By on April 29, 2010

The one thing I love about the car industry it its ironic sense of humour. Remember the four dead brands of GM? Who’d have thought SAAB would be the last man standing? When Ford was trading at $1 a share and their stock was labelled “Junk” status, who’s have thought they’d be where they are now? Now, I can’t speak for the rest of the B&B, but I’m, personally, sick of this UA business with Toyota. I’ve been rather sceptical from the start and very little has happened to change my mind. However, the God of Irony is still working in the car industry and whilst I was grazing the internet today, I came across this belter: Unintended deceleration.

The Spec reports that Toyota is announcing the recall of 50,000 Sequoia SUV’s in the United States and Canada. Now what could you think the reason could be? No idea? Well, the God of Irony strikes again. Toyota are recalling these vehicles because of unintended slowing. Yes, if the cars aren’t going too fast, they’re going too slow. The problem comes from an over enthusiastic Electronic stability control system which, at low speeds, could activate and prevent the vehicle from accelerating as it should. “Toyota is voluntarily launching this recall as part of our commitment to investigating customer complaints more aggressively and to responding quickly to issues we identify in our vehicles,” Toyota Canada said via a press release. Good job Toyota performed this recall, it may have saved them another $16.4 million.

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29 Comments on “Toyota Recalls Sequoias For Unintended Deceleration...”

  • avatar
    Telegraph Road

    ‘When Ford was trading at $1 a share and their stock was labelled “Junk” status, who’s have thought they’d be where they are now?’

    I’m sure I’m not the only one here in your B&B who was long in NYSE:F when TTAC was publishing Ford Death Watch editorials.

  • avatar

    Can Toyota combine the unattended acceleration with the unintended deacceleration and come out even?


  • avatar

    Presumably this will lead to a software fix with less aggressive ESC, which will lead to problems with lift-off oversteer, which will lead to a recall and a more aggressive ESC, which will cause the vehicle to be too slow and lead to a recall…

  • avatar

    Surely it’s just the elderly riding their brakes when they think they’re stepping on the gas!

    What is the rate of unintended deceleration on Buicks?

    I’m very skeptical. Not in any fact based or data backed way, but still.

  • avatar

    Maybe they’re doing this wrong… instead of reprogramming the ESC, they should make it much less aggressive and equip the Sequoia with the world’s first 405mm tires.. on hub etenders, give that puppy another meter’s worth of track width. Should cure any handling problems.

  • avatar

    This seems to be a common problem with ESC systems today. At low speeds they can kick in with a little wheel spin and drop engine power. If you have accidentally pulled out in front of someone, this can lead to some hair raising moments…or worse.

    I had this exact situation occur this winter. Pulled out from a side street to make a left turn. I saw a guy coming, but he looked far enough away and I had plenty of power so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. When I realized he was moving a bit faster than I originally judged I instinctively floored it. The wheels broke free and the ESC system went into full lockdown mode…cutting the engine power to nothing. Instead of power sliding out of into the next lane my car crept across his lane…in seeming slow motion…as he barreled down on me with his horn a’blazing.

    The solution is to not make the ESC/traction control so aggressive at lower speeds such that it actually slows you down. It isn’t as likely you are going to spin out like when traveling at higher speeds. The ESC therefore, needs to be a little more lenient.

    • 0 avatar

      My dad had the left rear quarter of his 350Z removed courtesy of the same problem. But at higher speeds the ESC is quite nice – he played around with it at a couple of track days (he used to race GT1 in IMSA and the SCCA) and said it was pretty nice.

      There seems to be a dramatic variance in the quality of low-speed TC/ESC systems, and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the car make or price. My 1995 Mercury Mystique was fantastic on gravel and slushy snow; the TC would let me climb out of almost anything. But my aunt’s Mini just grinds to a halt.

