By on October 4, 2011

 

Remember when cars, especially Toyotas, suddenly had a mind of their own, started accelerating, leaving their drivers helpless and hapless? It was in the beginning of 2010. The media cited scores of allegedly killed people. Source: The NHTSA complaint database. When complaints skyrocketed, the media wrote about a dramatic increase of complaints. Now, have a look at the graph above.

This graph was compiled by Edmunds. It is a simple report. It shows the number of all complaints about all cars of any manufacturer per month. We see that in February 2010 the number of complaints exploded, it was high in March, and then consolidated at a slightly higher level than at the end of 2009. In a straight line analysis, the complaints should be approximately where they are.

Then why the jump in February and March 2010? It was the height of the witch-hunt. The height of the fakery on ABC News. It was the fools hearings on the hill.

When that was over, suddenly, as if driven by ghosts, the cars behaved again. After Toyota had been declared ghost-free by the NHTSA in February 2011, there was even a little dip in the reports. Then, all fell back to normal.

For those who are still desperate to read something into this crowd-sourced list, here a little table, also courtesy of Edmunds. It shows the YTD complaints trough August 2011, along with the rolling 12 month market share, for the top ten recipients of complaints. As you can see, things are pretty much as they should be. People seem to complain a lot about Chrysler though…

Brand YTD Share
Ford 3,303 15.9%
Chevrolet 2,820 14.0%
Toyota 2,092 11.2%
Honda 1,157 8.4%
Nissan 1,484 7.3%
Dodge 1,757 5.4%
Hyundai 788 5.0%
Jeep 1,547 3.1%
Volkswagen 581 2.4%
Chrysler 842 1.6%

Witch-hunts had been with us since ancient times. In Sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Saudi Arabia, people are still tried and sentenced for witchcraft. The graph you are looking at shows that witch-hunts are alive and well in America.

 

 

 

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29 Comments on “Witchgraph...”


  • avatar
    mike978

    Interesting data and good to see it in graphical form. I do disagree with the assertion from Bertel that “After Toyota had been declared ghost-free by the NHTSA in February 2011, there was even a little dip in the reports. Then, all fell back to normal.” Fell back to NORMAL? The current level (2 years after the recall furor – some justified and some not) is still significantly higher than it was before 2009 (even extrapolating the line along the gradient).
    Especially interesting since Toyota sales have fallen the past year (for understandable reasons).

    As for a witch-hunt Toyota is not a martyr here. Some of the recalls (such as the two on my Sienna) were well justified and not unintended acceleration related.

    • 0 avatar

      This is a graph of complaints about ALL manufacturers.

      The rate has risen steadily as the list became more accessible and known. You need to look at the longterm trend.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Thanks for the clarification. I thought it was just for Toyota since the article solely mentioned them.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, now that you mentioned it, I had to add another little table for clarification …

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Thanks – although now I don`t understand the Chrysler comment – I must be missing something.
        Chrysler has a few more complaints than Hyundai (still well below Ford, Chevy and Toyota). Interesting how different the YTD and % share values can be (one for 8 months this year and the other for the past 12 months) with Hyundai at 5.0% and 1.6% for Chrysler for similar YTD figures. Hyundai must have had a bad Q4 2010.

      • 0 avatar

        Hint: You need to put the number of complaints in relationship to the number of cars in circulation. The current market share is only an indicator of that. Edmunds does not give the market share for the first 8 months, only for the first 9 months. So I took the rolling 12 months share instead. It doesn’t really make a difference. Especially if you don’t know what to do with that number. In any case, I again caution not to read too much into these numbers. They are here only to make the point that things are back to normal, and that all makers get complaints, some more, some less.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Very interesting, perfectly worded story – witchgraph, indeed.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Either they are all fixed or owners sold them off early at the beginning.

    Toyota is still slapping lots of cash on the hood just to makes sales numbers. To the end consumer cash up front is just taking the place of once stellar residuals. Just have to get the used car sales to realize this and they won’t pay premium at the auctions, the trickle down will follow.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    What happened in March of ’05 that got it all started? According to the chart, prior to that the number of incidents was essentially zero. Given that the Audi 5000 got the ball rolling in the 80′s I would have expected the baseline to be some number greater than nothing. Did they stop tracking the issue for a while and begin again in 3/2005?

