By on March 20, 2014

joker

Alright, we admit it: the purpose of the above parody headline was to cause shortness of breath among the people who honestly think that TTAC is still intimately involved with Toyota. Let’s set the record straight about that right now: Our previous EIC had an extremely cozy relationship with certain factions at Toyota. The current EIC’s last interaction of any type with Toyota or its employees, which occurred on December 12, 2011, was being disciplined in writing for supposedly using press-event hotel rooms to have two separate threesomes with a total of four women, a claim the current EIC disputes in the most insincere manner humanly possible. TTAC has no special relationship with Toyota. We do not have a special relationship with anyone in this business. If we did, we wouldn’t have to rent Chevrolet Captivas for road tests, would we? The reason this story didn’t run yesterday is simple: we didn’t have time to write it. Nothing more sinister than that. We promise.

Now for the real story: The United States Government has imposed a $1.2 billion penalty on Toyota Motor Company in exchange for deferring its prosecution of one count of wire fraud for the next three years. The allegations brought by the government are related to the company’s behavior during and after a series of motor vehicle accidents that were/are thought to have been caused by unintended acceleration. This is the largest criminal penalty ever levied against an automaker in this country and it is already being cited as a potential model or template for a criminal penalty against another automaker which we won’t mention before the “click to continue” lest we be accused of having a V for Vendetta against that automaker.

Attorney General Eric Holder took some time off from performing Soviet-style surveillance and intimidation of the press to offer a variety of strong words regarding Toyota’s actions during the unintended-acceleration crisis. It would appear that even if certain banks are too big to be held liable for criminal actions, the same is not true for auto companies. You can read the Minitrue statement yourself, but here’s the (long and messy) money shot:

In the fall of 2009, TOYOTA deceived consumers and its U.S. regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), by claiming that it had “addressed” the “root cause” of unintended acceleration in its vehicles through a limited safety recall of eight models for floor-mat entrapment, a dangerous condition in which an improperly secured or incompatible all-weather floor mat can “trap” a depressed gas pedal causing the car to accelerate to a high speed. Such public assurances deceived customers and NHTSA in two ways: First, at the time the statements were made, TOYOTA knew that it had not recalled some cars with design features that made them just as susceptible to floor-mat entrapment as some of the recalled cars. Second, only weeks before these statements were made, TOYOTA had taken steps to hide from NHTSA another type of unintended acceleration in its vehicles, separate and apart from floor-mat entrapment: a problem with accelerators getting stuck at partially depressed levels, known as “sticky pedal.”

Floor-Mat Entrapment: A Fatal Problem

TOYOTA issued its misleading statements, and undertook its acts of concealment, against the backdrop of intense public concern and scrutiny over the safety of its vehicles following a widely publicized Aug. 28, 2009 accident in San Diego, Calif., that killed a family of four. A Lexus dealer had improperly installed an incompatible all-weather floor mat into the Lexus ES350 in which the family was traveling, and that mat entrapped the accelerator at full throttle. A 911 emergency call made from the out-of-control vehicle, which was speeding at over 100 miles per hour, reported, “We’re in a Lexus . . . and we’re going north on 125 and our accelerator is stuck . . . there’s no brakes . . . we’re approaching the intersection . . . Hold on . . . hold on and pray . . . pray.” The call ended with the sound of the crash that killed everyone in the vehicle.

The San Diego accident was not the first time that TOYOTA had faced a problem with floor-mat entrapment. In 2007, following a series of reports alleging unintended acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles, NHTSA opened a defect investigation into the Lexus ES350 model (the vehicle involved in the 2009 San Diego accident), and identified several other Toyota and Lexus models it believed might likewise be defective. TOYOTA, while denying to NHTSA the need to recall any of its vehicles, conducted an internal investigation in 2007 which revealed that certain Toyota and Lexus models, including most of the ones that NHTSA had identified as potentially problematic, had design features rendering entrapment of the gas pedal by an all-weather floor mat more likely. TOYOTA did not share these results with NHTSA. In the end, the Company negotiated a limited recall of 55,000 mats (no vehicles) – a result that TOYOTA employees touted internally as a major victory: “had the agency . . . pushed for recall of the throttle pedal assembly (for instance), we would be looking at upwards of $100 million + in unnecessary costs.”

Shortly after TOYOTA announced its 2007 mat recall, company engineers revised internal design guidelines to provide for, among other things, a minimum clearance of 10 millimeters between a fully depressed gas pedal and the floor. But TOYOTA decided those revised guidelines would only apply where a model was receiving a “full model redesign” – something each Toyota and Lexus model underwent only about once every three to five years. As a result, even after the revised guidelines had been adopted internally, many new vehicles produced and sold by TOYOTA – including the Lexus ES350 involved in the 2009 San Diego accident – did not comply with TOYOTA’s 2007 guidelines.

After the fatal and highly publicized San Diego accident, TOYOTA agreed to recall eight of its models, including the ES350, for floor-mat entrapment susceptibility. Thereafter, as part of an effort to defend its brand image, TOYOTA began issuing public statements assuring customers that this limited recall had “addressed the root cause of unintended acceleration” in its U.S.-sold vehicles.

As TOYOTA knew from internal testing it had completed by the time these statements were made, the eight-model recall had not in fact “addressed the root cause” of even the floor-mat entrapment problem. Models not recalled – and therefore still on the road – bore design features rendering them just as susceptible to floor-mat entrapment as those within the recall population. One engineer working at a TOYOTA facility in California had concluded that the Corolla, a top-selling car that had not been recalled, was among the three “worse” vehicles for floor-mat entrapment. In October 2009, TOYOTA engineers in Japan circulated a chart showing that the Corolla had the lowest rating for floor-mat entrapment under their analysis. None of these findings or this data were shared with NHTSA at the time.

The Sticky Pedal Problem

What is more misleading, at the same time it was assuring the public that the “root cause” of unintended acceleration had been “addressed” by the 2009 eight-model floor-mat entrapment recall, TOYOTA was hiding from NHTSA a second cause of unintended acceleration in its vehicles: the sticky pedal. Sticky pedal, a phenomenon affecting pedals manufactured by a U.S. company (“A-Pedal Company”) and installed in many Toyota brand vehicles in North America as well as Europe, resulted from the use of a plastic material inside the pedals that could cause the accelerator pedal to become mechanically stuck in a partially depressed position. The pedals incorporating this plastic were installed in, among other models, the Camry, the Matrix, the Corolla, and the Avalon sold in the United States.

The sticky pedal problem surfaced in Europe in 2008. There, reports reflected instances of “uncontrolled acceleration” and unintended acceleration to “maximum RPM,” and customer concern that the condition was “extremely dangerous.”

In early 2009, TOYOTA circulated to European Toyota distributors information about the sticky pedal problem and instructions for addressing the problem if it presented itself in a customer’s vehicle. These instructions identified the issue as “Sudden RPM increase/vehicle acceleration due to accelerator pedal sticking,” and stated that should a customer complain of pedal sticking, the pedal should be replaced with pedals manufactured by a company other than A-Pedal Company. Contemporaneous internal TOYOTA documents described the sticky pedal problem as a “defect” that was “[i]mportant in terms of safety because of the possibility of accidents.”

TOYOTA did not then inform its U.S. regulators of the sticky pedal problem or conduct a recall. Instead, beginning in the spring of 2009, TOYOTA quietly directed A-Pedal Company to change the pedals in new productions of affected models in Europe, and to plan for the same design changes to be rolled out in the United States (where the same problematic pedals were being used) beginning in the fall of 2009. The design change was to substitute the plastic used in the affected pedal models with another material and to change the length of the friction lever in the pedal.