      My ’05 Saab 9-5 is somewhere inbetween on snow, but is great on pavement at low speeds – you can floor it and hear chirpa-chirpa as it lets the fronts break loose just a bit until the engine runs out of grunt to spin ’em (around 20mph). I never worry about not accelerating enough on launch; it seems to use all the grip available.

    • 0 avatar

      Very true, my neighbor’s Mercedes E550 has the same low speed ESC/TC issue. He was complaining of almost getting hit this winter when it did the same thing to him.

    • 0 avatar

      Decades ago, I had a 1970 Plymouth Duster with the Slant Six. A notorious problem with the 1-Bbl carburator of that engine was a dangerous stumble when the accelerator was pressed too quickly. I made a low-speed left turn once, saw oncoming traffic, floored it, the engine bogged, and I was T-boned.

      Now, the same situation exists with the overly aggressive ESC that is being installed on virtually every new car. A few months ago, I flashed back to that 1970 Duster when the 2006 Toyota I was driving did exactly the same thing, i.e., I was making a low-speed left turn, saw oncoming traffic, floored it, and the moment one of the front tires started to lose traction, the car immediately bogged. Fortunately, in this circumstance, there was more of a safety margin which allowed traffic to slow and me to crawl out of the way before being hit.

      I can’t imagine engineers arbitrarily tuning the current ESC systems to kick-in at the slightest hint of wheelspin and suspect the blame lies with the manufacturer’s legal departments. Toyota, in particular, seems to be the worst at overdoing it in this area. My favorite example of Toyota safety overzealousness is that Toyota is the only manufacturer that will not allow the driver to operate the NAV system while the vehicle is in motion.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota, in particular, seems to be the worst at overdoing it in this area.

      After the last round of SUA suits, can you blame them?

      On that note, the Kia Rondo has to have about the most aggressive ESC/Trac system I’ve ever known: I had real trouble moving (in snow, mind you) with it on. Admittedly it really wanted snow tires, but still…

    • 0 avatar

      my 09 tacoma seems to be calibrated okay. i get a little irritated in the snow when i can’t slide around corners. when i drive like a mature adult though it doesn’t give me any trouble.

    • 0 avatar

      Subaru’s onboard nav systems are equipped with such a nanny as well. It’s utterly ridiculous that there’s no way for a passenger to manipulate the nav system while the vehicle is moving.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s utterly ridiculous that there’s no way for a passenger to manipulate the nav system while the vehicle is moving.

      It’s very simple: if it didn’t ban you from doing it under all circumstances, some twit would do it while driving, crash, sue and (quite possibly) win.

      If you want to fix this situation, you need to reform the legal system. To do that, you need to convince people with the ability to do so that it’s broken in the first place. In the best traditions of the free market, that won’t happen until it becomes enough of a hinderance to business to force such a change.

    • 0 avatar

      Well yes, I understand the reason for this ridiculous restriction, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. This “feature” is even more insulting because not all systems are so crippled (the nav system in my Boxster has no such restriction), and I’m sure there’s not a handheld GPS on earth that locks out user input while the device is moving.

      I know about this “feature” in Subarus because my sister-in-law’s Tribeca suffers from it. I will never buy a car equipped with such a crippled GPS system, because the convenience of having the system built in is far outweighed by the nuisance of the system being largely inoperable while moving.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not just newer Toyotas with this programing. My 1998 LS400 has the same “feature”

      I live on a dirt road and I’ve learned that I have to milk the car out onto the paved road before accelerating. Otherwise if any tires spin on the gravel on the way out, I get no power as I’m turning onto the paved road. Since I do this nearly every day, I’ve gotten pretty used to it and have learned to give myself plenty of room for the left turn onto the paved road, which is a state highway with a 55 mph speed limit.

      One workaround that sorta works is to put the ETC button into “snow” mode before pulling out. That makes it slower off the line but no wheelspin so no TC nannying and as a result acceleration is pretty much normal once the car gets going on the paved road.