    • 0 avatar

      Nothing happened. Edmunds started counting in 2005. Look at this NHTSA presentation, Chart 10. By 2005, the complaints were actually a bit down. Before, they were between 40K and 50K a year. Between 05 and 09, they averaged 34k a year. They went to 66k a year in 2010, and about half of those complaints were from January through April.

      For the first 8 months of 2011, the annual average is back down to 32K

      You are not looking at facts, you are looking at hysteria. And possibly at a bit of gaming the system by interested parties. Look at chart 12, the Internet reports were literally off the chart in the first months of 2010.

  • avatar
    The Doctor

    Every time the “unintended” acceleration issue comes up, I think of Mecken’s comments about the public…

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    If there are comparable datasets for other countries, I’d like to see a few. My hunch tells me auto-chondria is uniquely American.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    fwiw, I got a used Prius cheap right about the peak of the witch hunt. Still happy about that “buy low” decision.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    So does this mean that the recalls associated with SUA are unfounded and shouldn’t have been recalled?

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      So does this mean that the recalls associated with SUA are unfounded and shouldn’t have been recalled?

      Unintended acceleration is a sham. The accelerator and the brakes are on separate systems. Depressing the brakes will not cause a car to accelerate.

      The problem for Toyota was that the notorious crash in San Diego (a) was recorded on a 911 call (including the point of impact) and (b) involved a highway patrolman. While the media was quick to hunt for the ghost in the machine, there was far less coverage of the NHTSA investigation that concluded that the acceleration was caused by the incorrect floor mat being installed in the car by the dealer, which jammed the accelerator pedal.

      The demon car catches the public imagination. But as was the case with the Audi 5000, the phenomenon was largely a matter of human error that had nothing to do with the manufacturer. Although awkward pedal placement can contribute to it, the enemy in this case is us.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        I have to disagree with you. The media reported that recalls, one for a sticky gas pedal and one for floor mats. While ABC did its number, which was BS, it also covered the actual problems.

        Also, one problem was that Toyota was actually slow to recall the problems in the US. That is why Toyota was fined.

        Toyota did have some problems with mats and sticky pedals. Pieces like this on TTAC I think are disingenuous because it ignores that there were REAL recalls associated with SUA.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        NHTSA’s investigation, released earlier this year, pretty much vindicated Toyota and concluded that the “unintended acceleration” incidents were caused by driver error, except for one instance that was caused by “pedal entrapment” (read: a floor mat):

        http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nvs/pdf/NHTSA_report_execsum.pdf

        As a lot of us guessed at the time, “unintended acceleration” is almost always a matter of driver error. Drivers think that they’re hitting the brakes, but they aren’t; when the car accelerates, they attempt to panic brake but inadvertently floor it, instead.

        These sorts of problems are tough, as they require the manufacturer and the government to blame their customers (and the voters), which neither group wants to do. As such, the pedal recalls may have been unnecessary.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Right on Steve02. Best post yet.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        PCH – some of the recalls were genuine – my Sienna had two recalls. One was for the spare wheel mount, which can rust and the spare wheel drop out onto the road. That is real and potentially a hazard.So lets not go from one extreme (Toyota totally screwed up and deserved all they got) to the other extreme (Toyota made no mistakes and were completely victimised). There is a middle ground, of some recalls were genuine and necessary.
        As someone else said other companies such as Audi have in the past be hit but unwarranted media reports.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        some of the recalls were genuine

        Most recalls are genuine.

        But “unintended acceleration” is almost always bogus. Read the NHTSA report — they investigated the individual incidents, and attributed all but one to driver error. I realize that you have a thing about Toyota, but try to be objective.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        Actually, it attributes all but one of very specific cases, being from a stop or at very low speeds. It goes on to very fast acceleration where the brakes had little to no effect. All but one of those was pedal misapplication according to the report. One being pedal entrapment (note, that was a recall).

