By on September 18, 2010

Toyota and the families of four people who died when dealership loaner Lexus ES crashed after a reported unintended acceleration event, have settled out of court reports Bloomberg. The crash gained national attention and helped spur on the media frenzy around unintended acceleration in Toyotas. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda had previously apologized to the family of the driver, Mark Saylor, during congressional testimony. Needless to say, Toyota is not disclosing the terms of its settlement, saying only that

Through mutual respect and cooperation we were able to resolve this matter without the need for litigation.

Considering it was a Lexus dealer who had put non-standard mats in the Saylor car, and had previously been warned that it had a sticky accelerator, Toyota’s willingness to settle seems driven more by PR considerations than liability.

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24 Comments on “Toyota Settles Saylor Crash Case...”


  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    Where are you now Ralph Nader?

    Surely this too is unsafe at any speed.

  • avatar
    Dr Strangelove

    “Considering it was a Lexus dealer who had put non-standard mats in the Saylor car, and had previously been warned that it had a sticky accelerator, Toyota’s willingness to settle seems driven more by PR considerations than liability.”

    What is the meaning of that supposed alternative? In which way are liability and PR considerations mutually exclusive?
    They obviously accepted liability – otherwise they would have fought what likely was a very substantial claim. And of course, the negative PR from a settlement is not as bad as that from a drawn-out court battle.
    Or are you trying to say that Toyota could have left the Lexus dealer out in the rain?
     

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      “Or are you trying to say that Toyota could have left the Lexus dealer out in the rain?”
      Hell yes!  If the dealer dies due to their clear negligence, it doesn’t affect what cars customers can buy in the future.  Dealers add no product value and are easy to replace.  However, when manufacturers have to spend money on bogus lawsuits, new designs become even more risk adverse.  This lawsuit had the direct result of killing power braking capability in any new car designed from this point forward.
       
      As I remember the facts of the case, the dealer stacked aftermarket floor mats over the factory floor mats in the dealer loaner car.  In addition, a previous customer attempted to warn the dealer that the accelerator pedal was getting trapped by the floor mat on that loaner car.  The only reason Toyota is being sued in this case is parasitic scumbag lawyers successfully go after the target with the deepest pockets.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr Strangelove

      “The only reason Toyota is being sued in this case is parasitic scumbag lawyers successfully go after the target with the deepest pockets.”

      You are making my point here – I too think that in court Toyota would not have been able to confine liability to the dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC

      “Dealers add no product value and are easy to replace.”
       
      No no, dealers add important value, such as regaling me with the four-square worksheet (trade-in, down payment, monthly payment, new car price), throwing in such bennies as a space-age protective coating for my car’s paint (uh… wax?), and if I’m smart enough to come back for basic maintenance then I get a bottomless up of coffee while their factory-certified technicians perform complex factory-certified tasks like overtorqueing my lugnuts with the air wrench…
       
      Yeah, I would love to have seen the Lexus dealer in this story left out in the rain–if only as a proxy to my general dislike of car dealers–but alas the court of law and the court of public opinion are sometimes two very different things.  Big Toyota probably did the smartest thing here.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Meh.
    All car manufacturers routinely settle cases involving driver idiocy. This one’s just a little more difficult given the media/government/LaHood PR pump-n-dump.
    Also, in business a tactical retreat is often the best way to survive. The tort system is to engineering/logic as Jeffery Dahmer is to fine dining. Audi tried logic and reason in the 80′s. They got nowhere against the tear jerking emotionalism of CBS so-called News…

  • avatar

    I guess we have to wait for further details – Proving the manufacturer had a defective part didn’t look promising back in June and looks worse with each passing day. If I was doing the negotiations I would add a bit more in order to be allowed to make public statements about the case which would deter all the other ones that have lined up. Something like an admission – just as in the Audi case (late in the game) on the part of the plaintiff they were’nt claiming a defective part and then an admission from Toyota they could police their dealerships better or put big warning stickers on certain car parts.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    The dealer was definitely negligent by providing a loaner vehicle that was in unsafe condition, i.e. the extra floor mats from a different vehicle, but I’m not a lawyer.
     