Meanwhile, the sticky pedal problem was manifesting itself in U.S. vehicles. On or about the same day the San Diego floor-mat entrapment accident occurred, staff at a U.S. TOYOTA subsidiary in California sent a memorandum to staff at TOYOTA in Japan identifying as “critical” an “unintended acceleration” issue separate and apart from floor-mat entrapment that had been identified in an accelerator pedal of a Toyota Matrix vehicle in Arizona. The problem identified, and then reproduced during testing of the pedal on Sept. 17, 2009, was the sticky pedal problem. Also in August, the sticky pedal problem cropped up in a U.S. Camry.

On Sept. 9, 2009, an employee of a U.S. TOYOTA subsidiary who was concerned about the sticky pedal problem in the United States and believed that TOYOTA should address the problem prepared a “Market Impact Summary” listing (in addition to the August 2009 Matrix and Camry) 39 warranty cases that he believed involved potential manifestations of the sticky pedal problem. This document, which was circulated to TOYOTA engineers and, later, to staff in charge of recall decisions in Japan, designated the sticky pedal problem as priority level “A,” the highest level.

By no later than September 2009, TOYOTA recognized internally that the sticky pedal problem posed a risk of a type of unintended acceleration – or “overrun,” as Toyota sometimes called it – in many of its U.S. vehicles. A September 2009 presentation made by a manager at a U.S. TOYOTA subsidiary to TOYOTA executives gave a “current summary of O/R [overrun] types in NA [North American] market” that listed the three confirmed types as: “mat interference” (i.e., floor-mat entrapment), “material issue” (described as “pedal stuck and . . . pedal slow return/deformed”) and “simultaneous pedal press” by the consumer. The presentation further listed the models affected by the “material issue” as including “Camry, Corolla, Matrix, Avalon.”

Hiding Sticky Pedal from NHTSA and the Public

As noted, TOYOTA had by this time developed internal plans to implement design changes for all A-Pedal-Company-manufactured pedals in U.S. Toyota models to address, on a going-forward basis, the still-undisclosed sticky pedal problem that had already been resolved for new vehicles in Europe. On Oct. 5, 2009, TOYOTA engineers issued to A-Pedal Company the first of the design change instructions intended to prevent sticky pedal in the U.S. market. This was described internally as an “urgent” measure to be implemented on an “express” basis, as a “major” change – meaning that the part number of the subject pedal was to change, and that all inventory units with the old pedal number should be scrapped.

On Oct. 21, 2009, however, in the wake of the San Diego floor-mat entrapment accident, and in the midst of TOYOTA’s discussions with NHTSA about its eight-model entrapment recall, engineers at TOYOTA and the leadership of TOYOTA’s recall decision group decided to cancel the design change instruction that had already been issued and to suspend all remaining design changes planned for A-Pedal Company pedals in U.S. models. U.S. TOYOTA subsidiary employees who had been preparing for implementation of the changes were instructed, orally, to alert the manufacturing plants of the cancellation. They were also instructed not to put anything about the cancellation in writing. A-Pedal Company itself would receive no written cancellation at this time; instead, contrary to TOYOTA’s own standard procedures, the cancellation was to be effected without a paper trail.

TOYOTA decided to suspend the pedal design changes in the United States, and to avoid memorializing that suspension, in order to prevent NHTSA from learning about the sticky pedal problem.

In early November 2009, TOYOTA and the leadership of a U.S. TOYOTA subsidiary became aware of three instances of sticky pedal in U.S. Corollas. Shortly thereafter, the leadership of the recall decision group within TOYOTA discussed a plan to finally disclose the sticky pedal problem to NHTSA. The recall decision group was aware at this time not only of the problems in the three Corollas in the United States but also of the problems that had surfaced in a Matrix and a Camry in August 2009 and been reproduced through testing in September 2009. The group was also familiar with the sticky pedal problem in Europe, the design changes that had been implemented there, and the cancellation and suspension of similar planned design changes in the United States. Knowing all of this, the group’s leadership decided that (a) it would not disclose the September 2009 Market Impact Summary to NHTSA; (b) if any disclosure were to be made to NHTSA, it would be limited to a disclosure that there were some reports of unintended acceleration apparently unrelated to floor-mat entrapment; and (c) NHTSA should be told that TOYOTA had made no findings with respect to the sticky pedal problem reflected in the reports concerning the three U.S. Corollas, and that the investigation of the problem had just begun.

On Nov. 17, 2009, before TOYOTA had negotiated with NHTSA a final set of remedies for the eight models encompassed by the floor-mat entrapment recall, TOYOTA informed NHTSA of the three Corolla reports and several other reports of unintended acceleration in Toyota model vehicles equipped with pedals manufactured by A‑Pedal Company. In TOYOTA’s disclosure to NHTSA, TOYOTA did not reveal its understanding of the sticky pedal problem as a type of unintended acceleration, nor did it reveal the problem’s manifestation and the subsequent design changes in Europe, the planned, cancelled, and suspended design changes in the United States, the August 2009 Camry and Matrix vehicles that had suffered sticky pedal, or the September 2009 Market Impact Summary.

TOYOTA’s Misleading Statements

After the August 2009 fatal floor-mat entrapment accident in San Diego, several articles critical of TOYOTA appeared in U.S. newspapers. The articles reported instances of TOYOTA customers allegedly experiencing unintended acceleration and the authors accused TOYOTA of, among other things, hiding defects related to unintended acceleration.

On Nov. 25, 2009, TOYOTA, through a U.S. subsidiary, announced its floor- mat entrapment resolution with NHTSA. In a press release that had been approved by TOYOTA, the U.S. subsidiary assured customers: “The safety of our owners and the public is our utmost concern and Toyota has and will continue to thoroughly investigate and take appropriate measures to address any defect trends that are identified.” A spokesperson for the subsidiary stated during a press conference the same day, “We’re very, very confident that we have addressed this issue.”

In truth, the issue of unintended acceleration had not been “addressed” by the remedies announced. A-Pedal Company pedals which could experience stickiness were still on the road and still, in fact, being installed in newly-produced vehicles. And the best-selling Corolla, the Highlander, and the Venza – which had design features similar to models that had been included in the earlier floor-mat entrapment recall – were not being “addressed” at all.

Again, on Dec. 23, 2009, TOYOTA responded to media accusations that it was continuing to hide defects in its vehicles by authorizing a U.S. TOYOTA subsidiary to publish the following misleading statements on the subsidiary’s website: “Toyota has absolutely not minimized public awareness of any defect or issue with respect to its vehicles. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong and borders on irresponsibility. We are confident that the measures we are taking address the root cause and will reduce the risk of pedal entrapment.” In fact, TOYOTA had “minimized public awareness of” both sticky pedal and floor-mat entrapment. Further, the measures TOYOTA had taken did not “address the root cause” of unintended acceleration, because TOYOTA had not yet issued a sticky pedal recall and had not yet recalled the Corolla, the Venza, or the Highlander for floor-mat entrapment.

TOYOTA’s False Timeline

When, in early 2010, TOYOTA finally conducted safety recalls to address the unintended acceleration issues it had concealed throughout the fall of 2009, TOYOTA provided to the American public, NHTSA and the United States Congress an inaccurate timeline of events that made it appear as if TOYOTA had learned of the sticky pedal in the United States in “October 2009,” and then acted promptly to remedy the problem within 90 days of discovering it. In fact, TOYOTA had begun its investigation of sticky pedal in the United States no later than August 2009, had already reproduced the problem in a U.S. pedal by no later than September 2009, and had taken active steps in the months following that testing to hide the problem from NHTSA and the public.

So there you have it — the coverup, the investigation, and what is effectively a loaded pistol pointed at the head of Toyota for the next three years. Will it be “suggested” by Mr. Holder’s minions that the company yield to the UAW’s demands and effectively start the dominos falling across the South? Will Toyota be “encouraged” to adjust its pricing or product to offer more living room in the market for government-assisted automakers? Or is this simply what the DoJ report claims it is: a reasonable penalty and restraint on an automaker which knowingly permitted the lives of its customers to be placed at risk? It’s probably too soon to tell.

