pretty much everywhere. Its also not COMING, its been here coming on 30yrs.
      Whole companies, industries, economies are designed around the fact, of making it cheap enough, so it fails and you get another.

      And the concept of buying a CHEAP car.. only puts Hyundai / Kia into the limelight.. of just building a cheap car.. with no merit.

    • 0 avatar
      210delray

      My employer just took delivery of 2 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS models today. One thing that caught my eye was that both cars had Solus H-rated tires, while all previous Sonata GTS models I have seen from 2006-10 were sold with V-rated Michelin tires. So even media darling Hyundai has apparently cut some costs, even though it can be argued that no family sedan NEEDS V-rated tires.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Too bad Toyota has been cheapening their designs. “Fat Engineering” used to give Toyota the edge, but they went “Very Thin” it seems. But Toyota isn’t the only one who has

      You cannot blithely continue to overbuilt and overspend when your competition is not, especially in the mass-market. You’ll get eaten alive by more agile competition.

      Toyota, as has been noted by objective reports and from a holistic perspective, still makes a quality product in terms of reliability and durability. The actual cars they make are more reliable, see fewer problems, cost less to own and seem to be going longer, than their “overbuilt” predecessors. So are Honda’s products. So are Ford’s a Hyundai’s. All of this while the cost in adjusted dollars is going down.

    • 0 avatar
      210delray

      You got that right, psar. I’d rather have electronic stability control, side curtain and thorax airbags, and disk brakes at all 4 corners than “fine Corinthian leather.”

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      @psarhjinian: blithely?

  • avatar
    Odomeater

    Every day we seem to learn more of Toyota covering up, lying and willfully producing these dangerous cars. Shame on them. I would never consider their product. Ever.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Every day we seem to learn more of Toyota covering up, lying and willfully producing these dangerous cars.

      We do? Really? Because it seems like we actually go a week or two worth of activity, followed by a few weeks of digestion and analysis on the part of all parties.

      Do you have actual proof of a cover-up or lie? Because what we actually seem to have is a failure of oversight and an initial bad diagnosis that was subsequently followed up by a new one. This is like the claims of “obvious problems” with the ECU. If they’re so obvious, why can’t we reproduce them consistently and easily? Or it perhaps that armchair engineering and media hyperbole isn’t perhaps privvy of all the answers?

      It always pays to read anything you see in the media with a dose of skepticism because it’s depressingly common to see the media grossly oversimplify issues (to the point of actual lies) or mischaracterize facts or make heartstring-tugging inferences as the story demands. The media business is, in fact, a business, and anything the media is pushing truly does deserve some scrutiny.

    • 0 avatar
      Aqua225

      psarhjinian:

      I think the poster who you are responding too, has a very good point. First Toyota wanted to jam through the mat fix, now they are jamming through the accelerator pedal sensor fix. Except, under the radar, they are going to add ECU support for cutting the throttle on brake. I think that is a VERY interesting development in the setup.

      It says to me that they need legitimate access to the software in your ECU. I would bet money they are correcting a software bug under the guise of providing a new safety feature for the car.

      The fact they have stopped production, forced through a number of “fixes” says to me: we are hiding something much worse, and we need this whole thing to go away, and we are going to give consumers a little theater to make them feel we are “on the job” of correcting this problem. It does reduce my trust in Toyota.

      I can’t say that I have ever been a Toyota owner: my family owned a ’83 Corolla station wagon (bought brand new in ’83), and my Dad’s opinion of the car was that it was no better than anything else he had ever owned (which was mostly Ford and GM at the time). We didn’t live near a dealer, so wierd breakdowns in motion could not be diagnosed and mysteriously fixed during “normal oil changes”. Among those: valve adjustments for the 4-banger, oxygen sensor replacement at 60K, various body vibrations, etc. Ie., it just wasn’t the impressive piece of equipment the consumer mags played them up to be. My father thought the car was as good as any of the American makes he owned, but without the horsepower (though he & Mom were looking at gas mileage at that time anyway, so 75hp was fine), and with the pain of lack of dealer coverage. There are still no close Toyota dealers where they live.

      But now with the theater they are putting on, and 2 consecutive “jam” fixes, I don’t trust them much further than I can throw them.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      @psarhjinian: “Do you have actual proof of a cover-up or lie?”

      Sorry, but I’m not going to give any corporation the benefit of the doubt; when the whole purpose of incorporation is to shield it’s owners from liability.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It says to me that they need legitimate access to the software in your ECU. I would bet money they are correcting a software bug under the guise of providing a new safety feature for the car.