    It is tragic that the driver of the loaner was unable to either depress the start/stop button for longer than three seconds or shift the transmission out of drive once the pedal became stuck.

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    The dealer was not warned that it had a sticky accelerator.

    It was warned that it had a wandering rubber mat that was jamming the accelerator.

  • avatar

    It makes me furious to see Toyota cave on this one.
     
    Even if the floormats (or a stuck sensor, or some evil computer logarithm) were a factor, you can’t tell me that in the end this wasn’t Darwin at work.

    • 0 avatar
      thebeelzebubtrigger

      I find it hard to understand how a cop could be so clueless about handling an out-of-control vehicle. For that matter, I cannot imagine being a passenger under those conditions and not shifting the car to neutral or shutting it off. It does look a lot as though these people basically offed themselves by being incredibly stupid.
      Having mostly owned old cars, over the years I’ve had a throttle cable snap while entering a busy freeway with a Fiat 124, had a throttle stuck at wide open in a VW Beetle, had my brakes completely stop working in rush hour traffic in a VW Sqaureback, and once the entire rear axle fell off my ’67 Mustang — while I was doing 75 mph on a crowded freeway!  And once a truck loaded with 100 lb bags of cement mix lost its load right in front of me and just totally trashed my ’69 Riviera, also at about 75 mph. None of these incidents resulted in any further accident or injury, in every single case I was able to do some rigging and coax the car home. And frankly, I do not consider myself the sharpest tool in the shed.
      Unintended acceleration? Should be a piece of cake, for anyone who’s not a moron.
       

    • 0 avatar

      Amen. (I actually deleted a sentence in my initial post in which I referred to the CHP idiot as a “moron,” but I’m glad you had the stones to use it.)

      Our society needs to get over itself, and return to the days when it was acceptable to call a spade a spade. I think a lot of other societal ills would fall in line if we could just make that one small change.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      “I find it hard to understand how a cop could be so clueless about handling an out-of-control vehicle.”

      In my experience, cops have no more of a clue than any average sheeple out there…

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    It’s a shame they settled.  They are not responsible for this crash.
    Settling because it looks better tells us a lot about our society.

  • avatar
    zbnutcase

    And lets not forget this was a COP, and he couldn’t even turn the key off under pressure…probably a good thing he is now off the streets…

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      The Lexus had one of those pushbutton ignitions and no traditional key.  This is one of the questions that remain unsettled.  The pushbutton had to be pressed (for 3 seconds?) to turn the ignition off.  Is this a reasonable design for human use?  It’s different than what has been used in automobiles since ignition keys (probably exceeding the time memory of anyone driving).

  • avatar
    tced2

    This settles the case between Toyota and the Saylor family.
    But there are still a whole set of questions remaining.  Accepting that a floormat jammed the accelerator.  How did a skilled and experienced driver not turn the car off?  How could he not get the car into neutral?  How could he not firmly apply the brakes (intermittent application will be ineffective)?  Any one of these actions probably would have averted the out-of-control accident.
    We don’t have “settlement” of these questions.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Toyota has built defective vehicles for years, and it’s well documented that they’ve been increasing since the late 90s. Unless you’re a Toyota shill, there is no arguing that reality. Many people stack their floormats, especially in the winter when they use rubber ones. If Toyota was a properly run company, they would have designed them properly.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    “Considering it was a Lexus dealer who had put non-standard mats in the Saylor car, and had previously been warned that it had a sticky accelerator, Toyota’s willingness to settle seems driven more by PR considerations than liability.”

    I am confused by this statement.  If I got to a franchise restaurant and something bad happens, I could still sell the franchise as a whole.  In this case, Toyota didn’t seem to make sure that its dealers knew what they were doing with the floor mats in the car.  Toyota likely settled because the cost of the trials was going to be very expensive and they could lose.  Settling with the family doesn’t sound like a PR move to me.  Most people seeing settlements assume that the defendant was wrong.  While that may not be the case here, it was likely cost of the trial and uncertainty of the verdict that forced the settlement.


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