  • avatar

    SUA, SUD, ESC & Consumer Reports. But Toyota doesn’t have a problem with the electronics/software. Nosiree. It’s just all them old farts driving Toyotas. Yea that’s it. Of course when they get in a Buick, they magically become better drivers.

    “Remember when we thought it was just the old peoples fault for all of Toyota’s problems? Who’s have thought we’d be so wrong? The God of Irony is still working in the car industry.”

  • avatar

    The ESC programs aren’t quite there yet. People who track Elises and Caymans have faced an issue called ice mode. With enough high speed track gyrations, you can trick the ESC into thinking that the car is on ice and any braking will cause a spin out. The result is no braking at all – a rock hard pedal. Very handy. ULD – unintended lack of deceleration. The cure to the problem is to pull the fuse for the ESC on track days or if possible take the yaw sensor out individually and retain the ABS – who wants to volunteer to see if that works?
    Back to the regularly scheduled anti-Toyota jeremiad.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting, I had heard of the ice mode issue with regard to ABS. My SRT-4 had the issue when you brake into a corner and lift a rear wheel. According to the engineers, the ABS goes to ice mode when it can’t easily free a wheel (like when it is on ice, or in the air) and that mode is much more agressive than normal ABS, which greatly reduces actual braking power getting through to the tires.

      I hadn’t heard of this issuse with ESC operation, but it makes sense there is a similar type of operation there.

      Seems like every manufacturer has a different philosophy for ESC programming. Toyota seems to use it to define handling limits, i.e. merely working up to the limits of the tires will kick it in. With my Subaru the philosophy seems to be to control only situations where the car isn’t going where you want to go. I did a rainy track day earlier this year and kept the VDC on the whole time. As hard as I ran, it only kicked in when I braked too late into a corner and the rear end started to come around. It removed my ability to stab the gas the effect some rear weight transfer, but on the flip side it can brake the individual wheels to settle the spinning tendency.

    • 0 avatar


      I think you would have to be a helluva driver to pull the ESC fuse on an SRT-4 and drive it with non-computer-coerced handling. The Elise and Cayman drivers have a significant advantage with the mid engine layout.

      As to manufacturers intent, I suspect that it’s a matter of protecting the driver from themselves. I know for Porsche, it’s “if you want to race, get a GT3, not a Cayman” and I don’t know about the Elise, but US liability concerns probably would keep them from installing a track day ESC disable switch in the US.

  • avatar

    I wonder when they will get around to recalling the Toyota Matrix for eating tires every 15,000 miles. I just mounted up another new set of rubber. (no, it’s NOT out of alignment).

    • 0 avatar

      unfortunately the size of the matrix tire 205/55/16 lends itself to high performance/sport tires with low life expectancy. i would recommend the pirelli P4 four seasons. it’s an all season tire that has been consistently a good tire for me. if you want something a little more performance oriented with all season tread a continental extreme contact dws is also worth a look. there are others that are good initially but i don’t have enough long term experience with to recommend.

  • avatar

    Ford is still “JUNK.” Junk status is a rating by the credit bureaus. It’s based on a prediction about the companies ability to service its debt… and Ford has a mountain of debt.

    Also, please stop confusing profit with cash flow. A company can be very profitable but not generate cash. Also a company can be very unprofitable but generate mountains of cash. You need to understand financial statements before you start interpreting them (not specific to this article, just a comment about this site in general).

    Oops, I meant to post this on the story about Ford. My bad.

  • avatar

    Traction control systems are for people who don’t know how to drive. I prefer cars that do what I tell them to do.

  • avatar

    When I have to cross traffic to merge from a stop, I hit the TRAC OFF button so I avoid bogging (I mix it myself) on ESC. I try to be discreet when my sons are with me – by making in the radio louder and hitting the button. When they see me turn of traction control, they noticeably tense – expecting some mild “stunt driving”.

  • avatar

    My Chevy and my GMC trucks both had unintentional deceleration. Couple of times actually. Twice when the transmissions failed and once when the rear end blew on the GMC.

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