      There’s too many eyeballs involved, and far too high a level of liability, for them to consider such an action. Never mind that, were it software, why go to the extent of stopping production or ordering millions of dollars in parts (and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of labour hours). The risk/benefit on such a move doesn’t work out.

      There’s been hints that they might add brake throttle-cutoff, but that’s about it.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      psarhjinian
      Perhaps you should read the TTAC article about the design changes that have been going on with the CTS pedal over the years, due to the pedal sticking. Toyota has known about the problem.

      They have also known about UA problems with their vehicles with the floor mats for a very long time. It took the very large media stories with people dying for them to change. Proof enough for me.

      As for the ECU, I don’t know if they are doing it or not, but that should be the next change that goes into Toyota vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Actually, it looks like Toyota is making some changes to the ECU.
      http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/01/autos/toyota_gas_pedal_fix/index.htm?hpt=Sbin
      “Lentz said he is confident that resolving this issue and the floor mat entrapment problem will solve the problem for Toyota. The automaker has also said it is making “brake override” — a system that cuts engine power to the wheels as soon as the brake pedal is pressed — standard equipment on all of its cars.

      The “brake override” software will also be added to the internal computers on some cars as they are brought in for recall repairs, a Toyota spokesman said.”

  • avatar
    210delray

    I don’t know how people can go on and on about declining quality and product obsolescence when today’s cars last far longer than those of decades past. Maybe this is true of dishwashers and can openers, but not cars. Have you guys been reading Paul’s CC series?

    Back in the 50s and 60s, it was quite common for people to trade in their cars every two years without giving it half a thought. Going to 100K miles was a real accomplishment in those days. Plus the annual styling changes would make a 4-year old car look quite dated. (Imagine driving a ’54 Chevy in ’58.) Our family was an outlier, keeping cars for SIX whole years, because we didn’t rack up mileage very quickly. Still our ’55 Chevy was sold in 1961 with only 30K miles on it, and we followed the same pattern for the ’61 that replaced the ’55.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I don’t know how people can go on and on about declining quality and product obsolescence when today’s cars last far longer than those of decades past.

      Call it “personal myopia”.

      Everyone thinks everything has gone to shit within their lifetime. It doesn’t matter whose lifetime you’re talking about, or what the actual things are, everyone thinks this. If you were born in 1900, what you saw in 1960 was a world of failing morals and standards. If you were born in 1960, you’re likely to say the same of 2010. People in 1840 probably said it about 1900. People in 3000BC were probably saying it about 2940BC.

      What is actually happening is that people, by and large, get better at critical thinking and skepticism as they get older, are a little less optimistic, and a little less easy to delude with promises of false utopias—but people being people, we think we stay the same while the world changes. The reality is that the world doesn’t change that much, but we do.

      So we tend look upon that period in our lives when we weren’t so jaded as being idyllic, because that’s how we thought about it at the time.

  • avatar

    I have an 07 Avalon with 102,000 miles on it, not old in years but “certainly with time” in mileage.
    I love the Japanese Buick and it has given me great service and 30 mpg on the interstate.
    Guess I’ll see what Mr Toyota sends me in the mail.

  • avatar
    threeer

    This smacks more of buyers remorse, attempting to dump a car the buyer didn’t really want and not more than just a little “dogpiling” if you ask me. When you’re at the top of the heap, it’s easy for others to take (repeated) shots at you. I can’t speak for everybody, but I will say this…my family currently owns three Toyota products (my 1997 Tercel, my mother’s 2003 Corolla and my sister’s 2003 Highlander), and have owned a 1981 Corolla and 1993 Camry. Each and every one of these vehicles has (or continues to) serve us in a steadfast and rock-solid manner. I trust the Corolla and Highlander to any long-distance trip, and continue to use the Tercel (now with close to 200K) for my daily commute, without hesitation or concern. I’m sure people will now be looking to buy Toyotas on the cheap (or to sue so they can recover any “losses” associated with the temporary downturn of their value).
    I’m looking at a replacement for my Tercel (and plan on refurbishing the Tercel to give back to my son when he is able to have is own car again out in Colorado), and Toyota is most assuredly on the short list.

    As for the guy with the ’88 MkI…I’d keep it, too! My best friend is a rabid MkI fan, and I’ve owned two. Great little cars (especially if built with the 2.2 Turbo donated from the Celica).

  • avatar
    John Horner

    It seems that all0 the lawyers need to show is that other car makers incorporated code in their throttle control algorithm to return to idle when the brake is pressed, even if the accelerator is also pressed down.