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195 Comments on “The United States Government, Acting At The Direct Request Of Some Union Somewhere, Extorts Over A Billion Dollars From Toyota While, In The Parking Lot Outside The Justice Department, Defective GM Ignition Cylinders Wait To Strike More Innocent Victims (Just Kidding)...”


  • avatar

    GM ignition cylinders need recall? No one even bats an eye!

    Toyotas suffer unintended acceleration? WELL THEN EVERYONE JUST LOSES THEIR MINDS!!!

    • 0 avatar
      kyleck

      Except it’s the opposite of that. People don’t really care that Toyota’s have had major problems, but when GM’s cars have similarly dangerous defects, people will cluck their tongues and wonder why they were ever bailed out.

      • 0 avatar
        alsorl

        It does not matter how many people have died in Toyota autos. There will always be the antiunion, pro- foreign buyers for Toyota products.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          How many people have died in Toyota products?
          How many of those were due to product flaws?
          And how many of those couldn’t have been prevented by a simple driver action like putting the transmission in neutral?

          • 0 avatar
            alsorl

            Yes the average driver knows especially the Toyota driver knows to put there car in neutral when its driving out of control. Yes, blame the victim. If your an expert on Toyota how do you not know the death count ?

            http://www.cbsnews.com/news/toyota-unintended-acceleration-has-killed-89/

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            Don`t forget the four people who died in CA in their Lexus, driven by a SHP officer.
            GM and Toyota are being treated equally. There are ongoing investigations into GM, the media reports it daily. The DOJ is investigating and fines will be made.
            I seem to recall some of the B&B saying a couple of weeks ago when this first broke that GM wouldn`t get investigated or pay anything. That is just wrong.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            “Yes the average driver knows especially the Toyota driver knows to put there car in neutral when its driving out of control. Yes, blame the victim.”

            Well yeah, you’d f**king well better know a little bit about the giant weapon you’re controlling. If you mishandle a gun, you’re going to be blamed for shooting yourself.

            Frankly, I’m of the opinion that most or all of these people would have found another way to hurt themselves. Maybe these Toyotas do have a serious electrical defect that creates a WOT situation, but if you can’t react correctly within a full minute of this happening, (and remember the effect of adrenaline on time,) I don’t know what to say. They died because they didn’t know you can disconnect the engine from the wheels.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “If your an expert on Toyota how do you not know the death count ”

            Thanks, alsorl, I suspected this was the sort of juvenile frame of mind you were writing from, but I wanted verification.

          • 0 avatar
            Mikein08

            Alsorl: please learn to spell and punctuate so that you don’t appear even dumber than you apparently are.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            You might do some more research yourself. The U.S. Department of Transportation ultimately determined that virtually cases of unintended acceleration in Toyotas and Lexuses were caused by driver error.

            There were problems with the floor mats on some cars. The Lexus ES350 driven by the California Highway Patrol officer that crashed and killed four people, for example, had been fitted with floor mats for another vehicle (a Lexus RX). This is why the throttle became stuck.

            There is a considerable difference between an improperly fitted floor mat and a defective ignition cylinder.

            Read all about it here:

            http://www.caranddriver.com/features/its-all-your-fault-the-dot-renders-its-verdict-on-toyotas-unintended-acceleration-scare-feature

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            I thought that part of the problem was that transmissions wouldn’t shift into neutral under full throttle. That and the fact that keyless ignition cars require a 10+ second press of the start button to shut them off while driving.

            That’s neither intuitive nor practical if you are weaving through traffic at 100 mph in an ill-handling car with overheated brakes.

          • 0 avatar
            goldtownpe

            Putting the vehicle into park or neutral at WOT can be easily done. And shifting a moving vehicle into park actually puts it into neutral.

            http://www.caranddriver.com/features/how-to-deal-with-unintended-acceleration

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            goldtownpe,

            That C&D article looks like it was written for the benefit of big advertisers. I wouldn’t put much trust in it.

            Imagine that you are in a car that is speeding-up on its own. You may not notice at first, then you will press on the brake lightly, then some more. You still don’t realize that the car won’t stop accelerating, so you don’t panic stop right away, you just ride the brakes trying to maintain your speed. Now your brakes are heat-soaked, and the pedal is useless.

            I’m not convinced about shifting into neutral. It’s an electronic control, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some anti-overrev logic that prevents this shift. The article mentions a different model (not an ES350), and it doesn’t sound like they recreated the actual problem situation. From what I understand, they shifted into neutral at highway speeds, meaning around 2000 rpm. The deaths happened at much higher speeds.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            “Imagine that you are in a car that is speeding-up on its own. You may not notice at first…”

            Why wouldn’t you notice this? Your car is still accelerating at full-throttle, your feet are off of the pedals, and you don’t notice? What?

            “…Then you will press on the brake lightly, then some more. You still don’t realize that the car won’t stop accelerating…”

            Again, if your car is accelerating, your feet are not touching any pedals, and you don’t think this is odd, multiple things are wrong.

            “…So you don’t panic stop right away, you just ride the brakes trying to maintain your speed. Now your brakes are heat-soaked, and the pedal is useless.”

            And your hypothetical Toyota driver is a danger on the road because they lack basic common sense and an understanding of the weapon they’re driving.

            It’s a very long shot to think that there was some extenuating circumstance which physically prevents putting the car into neutral (which could have been done at any point in your scenario, ideally as soon as you realize that you aren’t touching a pedal, the car is still accelerating, and CC is off.) The tests that demonstrate this is possible might not have precisely replicated whatever ephemeral problem may or may not exist (because no one’s been able to,) but they’re not misleading. Odds are good that the shift stalk will still work.

          • 0 avatar
            goldtownpe

            Do you have a reference that prove that shifting to neutral or park at WOT is prohibited? Try it on your car. It will shift to neutral easily at WOT. You don’t even need to press a button or step on the brake. The shift lever moves from park to neutral and back quite easily. The ES350 have a cable linkage just like the Camry used in the C&D test. It’s not electronic like the Prius or the new RAM 1500. The anti-overrev logic does care if you are in neutral or drive. It cuts off fuel at redline or slightly after to prevent overreving the engine. It doesn’t prevent shifting to neutral or park.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            Did you two read the article above? The situation is that of a gas pedal that won’t return. It’s analogous to not having a return spring. It’s only going to move in one direction unless you can get your hand down there to pull it back up. (How many more ways can I explain it?) To repeat: it’s not instantaneous full throttle, it creeps-up on you. Mix that with typically under-sized Toyota brakes, and you have a problem. Start slamming on the brakes hard, and you’re likely to accidentally push the throttle down even more.

            I haven’t tried shifting to neutral at top speed/full throttle, but neither has C&D, which was my point. Besides, I only own manuals.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            It’s acceleration that you didn’t ask for. You should be able to feel that, period, whether it’s forcefully propelling you forward, or if the feeling of slowing off throttle has changed or isn’t there.

            C/D also did shift into neutral at WOT: “Neither the Camry’s nor the Infiniti’s automatic transmission showed any hesitancy to shift into neutral or park when accelerating at full tilt.”

          • 0 avatar
            goldtownpe

            My previous comment should have said “doesn’t care if you’re in neutral or drive”.

            “under-sized Toyota brakes”
            It’s apparent that you didn’t read the C&D article before passing judgement.

            “With the Camry’s throttle pinned while going 70 mph, the brakes easily overcame all 268 horsepower straining against them and stopped the car in 190 feet—that’s a foot shorter than the performance of a Ford Taurus without any gas-pedal problems and just 16 feet longer than with the Camry’s throttle closed.”

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            C&D braked once from 70 mph with cool brakes. That’s completely different from braking from terminal velocity with heat-soaked brakes. For one thing, the Camry probably barely makes 100 f/lb at 70 mph (under 2000 rpm). It’s making near-max torque at 100+ mph.

            C&D explicitly stated that they did their “tests” at 70 mph, which is to say in completely different conditions. They may as well have run their tests on a Playstation or a riding mower.

