Despite intensive examination of more than 2,000 vehicles, Toyota could not find a ghost in their machines. This is what James Lentz, Toyota’s U.S. sales chief will tell a House of Representatives panel today, if Bloomberg is not mistaken.
Following-up a rash of customer complaints about unintended acceleration, which intensified as media coverage intensified, Toyota conducted 600 on-site inspections and more than 1,400 at its dealerships, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will be told today. “Significantly, none of these investigations have found that our Electronic Throttle Control System with intelligence was the cause,” will be the key sentence in Lentz’s prepared remarks.
The committee members will hear that Toyota technicians found double- or triple-stacked floor mats in the cars of customers that had complained about runaway Toyotas. Customers will need to be made aware of the fact that higher engine speeds can occur when a car is started in cold weather, or when air conditioning kicks in.
But no car computers with a mind of their own, or growing tin whiskers have been found.
In a not totally unrelated story, Bloomberg reported a few days ago, that ”U.S. regulators have tracked more deaths in vehicles made by Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC and other companies combined than by Toyota Motor Corp. during three decades of unintended acceleration reviews that often blamed human error.”
59 of 110 fatalities “attributed to sudden acceleration in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records occurred in vehicles other than those sold by Toyota, whose recalls have drawn widespread attention to the issue, according to data compiled for Bloomberg News by the NHTSA,” says the report. Of the 51 fatalities in Toyota vehicles, 36 were reported after Oct. 5 of last year, following publicity SUA in Toyotas. “Attributed to” means that someone, usually a lawyer, blamed that car for an accident. “Caused by” would mean that the car was the killer. There are no “caused by” stats.
Since 1980, NHTSA received 15,174 complaints about SUA. 141 complaints triggered investigations, 112 investigations were closed without corrective action. NHTSA repeatedly concluded that crashes occurred because drivers mistakenly stomped on the accelerator. According to Bloomberg, this turned into a policy position that caused investigators to take complaints of runaway vehicles less seriously.
In August 2007, a Toyota employee visited NHTSA, and later wrote that the agency’s staff “laughed or rolled their eyes in disbelief” when he told them he was at their offices as part of a sudden acceleration allegation involving floor mats.