    Imagine asking this of a Toyota Guy on the witness stand: “Competitor XYZ presented a paper at SAE conference so-and-so about their implementation of an algorithm to shut down the throttle-by-wire action anytime the user was pressing both the accelerator and the brake in order to prevent runaway vehicles. Why didn’t Toyota implement a similar algorithm?”

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I asked this question in another thread:
      * What about the other marques who haven’t implemented it?
      * What about ESC?
      * What about ABS?
      * What about TPMS?
      * What about BLIS or PreSafe?

      If a lawyer is successful in making that argument, you’re going to see cars get significantly more costly very quickly, because as soon as a safety technology shows up it must be implemented in every car on pain of liability.

    • 0 avatar
      Bruce from DC

      Well, the lawyers would have to show that the prevailing practice was to incorporate a return-to-idle whenever the brake was applied instruction in the software, not just that one or two manufacturers incorporated such a feature.

      Those who are nostalgic for the “good ol’ days” of mechanical linkages perhaps didn’t actually live in those times. A not infrequent cause of “unintended acceleration” in the good ol’ days of mechanical linkages involved the “kick-down linkage” between the automatic transmission and the throttle. The purpose of this linkage was, I believe, two-fold. First, it was to signal the auto tranny to shift to a lower gear upon application of full throttle by the driver and second, it was to improve shift quality (and avoid destroying the tranny by forcing it to shift under maximum torque from the engine) by momentarily feathering the throttle while the shift was made. In short, for a brief period, the throttle of these cars was under control of the automatic transmission, not the driver.

      As one might imagine, with such a Rube Goldberg collection of linkages, bell cranks and so on, these things were known to bind up for various reasons: dirt, wear, maladjustment. So, I can testify from personal knowledge that a malfunction in this system could result in an unintended full throttle, even when you applied only part throttle.

      As for the “benefits” of such a feature in the ECU software, consider that many cars now offer a “hill holder” function, even with autoboxes. The purpose is to avoid having the vehicle roll back before the engine/transmission/clutch takes up the load. The way that it works is that the brakes stay applied, even with no application of the brake pedal, while the engine/transmission spins up sufficient torque on the drive wheels to keep the car from moving backwards.

      I’m not sure that it would be possible to implement this system and have a “return to idle” function whenever the brake is applied.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      psarhjinian
      You miss a point here. Safety is enforced over time. TPMS is required on all cars today. ESC is soon to be required or required today.

      While an attorney might, or might not have problem proving that Toyota should have had a brake over ride system, that is only one part of the case. The pedal sticking and the floor mats are a slam dunk.

      Other manufactures would be open to a different case if they have defects that have caused injury to people or property. When that happens, they will be sued as well.

  • avatar
    MidLifeCelica

    Unless Toyota has switched to a new ECU in the last few years, I highly doubt there will be any secret reflashing going on, because the one I have has been deliberately designed to be unmodifiable. Instead of being a ‘tuner’ car for the younger generation, it turned out that nearly any engine modification generates a CEL, and the ECU will fight any change you make in an attempt to make things ‘stock’, and you can’t change it. It can barely tolerate a cold air intake. The first item on the shopping list for anyone adding a turbo or supoercharger, new intake manifold or exhaust header to this car is an aftermarket ECU. Then Toyota switched the Celica to DBW in 2003, and none of the already limited aftermarket suppliers bothered to follow along.

    I have a friend with an RX-8 and he can download maps from the internet and upgrade his car just like a PC. But I’m not bitter…

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    Didn’t a similar lawsuit circus happen about 15 years ago when manufacturers started putting interlocks that stop you from shifting out of Park unless the brake pedal was depressed?

    Someone had a vehicle that didn’t have this system, at about the time that it was introduced in other vehicles or the same model had it the following model year. The driver put their vehicle in reverse without applying the brakes and ran over a kid. Then they sued the auto manufacturer because the vehicle didn’t force them to apply the brakes, which would have prevented the accident.

  • avatar

    Suddenly, Chrysler cars look quality-engineered.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Interesting enough…
    http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/01/autos/toyota_gas_pedal_fix/index.htm?hpt=Sbin

    “Lentz said he is confident that resolving this issue and the floor mat entrapment problem will solve the problem for Toyota. The automaker has also said it is making “brake override” — a system that cuts engine power to the wheels as soon as the brake pedal is pressed — standard equipment on all of its cars.

    The “brake override” software will also be added to the internal computers on some cars as they are brought in for recall repairs, a Toyota spokesman said.”

    Looks like Toyota will be changing some ECUs.


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