            Nascar had an issue with stuck throttles 15 years back (look-up Adam Petty). What they did was to mandate a kill switch on the steering wheel and a hook on top of the accelerator so that drivers could lift the pedal with their feet. I know all commenters here are better than Nascar drivers (in their minds), but I’m not convinced that all Lexus drivers are that good.

            The funny thing, of course, is that Toyota had a chance to defend themselves in a court of law. They completely failed when confronted with actual facts. A couple of people here totally know better. Had they been in charge, the government would be giving Toyota a billion+ dollars and an apology, not the other way around.

          • 0 avatar
            goldtownpe

            @heavy handle”
            C&D braked once from 70 mph with cool brakes.”

            LOL, you must have no reading comprehension skill. Twice you made statements about the article that was completely inaccurate.

            “From 100 mph, the stopping-distance differential was 88 feet—noticeable to be sure, but the car still slowed enthusiastically enough to impart a feeling of confidence. We also tried one go-for-broke run at 120 mph, and, even then, the car quickly decelerated to about 10 mph before the brakes got excessively hot and the car refused to decelerate any further. So even in the most extreme case, it should be possible to get a car’s speed down to a point where a resulting accident should be a low-speed and relatively minor event.”

            Yeah…braking from 100mph with the throttle pinned is nothing like have a stuck throttle. And why would the brakes be heat soaked? Only a fool would be riding the brakes if their throttle was stuck. Even then you can easily shift to neutral at WOT.

            http://media.caranddriver.com/files/how-to-deal-with-unintended-accelerationdealing-with-unintended-acceleration.pdf

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            @goldtownpe

            You may have missed the link that Turbo4 posted:
            http://www.safetyresearch.net/2013/11/07/toyota-unintended-acceleration-and-the-big-bowl-of-spaghetti-code

            Evidently you know some things that Toyota and their best experts don’t. You should negotiate a reasonable fee to make their problems go away. 10% of a billion sounds like a deal.

            To reiterate: the dead drivers didn’t immediately know that their cars were no longer under their control. Nobody expects that. Even Nascar drivers who should expect it, and who have demonstrated high-speed driving ability, fear this situation.

            What do normal drivers do when their car is going too fast? They touch the brakes to slow it down. How do brakes work? They transform mechanical energy into heat. What happens when you exceed their capacity to dissipate heat? They stop working.

            A number of defendants were able to prove in a court of law that some Toyotas and Lexuses (Lexii?) had stuck throttles and were unable to stop.

            What you are telling me is that not only do you have Nascar-level driving abilities, but you also possess knowledge that could save a mega corporation billions. How is it that you aren’t cashing-in? Instead you are repeatedly repeating something you read in a car mag.

            Do you think that Toyota doesn’t know about C&D, and that they wouldn’t have entered that article into evidence if they thought it was worthwhile? They could have re-created the tests that C&D did, for the benefit of the court. A billion is big bucks, even to Toyota. They’re not going to lose it without putting-up a fight.

            Ultimately, they were able to convince you, but not to convince judges, juries and industry experts.

          • 0 avatar
            goldtownpe

            LOL..Safety research is run by bunch of idiot advocates who aren’t even engineers. They have less credibility than that idiot journalist from ABC. It would trust C&D before I trust Safety research. All the experts (NASA engineers, Edmunds, C&D and the Feds) have prove that unintended acceleration is due to driver error.

            Besides, I thought your point was that it was impossible to shift into neutral at WOT? It’s been proven many times, not just by C&D that it is easily done.

            If you know so much about the cause of unintended acceleration, why didn’t you collect on Edmund’s $1 million dollar offer? No one has proven that UA is caused by anything but driver error that’s why NO ONE has collected that prize offered by Edmunds.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            An embedded-systems expert took 8 months to fully analyze Toyota’s software, and call it a clusterf*, but you think that there couldn’t possibly be any error in the transmission software.

            You are multi-talented, I will grant you that. Software expert, better-than-Nascar-level driver, legal eagle, C&D subscriber, surrounded by idiots (how could they compare?). You cover all the bases. Has you latest album gone platinum yet?

            Don’t tell me transmissions aren’t electronically controlled, the ES350 has a manumatic gate. Of course, you can probably envision the whole wiring diagram, firmware and hydraulics in your mind.

          • 0 avatar

            > An embedded-systems expert took 8 months to fully analyze Toyota’s software, and call it a clusterf*, but you think that there couldn’t possibly be any error in the transmission software.

            A computer is a discrete logic system whose inner secrets are taught in any number of ugrad curriculum. The fact that these “experts” were incapable of demonstrating any deterministic error in *18* months of “research” is quite revealing.

            The c&d test was a demonstration of trivial physics mainly for the benefit of those who doubt math.

          • 0 avatar
            goldtownpe

            And yet this “embedded-systems expert” couldn’t collect on Edmunds $1 million offer. Hmm…do you know why Edmunds even offer this contest? Because they already knew that no one would be able to prove any fault other than driver error. They were 100% sure of the outcome before the contest even started.
            http://www.edmunds.com/car-news/unintended-acceleration-competition.html

            As u mad scientist pointed out above that the fact that these “experts” weren’t able to find any fault is quite revealing.

            Again, you show your lack of reading skills. I’ve already pointed out in a previous comment that the shift lever in the ES350 is mechanically linked to the transmission by a cable. Yes, the transmission is electronically control as is every modern transmission. But the shifting from park to drive or reverse or neutral or vice versa is done mechanically by the shift lever which pushes or pulls a cable connected to the shifting mechanism that shifts the transmission from park to reverse to neutral or drive. I’m sorry if that is too complex for you to understand, but that’s how the ES350 shift lever works.

          • 0 avatar

            > As u mad scientist pointed out above that the fact that these “experts” weren’t able to find any fault is quite revealing.

            What’s more technically revealing is theirs was an entirely static analysis when actual failure depends on run time behavior.

            So either they were too incompetent to observe the latter, or they did and found nothing incriminating. Hanlon’s razor favors one of these.

          • 0 avatar

            > Evidently you know some things that Toyota and their best experts don’t. You should negotiate a reasonable fee to make their problems go away. 10% of a billion sounds like a deal.

            You are correct that Toyota’s software problems has to do with not spending enough money on competence. However, the math doesn’t work like that because in order to fix this category of problem in general they must fix *all* competence issues (not just this one) which could well be >1bil over some significant span of time.

            The best way to describe the Bookout case is the plaintiffs showed Toyota can in theory consume alcohol and also be careless at times, but cannot establish any actual instance of drinking behind the wheel much less running someone over while doing so.

            The jury ruled “negligence”, but it’s certainly not what the word means in “negligent manslaughter” even though they happen to be spelled the same. Unfortunately confusion over what words mean is a common fault of our species.

            http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/the-united-states-government-acting-at-the-direct-request-of-some-union-somewhere-extorts-over-a-billion-dollars-from-toyota-while-in-the-parking-lot-outside-the-justice-department-defective-gm-ig/#comment-2981689

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            So, finding that the car’s firmware went against all best practices, was filled with unhandled exceptions, didn’t check if critical processes were even running, couldn’t re-start failed processes, didn’t do any parity checking, and pretty-well did everything that would fail you in comp-sci 101 boils down to “couldn’t find any fault” in your mind? Correction, it found every fault. You wouldn’t want these people programing your alarm clock, let alone safety-critical systems.

            Off topic: this conversation reminds me of a story.

            Guy walks into a bar, laughing his ass off. Bartender asks “What’s so funny?”
            Guy says “I just heard the best Toyota joke, wana hear it?”
            Bartender “Wait a minute. I drive a Rav4. You see that mean bouncer, he has an FJ-Cruiser. And that big guy sitting next to you just bought his wife a Lexus. Are you sure you want to tell this joke?”
            Guy: “Not if I have to explain the punchline three times.”