        Now, the report also goes along to say that prolonged UA events are not believed to be pedal misapplication, note these are the more dangerous events as well. While fewer in number, these were real problems.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        PCH – sorry? I have a thing about Toyota. I assume you meant that negatively, if so explain why I own a Toyota? You usually make good points, sorry to see your standards slip here.
        Correct most recalls are genuine. My comment was about the assertion regularly made here (not just by you) that ALL of the Toyota 2008-2009 recalls were bogus. All 10 million of them. That is demonstrably false – the Sienna never had a UIA recall as far as I know. I agreed with the point that UIA recalls were unnecessary but pointed out that other companies have in the past been hit by unnecessary or unfair recalls and panics. It seems you didn`t like to hear that Toyota were not unique in this case nor were they completely blameless. Maybe it is you who have a thing about Toyota.

        A fanboy is someone who sees nothing bad about “their” company and thinks the opposition is completely bad. I have regularly made points about for Toyta, against Toyota. For Ford and against Ford. No company is 100% right all the time.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Actually, it attributes all but one of very specific cases, being from a stop or at very low speeds.

        No, it does more than that. What it says is this:

        -The electronic throttle was not a problem.

        -The electronic throttle did not cause the brakes to fail.

        -The low-speed incidents that were reported through warranty claims, etc. appear to be the result of driver error.

        -The high-speed incidents were individually investigated by NHTSA. The results of those field investigations are similar to the findings for the low-speed incidents, i.e. they are attributable to driver error. There was one exception to this, caused by floor mats (and I presume that this is a reference to the Saylor case, which involved a dealer installing the incorrect floor mats in a loaner car.)

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        My comment was about the assertion regularly made here (not just by you) that ALL of the Toyota 2008-2009 recalls were bogus.

        I never said that. What I said was this: “Unintended acceleration is a sham.” And it is.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        pch101,
        We are in agreement except for the last thing you said about the high speed incidents. From the document.

        “However, NHTSA does not have reason to believe that pedal misapplication is the cause of the relatively few, prolonged, high speed UA incidents that present the greatest safety risk. NHTSA believes that those incidents are most likely the result of pedal entrapment by a floor mat that hols the accelerator pedal in an open throttle position.”

        Oh, and on the brake failure, it does say that the brakes have enough to overcome the throttle, but does mention that repeatedly pressing the brakes can reduce the vacuum making it much harder to stop the vehicle. Again, not the ETC systems causing it to fail. We agree on that.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        We are in agreement except for the last thing you said about the high speed incidents.

        I don’t see what there is to disagree with. I merely paraphrased the report.

        The problem is with driver error or floor mats. In the case of the CHP officer’s crash in San Diego, the dealer had installed the wrong floor mats.

        None of those point to problems with the cars. The manufacturer can’t control how drivers use their feet or whether a dealership chooses to use floor mats that don’t fit.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        You didn’t paraphrase the report. Your response said A while the report said B.

        You were correct on the low speed stuff. The one incident they refer to with pedal entrapment was on low speed.

        On high speed UA, they say it was more likely pedal entrapment and not pedal misapplication. The two are separate in the report. It doesn’t say it was only 1 event on the high speed UA.

  • avatar
    niky

    There are witch-hunts and there are witch-hunts. Just recently, there was a furore over “Unintended Acceleration” in the Philippines with regards to a diesel engined Mitsubishi… the diesel Montero Sport (a seven seat version of the Triton pick-up).

    Classic SUA cases, most of them, older driver, “decades of experience”, gets in, starts the vehicle, and it accelerates “wildly out of control even with the brakes held down”.

    Having driven the car and experienced the absolutely fantastic levels of electronic throttle lag and the complete lack of low-rpm boost from the turbo, it’s very easy to come to the conclusion that they were stepping on the gas instead of the brakes before shifting into “D” and were caught unawares when it finally started accelerating, five to ten seconds after they stepped on the “brakes.”

    Interestingly, in Thailand, where the vehicle is produced (under the nameplate “Pajero Sport” and where they sell tens of thousands more of them, there is no similar uproar.

  • avatar
    Bryce

    Only in the US where lawyers chase any siren do these things happen.


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