By on February 16, 2010

The MSM is abuzz with a rash of fresh (well, not really) deaths-by-Toyota. According to an Associated Press report (this one via Twincities.com,) “complaints of deaths connected to sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles have surged in recent weeks, with the alleged death toll reaching 34 since 2000.” In the past three weeks alone, people told the NHTSA about nine crashes involving 13 alleged deaths between 2005 and 2010 due to accelerator problems. Without the heightened awareness, those people would have passed away unnoticed. Other fatalities loom:

Jobs.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency has on the wire that “Toyota is considering suspending car production at two U.S. plants for about two weeks due to sales falls following massive recalls of its vehicles over brake problems.” Reuters has the same story. No further details are available (we’ll keep an eye out.)  As long as the lines  are shut down only for a few weeks, people will be kept busy doing maintenance chores. If the sales will continue to fall, the axe will fall also.

As for Toyota’s plans, we will know more after 5pm local in Tokyo. Toyota Prez Akio Toyoda will hold his third news conference regarding the firm’s recent string of quality problems. According to the Nikkei [sub], “Toyoda is expected to give a status report on the recall of the Prius hybrid car for brake problems as well as outline the steps the automaker is taking on quality issues.”

Update: The Japanese Chunichi Shimbun, published in Nagoya, close to Toyota City, reports that Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky site will close for four days. The San Antonio, Texas plant will close for 10 days. Camry, Avalon and Tundra sales have taken a hit, says the paper. The closures would come out to a total of 14 days, not to two weeks each,

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52 Comments on “Toyota: 13 New Deaths, 2 Closed Plants. Allegedly...”


  • avatar
    Hippo

    Free lottery tickets.

  • avatar
    Roxer

    Can anyone provide any links whatsoever to actual fact regarding these UA deaths? All I ever see are people complaining that Toyota’s car have caused the accidents. Have any companies (crash reconstruction) verified any of the deaths? If not this is just plain ol regular scare-mongering.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    On one level it’s economic warfare, watch Goldman Sachs in the EU and Okinawa. On another level every leech that was involved in a fatal accident in a Toyota, even if a piano fell on their head while opening the door 10 years ago, will have someone get in line for windfall cash.
    That’s just the American way.

  • avatar

    Falling sales? Suspended production? Possible job cuts?

    Last month, I remember being told this wasn’t a such a big deal, because Toyota = Quality, and no one would pay attention to the recalls and a few deaths.

  • avatar

    Any idiot can go on http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/ivoq/ and file a complaint. The complaint goes in the database. If I would write a report saying that my friend’s Corolla drove in a bus, the bus did burst into flames and 100 people perished, you would have 100 additional deaths in that database.

    Note that 13 alleged deaths came out of the woodwork in the last three weeks alone. This database is meaningless, save for reading public opinion. Or the rapid typing skills of a few.

    There is a real database covering fatalities. It is called FARS. It gets extremely detailed input from police officers. So where are the FARS analyses?

    • 0 avatar

      And we come back to NHTSA:
      Is NHTSA accurately reporting data from the government’s own database?

      The public role of a regulatory agency should be fair, factual, and succinct, but LaHood managed to screw that up early on in the Toyota mess. Let the NTSB absorb the NHTSA’s duties and see if that helps.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Did you write an article talking about data from this database?
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/the-truth-about-nhtsa-complaints/

      I don’t see you calling it meaningless then. I know that I did in the comments with many people telling me I was wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Steven, as I recall, the tone of that discussion was that the NHTSA data might have use as a qualitative indication of an OEM’s overall performance, although the data would require a fair bit of massaging to bring it to use in discrete situations, such as sudden acceleration.

      As we all might suspect, the overall NHTSA data seems to indicate that Toyota has been the quality leader in North America, as other data we review has clearly shown. Every frickin’ PowerPoint presentation I ever looked at had a “Toyota” curve plotted at the top, which the team was presumably chasing after (not really “chasing”, however, as it was mostly just handwaving, up until a few short years ago. They coulda saved supertankers full of ink, and not bothered plotting those Toyota curves. A big cost savings was available to them here, and no downside loss to them whatsoever.)