          • 0 avatar

            > and pretty-well did everything that would fail you in comp-sci 101 boils down to “couldn’t find any fault” in your mind? Correction, it found every fault

            Someone who hasn’t failed comp-sci 101 should be aware that computers are deterministic and ‘faults’ are run time behaviors as already mentioned above. If you don’t know what this means, it’s best to ask for clarification rather than repeat yourself because the correct reply will continue to be the same.

            To generalize this lesson, if you’re unaware of how something works, trying to be a hardass will often end badly. If it’s the case you don’t know what you understand or not, it’s time to reevaluate life.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            UMS,

            Good stuff, you had me going for a while.
            “Is he, isn’t he?”

            You should submit to the daily WTF.

            Cheers, HH

          • 0 avatar

            >Good stuff, you had me going for a while. “Is he, isn’t he?” You should submit to the daily WTF.

            Try pondering what’s been said again because it’s to you as you are to the daily wtf.

        • 0 avatar
          alsorl

          @brens . “Mostly people would have hurt themselves anyway”. The people died! They did not just hurt themselves. Dude that is some sad stuff and your a complete tool.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Yes, because they stepped on the accelerator pedal instead of the brake pedal.

            This, of course, is what we call “driver error,” and is not the result of any defect in Toyotas or Lexuses.

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            Geeber – I agree there is a big difference between floor mats and an ignition cylinder. Even if the end result is the same.
            What I am surprised about is that I have not heard of any other cases, other than with Toyota/Lexus, of ill fitting floormats having this impact. Sure it is a driver issue but idiots drive all types of cars so statistically you would have expected the floor mat issue to have been more prevalent.

          • 0 avatar
            SayMyName

            brenschluss, I agree 100% with your POV. Harsh, yes, but goddamned accurate.

          • 0 avatar
            alsorl

            Yes $1.6 billion means no liability on Toyota’s part.
            I just can’t understand why so many people worship non-American branded autos. Is it just hatred toward the UAW or is a deeper dislike toward the United States? I went to Canada a few years ago and most of what I saw were American branded autos. GM is very popular in China, they worship Buick’s. It seems like people outside the USA have more respect for U.S. branded autos then most Republican’s do that live in the USA. Chances are if you see an old faded Mitt Romney bumper sticker it will be on a Toyota or some other Japanese brand.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Unintended acceleration complaints have been lodged against every manufacturer, and have been around since the automatic transmission became popular in the 1950s.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            asorl, you’re absolutely right they died. And as I said, “They died because they didn’t know you can disconnect the engine from the wheels.”

            That was the key takeaway. If they had known that, it would have been no more than a scary moment.

            I think that if someone buys a car, and remember: virtually anyone can, it is the user’s responsibility to know how to control it. If you don’t, you may die, kill others, or both. It is a device capable of massive destruction.

            I don’t care if you think this is sad, I think it is self-evident. And if that makes me a tool in your eyes, well I really couldn’t care any less.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            The fundamental difference between the Toyota SUA and the GM Ignition switch:

            The Toyota issue CAUSES loss of control and crash.

            The ignition switch can be turned off too easily and with a rare combination of events, cause the supplemental inflatable restraints (airbags) not to deploy in a crash caused by something else.

            In my years as a District Service Manager, I had occasion to investigate a handful of SUA type incidents. A common statement made by drivers, “I put both feet down on the brake”. Of course, It clearly had been the accelerator.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @doc olds – All drivers should know how control and safely bring to a stop, a malfunctioning car, but that’s not the point.

            What’s important is OEMs need to immediately recall and fix defective cars as soon as they become apparent. Especially if it concerns public safety. It become criminal when OEMs drag it out for one day, never mind years.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @DenverMike- The real world does not present itself in the way media, trial lawyers and politicians suggest with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

            The connection of some below spec detent springs in ignition lock cylinders to automotive safety is not obvious, though it can be spun to appear that way by the lawyers who want to get rich or please their political supporters.

            This is 99% political circus.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            alsorl: Yes $1.6 billion means no liability on Toyota’s part.

            It means that Toyota didn’t notify the authorities in a timely manner.

            The fine is not proof that the unintended acceleration cases reported by drivers of Toyotas and Lexuses were caused by a product defect. The U.S. Department of Transportation investigated it thoroughly, and determined that the issue was driver error.

            alsorl: I just can’t understand why so many people worship non-American branded autos.

            We don’t “worship” any vehicle. We prefer vehicles from certain manufacturers because they have a much better track record of consistently delivering quality products. In the United States, that would be Toyota and Honda.

            alsorl: Is it just hatred toward the UAW or is a deeper dislike toward the United States?

            Most likely, it’s a deep dislike of being hit with major repairs just after the warranty runs out.

            In the real world (i.e., outside of this site), I have never heard one owner of a Toyota or Honda product bash the UAW, or give the union as the reason they avoided Big Three products. The main reason was the poor prior experience with a domestic vehicle.

            You also do realize that Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans are made in the United States? And please don’t give me that tired, discredited line about “where the money goes.”

            What matters is where PROFITS go, and they go to shareholders, who live all over the world, including the United States and Canada. What also matters is where those companies invest money in new facilities, and that is North America, as it is one of their most important markets.

            alsorl: I went to Canada a few years ago and most of what I saw were American branded autos.

            You apparently didn’t pay very close attention during your visit. The Honda Civic has been the top-selling vehicle, or one of the top-selling vehicles, in Canada for several years now.

            alsorl: It seems like people outside the USA have more respect for U.S. branded autos then most Republican’s do that live in the USA.

            You obviously have never been to western Europe. You’d have a tough time selling Buicks, Cadillacs and Chevrolets there even with a bushel of euros stuffed in the trunk.

            You do realize that imports gained their foothold in California and New York, which are hardly Republican strongholds? If you think that only Republicans drive imports, I’m afraid that you need to get out more, or pay better attention when you do. I saw Romney and Obama stickers on all sorts of vehicles – Fords, Hondas, Toyotas and Chevrolets – during the last presidential election.

            alsorl: Chances are if you see an old faded Mitt Romney bumper sticker it will be on a Toyota or some other Japanese brand.

            You’re seeing what you want to see. Come to the Philadelphia region. In the city is virtually impossible to elect Republicans, and the suburban areas have been trending Democratic. In both places you will see a veritable sea of Japanese and South Korean vehicles, sprinkled with a heavy leavening of luxury German cars.

            Meanwhile, in rural Pennsylvania, which is inhabited by those awful, Romney-loving Republicans, you see a ton of Chevrolet and Ford trucks, along with a fair number of Chevrolet and Ford sedans.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            The fundamental difference between the Toyota sudden acceleration issue and the GM ignition switch is that the former was found to be caused by driver error, while the latter was caused by a defective part.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            An ignition switch being turned off in the process of a crash already underway can not possibly have caused that crash.

            The crash causes the switch to turn off. The only “defect” is that it can be done easier than GM’s own specification. There is no safety standard for key rotation effort.

          • 0 avatar
            alsorl

            @Geeper. Yes keep supporting non American products. See how this country will look in 20 years. American autos are just as good or better the your love for foreign made products. Look up the number of recalled Toyota’s in the past 8 years then copy and paste your anti American rants.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @doc olds – Say a crash had already been imminent and the airbag did not deploy only due to a subpar, out of spec switch, what then?

            But shouldn’t and airbag deploy anyways, with power being cut a nanosecond before max impact deceleration? How would an airbag know if power got switched OFF or the battery exploded a split second before max impact? Don’t airbags store capacitor energy just for that event?

            I think you’re overlooking the scenario where a car hits a hard dip, pot hole or simply goes over train tracks and shuts OFF, CAUSING the crash, and compounding things with no airbags.

            Those with serious injuries or lost loved ones wouldn’t consider it a “99% political circus”.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            alsorl: Yes keep supporting non American products.

            Many Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans are built here, in the U.S.A., by American workers. Which, to most people, makes them American products.

            Or did Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas manage to secede from the union while none of us were looking?

            alsorl: See how this country will look in 20 years.

            The transplant operations have benefitted the communities where they are located. They have also forced the Big Three to make improvements in their products and their factories.

            This has benefitted customers, not to mention the workers and supervisors in those plants.

            I’m pretty sure that 20 more years of transplant factories operating in this country will continue the competition that has benefitted customers and workers alike.

            alsorl: American autos are just as good or better the your love for foreign made products.

            Proof, please. Your opinion constitutes anecdotal evidence. I want statistically valid information gathered by an impartial third party. So far, I know of two independent sources that track long-term reliability – Consumer Reports and TrueDelta, run by our very own Mr. Karesh.

            alsorl: Look up the number of recalled Toyota’s in the past 8 years then copy and paste your anti American rants.

            I’d suggest that you purchase and read the annual auto issue of Consumer Reports.

          • 0 avatar
            alsorl

            @Geeper.
            http://money.cnn.com/2014/02/12/autos/toyota-prius-recall/
            for 2014 1.9 million Toyota’s recalled

            http://www.autonews.com/article/20140203/OEM11/140209973?template=mobile
            Over 5 million Toyota’s recalled in consecutive years 2012-2013.
            This equals great quality and engineering. And yes deep down some people that drive foreign autos “toyota lovers” have issues with United States. Building foreign autos in the United States has nothing to do with making a American product for American’s. It’s just cheaper right now to.build in the USA.
            Toyota is no better then any other brand. It’s just the perception of being a better car for those who like to drink the cool aid. Consumer Reports also ranks Buick’s vary high as well. Or is this just the government paying off Consumer Reports when they point out an American product?

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            alsorl: This equals great quality and engineering.

            Here’s a good article that puts recalls into perspective. It’s found in Popular Mechanics, which is hardly a lover of Toyota.

            Note this quote:

            “What’s most surprising is that the government didn’t directly demand these recalls. Roughly two-thirds of the recalls in 2012 were what is termed uninfluenced, meaning they were voluntary and not mandated by the NHTSA. That’s right: For several reasons, automakers are acting earlier and more often in issuing recalls. Whether this is a beneficial development is debatable.”

            The real problem with GM isn’t that it installed a defective part on certain cars. That happens. If GM had acted sooner, taking a PROACTIVE stance on this issue, it wouldn’t be faced with a PR nightmare right now.

            Here is the rest of the article:

            http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/news/industry/why-are-there-so-many-car-recalls-15413366

            alsorl: And yes deep down some people that drive foreign autos “toyota lovers” have issues with United States.

            People buy Toyotas because they like them, for whatever reason. This may seem hard for you to believe, but people like Toyotas for a variety of reasons, and that is why they are willing to spend their hard-earned money on them.

            alsorl: Building foreign autos in the United States has nothing to do with making a American product for American’s. It’s just cheaper right now to.build in the USA.

            If the vehicles in question are designed here, with American tastes in mind, and built here, they are American. The Camry and Accord, for example, were developed, engineered and styled specifically for the American buyer, and are built here. That qualifies them as American vehicles. It’s time to drop the outdated notion that only vehicles made by GM, Ford and Chrysler are really “American” vehicles.

            alsorl: Toyota is no better then any other brand. It’s just the perception of being a better car for those who like to drink the cool aid.

            Toyota consistently scores high in reliability surveys conducted by independent third parties. Your OPINION is that they are no better than other vehicles in this area. That opinion is not backed up by facts.

            In other areas – performance and styling, for example – Toyotas do not stand out in the crowd. But, for a large percentage of new vehicle buyers, reliability, refinement and build quality trump those attributes.

            alsorl: Consumer Reports also ranks Buick’s vary high as well.

            Buick did score well for several years, primarily because it was making vehicles on old platforms with the ancient but reliable 3.8 V-6.

            In recent years Buick’s score has been lackluster as it has revamped its lineup. (GMC was the best-scoring domestic brand for the 2014 survey, at ninth place, which is certainly a respectable showing.)

            The top three spots in the 2014 survey were captured by Lexus, Toyota and Acura.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “This is 99% political circus.”

            Unfortunately, that would be General Motors office politics.

            You guys are your own worst enemies. The airbag deployment failure should have been seen as a problem, irrespective of what set the collisions into motion or whose fault it was for the crashes.

            The BAC or driving style of the driver is not a mitigating factor that can be used to justify a non-functioning airbag. The company could have saved itself a lot of drama and money, not to mention some lives, if it had gotten ahead of this.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          >>http://www.cbsnews.com/news/toyota-unintended-acceleration-has-killed-89/<&lt;

          CBS News is the outfit that rigged the Audi 5000 to falsely "prove" the cars took off on their own.

          The 5000 went from being the #1 luxury import to untouchable thanks to CBS lies.

          It took Audi decades to recover. Why did CBS lie?
          A Short, Sad History of So-Called Sudden Acceleration
          http://www.thecarconnection.com/news/1020726_a-short-sad-history-of-so-called-sudden-acceleration

          • 0 avatar
            mikey

            How about NBC and “Date Line” the Chevy trucks rigged to explode?

            The media {not TTAC} twists, distorts, and out right lies to make a story

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            The Dateline story was outrageous.

            “We can’t get this truck to explode on camera, so let’s rig it with explosives and then ram it!”

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            The Dateline story was outrageous.

            “We can’t get this truck to explode on camera, so let’s rig it with explosives and then ram it. That will show how dangerous these trucks are!”

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @DenverMike- I am not overlooking any scenarios, just describing the order of events which must occur. Do you know the facts of any of the cases linked to the ignition switch? I will leave that to the court system to determine the facts of any case and decide liability. Generally, proportionate liability is considered in events with multiple causes. Though deep pockets defendants generally pay more than their share of responsibility for the event.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @doc olds – If were just a matter of “the process of a crash already underway”, then it wouldn’t be an issue. The airbags should still deploy either right before or right after the ignition switch was cut OFF. We’re talking split seconds.

            Often in crashes, the battery gets smashed 1st, cutting all power before there’s a determination if or how hard an airbag will deploy. It’s not a problem for a reason.

            But if an airbag doesn’t deploy with major frontal impact, it points to an electrical system that was shut OFF a few seconds before there was any kind of impact.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            Are you certain it is a few seconds and not just a fraction of a second? It is certainly more than nanoseconds.

            The alleged issue is the air bags not deploying in a crash because the ignition key is in the off position at the time of impact.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Doc Olds, in the recent case GM settled whereby a young woman was killed driving a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, the ignition cylinder moving into the off position caused a loss of power steering and braking, which subsequently caused her to lose control of the vehicle and swerve into an incoming vehicle.

            You may believe this isn’t the case, but GM’s own experts conceded that it was the most likely scenario that was the proximate cause of the collision.

            You also may (or may not) believe an event such as this does not necessarily & inevitably lead to a loss of driver control of a vehicle, but I would wager most people would not want to tempt their fate in having both their power steering and power braking system cut out unexpectedly at highway speed (or any speed, for that matter).

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @Deadweight- I’ve seen a news report about that case and am of the impression that it is considered unique among the dozen incidents linked to the ignition switch. I recall the police thought the driver was going too fast for conditions. That was not caused by an ignition switch.

            Isn’t the attorney in that case the one who pushed government hard to force an expansion of the GM recall? They went on the typical fishing expedition and went through many thousands of pages provided by GM before concluding the switch was to blame.

            I am sure that turning the ignition off doesn’t spontaneously make a vehicle go out of control. It will still steer and brake. Since we are not privy to the details of the incident, it is not possible to judge the merits of the case.

          • 0 avatar
            ExPatBrit

            Thornmark

            If this is the one I read about the collision was likely not caused by the ignition switch. The driver lost control in bad weather at 72mph and hit a tree. DUI and not wearing a seat belt.

            The lack of airbag deployment was caused by the ignition switch failure.

            Yes sad, but looking at the car after the accident ,she he may not survived either way.

            GM settled to avoid bad PR.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @Doc olds – Loss of power steering and power brakes wouldn’t cause you or I to crash, but my mom and my niece are to weak to stop or steer a car effectively with a complete power loss. But many things can cause an out of spec ignition to shut OFF. Pot holes, dips or even a slamming of the brakes.