    • 0 avatar

      Steven2: Go to my last comment under that article. It begins with

      “Anybody can file an NHTSA report about anything. There is nothing that keeps me from filing 150 unintended acceleration reports, blaming the manufacturer of my choice.”

      That article was about the number of complaints in the list, regardless of severity or validity. And the point was, that Toyota had received very few. Also, that point was made by Edmunds. Just reporting the facts here.

    • 0 avatar
      blue adidas

      The shortcomings of the NHTSA are just a red herring to distract from Toyota’s mess. The reality is that Toyota has admitted there are multiple defects worldwide that add up to unintended acceleration and poor braking performance. Just pausing manufacturing plants in the US shows that Toyota continues to be disingenuous in an attempt to suggest (without actually saying) that US labor is the root cause. Toyota’s problems span the world and include vehicles manufactured outside of the US as well. That we need an excel spreadsheet to identify which defect is associated with each car shows the extent of Toyota’s problems. And that has nothing to do with where the car is assembled. Also what’s unnerving is that no one seems confident that Toyota has identified the cause of any of these problems, and that the electronics may also be part of the problem. The zip ties for the floormats and the crude accelerator shim do not seem like well thought out solutions.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      @crash sled

      The NHTSA database has nothing at all to do with quality. It is supposed to be for safety related issues. Often, it isn’t. But the data isn’t useful without massaging and verifying something. How does it show anything about quality with MB being number 2 on that list? Every power point I have seen shows MB usually in the bottom half of quality checks. How does this make any sense?

      @Bertel

      I see the comment, and I believe that comment should have been in the article and not a comment. In the article you also say…
      “Edmunds and NHTSA’s own data prove that there is a witch hunt and mass hysteria that are not born out by hard facts.” You are saying the data proves something, but now you are also saying the data proves nothing.

      I understand you were referencing the work of Edmund’s, but when you put your name on it and add your own comments in, agree with what they say, you are agreeing with their points. I am just not sure why the article you are writing doesn’t say how the NHTSA database is bunk because of the data that Edmund’s gathered, there is no data validation, and the fact that there are now more complaints and deaths in the database only recently. If the readers of TTAC tried hard, I am sure it could be 3000 by the end of the day. It wouldn’t be the least bit accurate.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Agreed the NHTSA dataset isn’t a pure quality body of data, Steven. And yes, MB would be an outlier, if it were to be used as such.

      But throw out the small NA players, and then review the NHTSA data. It does overlay rather neatly on what we know of the quality picture here in North America, doesn’t it? The Detroit 3 and Toyota hold their historic stations.

    • 0 avatar

      @ blue adidas:

      Toyota screwed up, but criticism of NHTSA is no red herring. If our regulatory agencies are seemingly inept, changes must be made to prevent the next defect from causing another mess.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      If you look out only a few manufactures, you are correct. With the exception of me thinking at least recently Ford being more reliable than GM. But Hyundai is also surprisingly high on the list when you look at them. BMW is a bit higher as well. I don’t recall how Smart rates, but I doubt it is number 1. But I guess if you only look at the data that proves your point, you would be correct. But if you look at all of the raw data, it would tend to disagree with you that this is a quality study.

  • avatar
    JohnAZ

    “Brake Problems”?
    I thought it was accelerator problems.
    This is Toyota’s biggest error in all of this. They have not established any control over the media.
    The 13 new deaths will likely get twisted as newly occurred rather rather newly reported and some people will think that there has been a recent spike in deaths.
    The whole Toyota mess would be very difficult for any company to handle, but Toyota has been totally incapable of managing it. They don’t deserve the amount of damage they have received based on the actual recalls, but then they didn’t deserve the size of their reputation either.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Wonder if abandoning “fat engineering, ” saving pennies by skimping on engineering and making things thinner and thinner, still looks like a good idea to Toyota?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Considering that the alternative (maintaining “fat” engineering) would have seen them go out of business and/or would have starved R&D, I would say yes, it’s worth it.