            But a bad ignition switch can shut OFF the car and lead to a crash of an un-belted driver, driving too fast and DUI. All 4 things, plus no airbag can contribute to a crash and or death, but the absence of any of the 4 (or a deployed airbag) could have had the driver surviving or not having the crash in the 1st place.

            But I’m definitely not convinced an ignition switch shutting off as impact begins, will kill the airbag already set to deploy.

            Thing is Doc, all airbag systems have a backup power supply. This is primarily designed to allow the airbag system to deploy if the battery or power supply is damaged during the accident, but prior to any impact that may harm the occupants. These power supplies can remain ‘hot’ for up to 20 minutes after the primary power supply is disconnected.

            blog.airbagsolutions.com/archive/2011/12/19/accidental-airbag-deployment.aspx

            So I’ll ask again. How does the airbag know if power was switched OFF or power was lost the an accident sequence of events? And what would be the purpose of preventing the deployment of an airbag if the car’s ignitions was in the OFF position? Then the airbag (electronics/programming) would then assume no one is in the car, or the car is parked and unoccupied. Would this be to save the airbag from unnecessary deployment losses (at owner/insurance expense) from needlessly deployed airbags and other consequential expenses? Like a ripped open dash and cracked windshield? Often it’s the high costs of replacing airbags the ‘totals out’ a car with relatively minor damage.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Doc Olds & ExPat, no offense but neither of you have obviously done even a bare minimum of research before completely misrepresenting the facts surrounding the litigation & settlement regarding the death of Brooke Melton.

            I am not on some high horse here, but don’t you think it’s reasonably frustrating when people don’t do minimal research to grasp facts about something as serious as the death of a 29 year old woman before completely mistating basic information regarding the actual cause of the accident causing her death?

            Here:

            http://www.ajc.com/news/business/gm-recall-doubled-as-georgia-lawyer-pushed-us-regu/nfGYm/

            “Bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against GM, Cooper obtained more than 32,000 pages of related lawsuits and other documents from the company, deposed about a dozen of its engineers and gathered assessments of the ignition issue from dealers.

            According to some of the depositions, reviewed by Bloomberg News, the defect was known to some dealers, engineers and managers since at least 2004.

            GM settled with Cooper’s clients for an undisclosed amount last September. Five months later, the company announced its recall. Shortly after that, it gave government regulators a timeline of the company’s knowledge of the defect that was consistent with Cooper’s findings, including engineers’ decade-long awareness of it.

            GM spokesman Greg Martin declined to comment on Cooper’s lawsuit. The company has apologized for its delay in recalling the models, said its decision-making process “was not as robust as it should have been.”

            Cooper is no big-firm litigator. The 51-year-old graduate of Emory University School of Law employs a handful of people. He litigated his case against GM mostly with the help of his paralegal, Doreen Lundrigan.

            Cooper said he took on his first product liability case in the early 1990s, involving a Ford Bronco II rollover. “It sort of led to more cases, and as a result, this is where I am,” he said.

            Since 2009, according to people in his firm, Cooper has reached confidential settlements with GM in three other lawsuits involving alleged vehicle defects. Cooper has secured more than 50 settlement and trial awards, they said, including nine for amounts greater than $5 million.

            Cooper was approached in February 2011 by the family of Brooke Melton, a 29-year-old Georgia pediatric nurse who died in March 2010 after her 2005 Chevy Cobalt lost power, veered into the opposite highway lane and hit an oncoming car.

            Ken Melton, Brooke’s father, said in an e-mailed statement that Cooper was recommended to him by his insurance company, which he said had recently gone to court against him in another case and was “very impressed.”

            Melton’s family received a recall notice from GM soon after the crash, Cooper said, related to an issue with the Cobalt’s power-steering.

            In June 2011, Cooper filed a wrongful-death suit against GM on behalf of the family in State Court in Cobb County. That fall, Cooper asked GM for information related to the Cobalt’s power steering issue. “I also told him I strongly believed that a technical/mechanical problem with the vehicle had caused the accident, not my daughter,” Ken Melton said in the statement.

            He soon changed his focus. Information from the black box in Melton’s Cobalt indicated that power had been cut not only to the power steering, but also to the rest of Melton’s car, Lundrigan said.

            Meanwhile, Cooper also became aware of bulletins GM sent to dealers in 2005 and 2006 pointing out scenarios in which drivers could inadvertently turn off the ignition in various GM models.

            In a revised complaint filed in March 2013, Cooper alleged that as Melton drove her Cobalt on Georgia’s Highway 9, her key moved out of the run position, shutting off the engine and causing her to lose control and strike an oncoming car.

            In total, the firm deposed some 30 people familiar with the ignition-switch issue, including about 12 GM engineers, Lundrigan said.

            Cooper’s “focus on getting really into the internal workings of that corporation, getting into their engineering drawings, communications” helped pressure GM, said Dennis Cathey, a Georgia lawyer who has known Cooper for more than a decade and worked with him on automotive defect cases. “He has an innate sense of knowing that something could be wrong, and seeks to find out his proof to establish that wrong.”

            Even so, Cooper hadn’t received all that he sought from GM. In September 2012, he had asked GM for information on the ignition switches — including related lawsuits and documents on a replacement part described in the dealer bulletins.

            The following January, GM provided “a lot more documents,” Cooper said. They provided even more, he said, after the judge issued an order in February 2013 overruling “GM’s general and unspecified objections” to several of Cooper’s discovery requests and requiring the carmaker to produce “all responsive documents and materials” by the end of the month.

            In subsequent depositions, though, GM engineers referred to documents that the automaker hadn’t provided, Cooper said. In June, he filed a motion seeking penalties against the carmaker for withholding information.

            In September, two months ahead of the suit’s trial date, GM and the Meltons reached a confidential settlement, Cooper said. GM hadn’t provided the additional documents, he added.

            A related suit could still reach trial. Cooper also sued Thornton Chevrolet, the dealership in Lithia Springs, where Melton brought her car for repair just days before her fatal accident, according to the lawsuit. On the visit, the suit alleges, Melton raised concerns about the engine shutting off during driving.

            Thornton failed to identify and implement the GM bulletin to dealers aimed at addressing the problem, Cooper said. While the judge in the case has ruled on pretrial issues, a trial date hasn’t been set, according to Lundrigan.”

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @Deadweight- I read that article you cite with particular interest, since the lawyer for that single case is “credited” with driving a big expansion of the recall population. The 32,000 document “fishing” expedition is typical of trial lawyers and was common practice through the years. I did have a lot of experience with providing such data and watching the distortion of journalist’s reports.

            There is no mechanism that makes the car go out of control if the ignition switch is turned off. It does not lock the steering, and you still have two assisted braking stops in the brake booster reserve. The lawyer’s theory of cause is nonsensical, while the tragic results elicit sympathy.

            @DenverMike- I am not an expert on the details of the air bag system, though I have a lot of general information going back to the earliest days of airbags. Olds was the lead division and my father was the MVSS compliance engineer as the first production airbags were released in the early ’70′s. For example, they are specifically called “supplemental” for a reason. GM told the regulators in that timeframe that providing enough power to restrain an unbelted occupant would kill some people. Sure enough, the deaths started trickling in and the deployment rates were reduced to help.

            GM says the bags won’t deploy if the ignition is off, and the only discrepancy in these ignition switches is they turn off too easily for GM’s own specification.

            All the rest is conjecture and none of us have heard any testimony or seen evidence in any of the cases.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @Doc old – It seems like it’s a mistake to kill the airbags with an OFF ignition switch (position). It defeats the purpose of the energy airbags store in case power is lost, mid collision.

            I can’t tell if all cars do this, but it seem to not work in GM’s favour.