      Toyota’s problem, as before, is PR, not quality. They still make cars with some of the lowest TCO and PPM of any vehicle, that TCO and PPM has been dropping year over year and they still rate well in objective (non-enthusiasts) reviews. What they didn’t do was get out ahead of the media.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      So Mr psar, Toyotas prblems are just bad PR? Thier message is just not getting out?

      Hmmmm? Could we call it a “perception gap”

    • 0 avatar
      Highway27

      mikey, there can be such a thing as a ‘perception gap’. The reason that phrase is so reviled and laughed at is because of the context it was initially used.

      Toyota is right now suffering from their own success: when you have a high number of cars sold over the past few years, even a very small percentage of occurrences will surface, giving the media, which overblows every story of Danger! Damage! Thieves!, a hook to sensationalize it.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Hmmmm? Could we call it a “perception gap”

      Yes, yes you could. Any time a company’s marketing department misses the Clue Train it’s definitely a perception gap.

      The problem is when you start blaiming everyone else for your own failure to do decent marketing. Toyota didn’t quite do that (they were inept more than belligerent); Bob Lutz more or less does it all the time.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      I am sorry, PR is not the problem with Toyota. They didn’t fix the problem when they had the chance. The floor mat issue was reported well before the people died in California. Why didn’t this get addressed sooner? That has nothing to do with PR. They are suffering from not being proactive and fixing specific safety issues.

      Saying it is bad PR that they didn’t get out there before the media did is ridiculous. They had every opportunity to fix the problem ahead of time. You fix the problem ahead of time, announce the recall, get everything fixed before a very visual death occurs.

      Toyota isn’t suffering from bad PR. They are suffering from a defect(s) that were not fixed and ignored.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Steven, if my Tacoma’s floor mat is a “defect”, then I guess I’m going to die, because I’m not going to take an hour out of my limited lifespan to have them attempt to fix the “defect” (of owner stupidity).

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      @crash sled
      Not all defects kill people. Not all hurt people. Not all have any effect on property or cause any damage. You might be just fine. But what if a relative took your truck and died because of the pedal getting stuck. I know the chances are remote, but they are still there. But if this happened to you, would you be calling this relative stupid after their death?

      Not everyone knows what to do in this situation. I have seen people here say that the people shouldn’t be driving a car if they don’t know what to do. I understand that, but that would be probably half of licensed drivers.

      I wouldn’t call it owner stupidity, and I don’t think that you are going to die from it. But, when this problem first came out, I asked my wife what she would do in this situation. She couldn’t come up with an answer. Is she stupid, no, just never thought about what to do in that situation and doesn’t think enough about how a car works to fix it.

      Why not ask your relatives what they would do if the brakes don’t work and the car is accelerating out of control. What would they do? They might know more because of the recent media attention. If they answer it correctly, ask them if it is because of the attention.

      Again, the real problem is not the defect. The real problems is Toyota ignoring the fact that there were defects.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Steven, Floor mats are removed and not properly replaced… by stupid people.

      Other floor pedal obstructions block the proper use of floor pedals… if stupid people allow them to do so.

      Wheel lug nuts are removed and not properly replaced by stupid people. People can die in any of these cases.

      Nobody gets behind the wheel of any of my vehicles if they’re stupid. That’s a firm rule. That spares me most all of the above.

      What you’re calling a “defect” is simply the actions of stupid people.

      And if you don’t know what to do if a vehicle suddenly accelerates, you’re likely in the stupid person category. Sorry if that offends, but it is so. Brakes. Use ‘em. Nuetral gear. Use it.

      And the accelerator pedal is not a brake. Never has been. When teh smoke clears, we’ll likely discover that many of these alleged SUA incidents were from people who don’t understand this simple fact, just as we have in the past.

      Same as it ever was.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      @Crash: Ok, I’m going to take your word for it that you are smarter than the average bear, but what about the vast majority of bears that are only average, and what about the ones on the low-side of average?

      Is it a justifiable penalty that such bears should be looked down upon because the can’t change their own oil, or go to the dealer to have their vehicle repaired subject to a field campaign, or have to risk being killed or injured in their transportation appliance just because their parents were not conscientious enough to give them the “flying objects from the rear package shelf are bad during a crash” lesson? (This is in reference to your post of a few days ago.)

      A car should not be dangerous just because the design and release engineer did not learn about his customer, how that customer uses the vehicle, and properly account for it in the D-FMEA (in addition to failing incorporate lessons learned from their previous mat-related recall experiences 2 year ago.)

      Toyota popped-the-pooch with this, first with bad design (external package entrapment risk), then with bad design (internal friction-wedge hysteresis feature and hydroscopic material selection coupled with inadequate testing), then with lousy corporate culture, or organization, or management decisions (lack of decision to internally run after the problem) compounded by a repeat of same (to quickly externally face-up and run after the problem).

      I have no doubt that there have been some number of operators who have confused the pedals, however, calling them stupid does nothing to lead to a sustainable technical or human-factors based solution to the issue.

      No amount of denegration of the people who bought and use their products can erase the fact that Toyota has the dubious distinction of having a higher incidence of these issues than its competition.

      A company which blames its customers, for its own shortcomings is a company which a) is no closer to solving the problem, and b) is close to entering market purgatory.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Let’s just cut to the chase, and place your entire post in the category of “rumor, speculation and innuendo”, particularly the “bad design” speculation. This will save us all some time.

      The “external package entrapment risk” is another way to describe owner stupidity. You should be a salesman. No wait, you are a salesman.

      Stupid people die. That’s sad, but that’s the way things work. Heck, less than average bears are smart enough to maintain clear control paths, with or without momma and poppa bears to tell them how.

      Will Toyota put it as bluntly as I am? No, they shouldn’t, and they’re not. But, it’s that blunt a story to tell. If you operate your vehicle unsafely, you might die.

    • 0 avatar

      @ crash sled:

      Your intelligence won’t matter when a “stupid” driver can’t stop and rams your driver’s door. Dead Right There doesn’t factor in IQ.

      With regard to what are essentially transportation appliances, would you agree that it’s better to engineer products that are less likely to require a high level of intelligence to operate?

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Well you’re right there, there can be a residual benefit to the rest of us if automotive design is wrapped around the least common denominator. There is also a cost, of course.

      But that said, if we fully extrapolate into such a design philosophy, it would also leave us with bumper cars, with bumpers set all around at fixed elevations, and I can’t sit way up high in my F-150. No ‘Vettes. None of those godforsaken eye-tal-yan performance sleds. Who wants to live in THAT world?

      There is a bit of art left in the industry. Not much. But some, and I think it should stay, and that puts some level of burden on we who want that art. You buy what you want, and you have a burden to operate it safely.

  • avatar
    tauronmaikar

    The CEO and all other execs should commit harakiri.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Yesterday a fellow driving a Corolla made a risky lane change in front of me on the Interstate, in windy and icy conditions. He nearly caused an accident; maybe I should file a complaint the NHTSA too, that could have been caused by a stuck accelerator pedal.

  • avatar
    KingShango

    I’m getting a little tired of all these conspiracy/finger pointing posts. Is it that hard to believe that Toyota screwed up? Its not the media’s fault and its not NHTSA’s fault, its Toyota’s. They screwed up and got caught with their pants down, its as simple as that. Its happened to Ford and Audi and now its happened to Toyota. We’ll probably never have a smoking gun like the Ford Pinto reports but I’m sure Toyota did a quick cost-benefit analysis and thought this would just blow over.

    • 0 avatar
      dingram01

      Caught with their pants down? I dunno about Ford, but in Audi’s case there was no “there” there.

      But I digress. My grannie died twenty years ago. Could have been a Toyota in the area. In fact there certainly was. Time to lawyer up!

  • avatar

    KingShango:

    The thing is, it didn’t happen to Audi. The Audi SUA was proven as pilot error: People had their foot on the gas when shifting into D. Jeez, it once happened to me with a monstrous Chevy Caprice wagon. Thank God there was no-one in front of me, and I quickly let off the gas.

    So then everybody got brake interlock.

    Now it looks like there will be a feature that disengages the gas if one is stepping on the gas and the brake at the same time.

    What they haven’t found out is what to do with the people who step on the gas real hard and think it is the brake.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      “What they haven’t found out is what to do with the people who step on the gas real hard and think it is the brake.”

      .
      .
      .

      After the black boxes are installed, and untampered data is available to the litigation process, they’ll be clearly identified.

      Of course, we’ll have to fight over that too, but your insurance policy will be tailored appropriately, so there’ll be no escape.

      I figure the hardware and control and additional litigation complexity will add no more than 4-5% to our total cost of ownership… tops. Well worth the price.

      Let’s put real time video in everybody’s car, as well. Send the feed directly to the cops, along with the appropriate operating data, so they can email the traffic tickets direct… no muss no fuss.

      We need more control over everything. That’s the answer here.

    • 0 avatar
      KingShango

      Bertel,

      My point is that you and others like you seem to keep implying that there is no problem, its all just the media. Such as:
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/the-truth-about-nhtsa-complaints/

      This article, while insightful, has nothing to do with Toyota’s current problems. From the article, “Edmunds and NHTSA’s own data prove that there is a witch hunt and mass hysteria that are not born out by hard facts. Whether the witch hunt and mass hysteria have been created, or are just exploited…” The data from Edmunds proved nothing which you seemed to imply with your disclaimer to Steve02 above “That article was about the number of complaints in the list, regardless of severity or validity. And the point was, that Toyota had received very few. Also, that point was made by Edmunds. Just reporting the facts here.” belies the fact that you selectively report those facts.

      So which is it? Does that article prove a which hunt or is just a list complaints? Does Toyota have a safety issue or is just MSM hype?

    • 0 avatar
      mike_i_n_mich

      Yes, Audi lost 30% market share in the 80s because people stepped on wrong pedal, and the slip and fall lawyers conspired with 60 Minutes to lie to the public about what really happened.

      CRASH TEST mentioned flight recorders. Most, if not all, electronic throttle equipped vehicles have flight recorders. There is a well defined legal process to retrieve this data after an accident to use as evidence in trials. Because of this, and the fact that virtually all cases of sudden acceleration were historically driver error, which was captured by the recorder, the cases of sudden accleration dropped markedly. In the past there was a possibility for almost anyone who had an accident to blame the car and the lawyers and their so called consumer advocate friends like Claybrook were glad to rake in millions. Once the flight recorders were put in the truth was revealed and the party ended…until now.

      Now there is a new failure mode, stuck accelerator pedals, that the recorder cannot differentiate from the driver depressing the accelerator. Its bonanza time for the trial lawyers. The uptick in Toyota defect claims is the leading edge of the old scheme: every accident can now be blamed on the car. Watch for TV commercials fishing for “victims” that now dominate the airways.

      I do believe Toyota has a problem with stuck pedals. I’m less sure about other companies.

      I fear that the trial lawyers will now go into a feeding frenzy and all car makers will be swept up in the hysteria. Later…

  • avatar
    50merc

    The damage is being done. A big headline on the front page of our local newspaper: “Alleged Toyota defect-linked death toll at 34.”

    Personally, I like the odds. Bring on the incentives! It’d be great to see Toyotas at fire-sale prices.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      50merc writes:”The damage is being done. A big headline on the front page of our local newspaper: “Alleged Toyota defect-linked death toll at 34.””

      This has got to be Toyota’s worst nightmare becoming true. A death-toll watch. Which is essentially another MSM outlet not letting facts get in the way of a good headline.

      Toyota let this entire slogfest get out of their control, and now they’re paying for it. That’s okay, though, as I believe the pendulum will start swinging back in the other direction as the public tires of the unjustified bashing, and Toyota will become a sympathetic icon.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Damage is being done, but it won’t last.

    Pinto rear end explosions killed 27.

    Ford trannys jumping out of park killed 12.

    Ford combustible CC has killed at least 13.

    Ford explorer rollovers killed at least 300.

    Yet people are generally not shying away from Ford as a vehicle that is unsafe to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      blue adidas

      “Yet people are generally not shying away from Ford as a vehicle that is unsafe to drive.”

      The last pinto was produced well over a quarter century ago. It gave the world insight about how companies work. History will remember the Explorer rollovers were due to a bad batch of tires. No one remembers the other examples. But by virtue of the fact that the Pinto incident is mentioned in nearly every recall thread about how NOT to do business, it suggests that Ford is still hurting from this. Toyota will recover. But it will just be another car company. Toyotas halo is gone for the foreseeable future.

  • avatar
    George B

    I would have zero fear in buying a Toyota/Lexus with the potential for some hardware or software problem causing the throttle to be stuck open. I’m confident that 1) I could shift to neutral, 2) repairs to solve this problem would be free or at least cheap, and 3) Toyota will still be in business through the life of the car or truck.

    Contrast this with the hypothetical risk of buying a Chrysler product with a potential automatic transmission or engine problem. The repairs would be expensive and Chrysler will probably not last the life of the car. I would want lots of cash on the hood before considering buying a Chrysler product in this case.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    While it’s true the MSM never let facts get in the way of a good story or headline it’s also true Toyota stonewalled the SUA problem until they no longer could. Then after acknowledging it Toyota gave a textbook example of how not to do PR.

    It probably won’t have a long lasting negative effect on either their reputation or sales but I think it did end the widely held belief that Toyota was invincible.

  • avatar
    Cletus

    The repeated suggestions that this is “much ado about nothing” are ridiculous. This site (and others) are teeming with apologists trying to marginalize the issue and deflect attention elsewhere. According to this site the only NHTSA data which is valid is the data which suggests Toyota has few complaints and any data to the contrary is irrelevant. Hogwash! And who cares how awful the domestics manufacturers may or may not be?

    Toyota screwed up and they know it as evidenced by the recall of over 8 million cars. Either there are safety problems necessitating the recall or else the Toyota management is incompetent for issuing an unneccessary massive recall. Which is it? I have yet for the apologists to explain why State Farm tried to bring the UA issues to light in 2007 if Toyota cars were not having problems. The MSM is hyping the story because that it what it does, but it does invalidate Toyota’s problems. Toyota has been irresponsible with its customers’ safety and is now paying the price of their dishonesty. They have only themselves to blame.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    Cletus, have a peek here.

    http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_5573.shtml

    Want some ketchup with that crow? Makes it taste a bit better, I hear.

    I presume you skipped the article in this blogsite where it was proven that Toyotas were amonst the least problematical cars over the past decade, using the governement’s own figures?

    Unless every single engineer and employee at Toyota simply woke up one day and decided en masse, that they’d simply turn out crap, I’d have to say the allegations of economic warfare are much more likely.

    • 0 avatar

      “Informed sources close to the situation have no doubt that, during a low-keyed family trip to Hawaii, Mr. Toasty conspired with pineapple barons to mount a disinformation campaign that directly benefitted Mr. Obama. By co-opting several local archivists, Obama Operative Toasty was able to insert Obama birth announcements in the records of newspapers, thus giving the current president his “legitamate” U.S. born status. Native people report seeing Mr. Toasty tossing the original records into Haleakala in an attempt to win favor with Maui, whom Mr. Obama considers the source of his power. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and White House Chief of Staff Emanuel refused to comment.”

      See how easy that was! I’ll be writing for Online Journal in no time.

    • 0 avatar
      KingShango

      Mr. Carpenter,

      This is your “news” source, The Online Journal and Wayne Madsen? Seriously? I bet you still believe in Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster too.


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