            Yes it should be the driver’s ultimate responsibility to control and safely stop a car experiencing complete power loss, but GM would still be on the hook for causing the problem and then not recalling cars in a timely manner. Like immediately.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Doc Olds – Are you being intentionally, or unintentionally, misleading?

            Nowhere does the article state or has anyone said that the ignition going into the off position “locks the steering.”

            GM’S OWN INTERNAL DOCUMENTS, many of which were ordered to be turned over by the court, which GM’S OWN ENGINEERS THEN TESTIFIED TO, showed that the result of the ignition cylinder rotating into the off position results IN A LOSS OF POWER STEERING, POWER BRAKING, AND ALSO CAUSES ANTI-LOCK BRAKING AND AIR BAG SYSTEMS TO BECOME INOPERABLE.

            Let me repeat that, just so you can try and dispute what GM’s own documents, testified to by GM’s own engineers, have conceded, which has led to one of the largest automotive recalls in U.S. History:

            GM’S OWN INTERNAL DOCUMENTS, many of which were ordered to be turned over by the court, which GM’S OWN ENGINEERS THEN TESTIFIED TO, showed that the result of the ignition cylinder rotating into the off position results IN A LOSS OF POWER STEERING, POWER BRAKING, AND ALSO CAUSES ANTI-LOCK BRAKING AND AIR BAG SYSTEMS TO BECOME INOPERABLE.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/gm-recall/gm-changed-ignition-part-without-telling-drivers-regulators-n54596

            “General Motors knew about a defect in its ignition switches eight years ago and changed the design of an internal part, but never told federal regulators or the drivers of its cars, according to evidence from a recent lawsuit filed by the parents of a Georgia woman who died in a 2010 GM car crash.

            ***In February the automaker recalled 1.6 million vehicles, saying their ignition switches could be accidentally turned from “run” to the “accessory” position while the car is being driven, shutting down the car’s power brakes, power steering and airbags. GM’s OWN FIGURES have linked ignition problems to a dozen deaths.”***

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            Deadweight- My comment about the steering and braking was to explain why an engine stall (or turn off, in this case) will not make a car go out of control.

            I understand the facts of the product in detail. The ignition key can be turned off too easily for the design spec, period. It does not fail any safety standard, or external requirement, period.

            That is the manufacturing issue that is being spun into a terrible defect.

            Their fishing expeditions disclosed this relatively innocuous issue, and every trial lawyer’s dream, to strike it rich with a huge settlement from a deep pockets defendant.

            Do you think it is amazing that when you turn the ignition key off, the engine stops and the vehicle electrical systems power down?

            Your CAPS seem to imply you see this as new information to you. Reminds me of the cartoon of Clarence Ditlow holding a steering wheel saying, “By God man, you mean all the driver has to do is turn this at the wrong time and he will have a head on collision! We are going to have to recall all the cars ever made.”

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            You’re disingenuous.

            GM itself identified a condition where a defective ignition cylinder (GM’s own conclusion) could allow the ignition to tumble into the “accessory”position while the vehicle is being driven, resulting in an immediate loss of power steering, power braking & inoperative air bags, GM identified this MANY years ago, GM failed to adequately or timely address this issue, merely sending TSBs to dealers in 2008 (which proves they had knowledge of this issue at that time), and GM itself has admitted to NHTSA and the DOJ that it knows of 12 deaths caused by this defective ignition cylinder (while it is estimated that 308 deaths may be a far more accurate figure based on NHTSA’s findings), and you callously and deceptively term this an “innocuous” condition.

            Your entire rebuttal is an example as to why punitive damages are not only warranted, but morally necessary

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Everyone just went crazy about Toyota because they are obviously perfect with no problems and zero reliability issues, and everyone loves beating down on the top dog. People expect this incompetence from GM so when GM acts…well incompetent then there is not as much hoopla.

      But I’m sure in the end the government will be extracting a huge fine from GM over the ignition issues.

      • 0 avatar
        alsorl

        Have you driven a new Camry ?

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          I’m not saying I agree with that viewpoint, just that it is one the general public typically holds (or held before Toyota’s trouble).

          I know the Camry is a car that falls short in many areas, for example.

          • 0 avatar
            alsorl

            Toyota’s of today just give a false sense if security compared to past Toyota’s. I know two people that have bought Toyota’s in the past 6 months. Both of there cars have been at the dealer for over 3 weeks for recalls and other build quality issues. Squeaks, rattles, and leaks. What I’m staying is Toyota is no different then any other auto maker. They have just had better marketing over the years.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            The latest results of the annual Consumer Reports survey appear to contradict that opinion.

            That doesn’t mean that the Camry isn’t a somewhat lackluster vehicle that could be better in some ways.

          • 0 avatar
            alsorl

            @whynot.. totally agree. Toyota has made great products in the past. Now it is a different story. My wife sat in a new Camry last fall. She said she was not old enough to drive it and it felt like her parents Buick from the 90′s. Even the dash looks like it has one if those carpets on the dash with that stitching.
            I get the feeling that some on this site work for Toyota in some way or fashion.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          My sister and her mother-in-law just bought Camrys in the last 9 months. Both have been typical Toyotas in that they’re dull but reliably perfect, which is all they want in a car.

          This is my sister’s fourth Camry and her MILs third.

          Doesn’t float my boat, but God bless them.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Imperial

      Excellent Joker reference, BTSR!

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    All is punishable by a “fine” now. Money fixes all but.. How will this fine be paid? At once or in installments? Will the US Gov really see all of that money or is this more theater for the masses? I would gather that such hefty and aggressive fining of companies (that provide lots of jobs and taxes to their host nation) is counter business, no? Anyone in the B&B have more info on these transactions?

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      Apparently the only difference between bribery and “justice” is which party initiates the transaction.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      “I would gather that such hefty and aggressive fining of companies is counter business.”

      I don’t see a fine levied for misleading a government regulator (investigating negligence and/or fraud in relation to tax payer deaths no less) as “counter business.” The issue here is that the fine is not sufficient, the actors involved should absolutely be facing criminal prosecution. Corporations can’t be jailed so what other tool is there to sanction them? The people involved can, and therefore should, be held personal responsible for this (just as you would be if you withheld documents from discovery or lied in court.)

      Also, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when Toyota’s law firm pieced together this chain of events. This kind of behavior makes it nearly impossible for a white paper internal review to have any credibility with regulators and leads to, well, fines like these. If anything I’d say I’m surprised the number isn’t much higher.

    • 0 avatar
      CapVandal

      I would suggest that a lawyer answer this question. My knowledge was acquired from Judge Judy.

      1. Toyota — Welcome to America.
      2. Is the fine real money to the US government. Yes.
      3. What’s the big deal? If a corporate employee is convicted of a felony, shit happens. People break the law? So what. Put them in the cooler. But, remember all the outrage about corporations being equivalent to people? Campaign financing or something? Well, the down side of it is that a Corporation can be charged with a criminal offense. If they (the corporation) is convicted, they are effectively out of business. As an example, look at the prosecution of Arthur Anderson over the Houston Office’s work on Enron. The entire corporation was prosecuted and convicted of a felony. The Federal Prosecutors win all of these cases. In the case of Anderson, they were out of business. Not the guys in Houston — the whole firm, country wide. Then, they appealed, and a couple of years later, the verdict was overturned, but they were gone a month after the original conviction.

      4. Toyota agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement. Like probation before judgment. Never mind how I am familiar with this. If they are ‘good’ for 3 years, the criminal charges will be dropped.

      5. However, at part of the deal, Toyota also agreed to pay the civil penalty of the $1.2 billion in a ‘separate’ civil action.

      Basically, the criminal charge is a ‘capital offense’ for a large corporation. For typical civil actions, on the other hand, Toyota or any corporation get sued all the time for everything. They are entitled to due process, have a zillion lawyers, etc. The stuff gets settled one way or another. It is just money at stake.

      On a criminal charge, they have no leverage and are at the mercy of the prosecutors. I suppose there is some rationale in setting the amount. The prosecutors want it to hurt, but don’t want to put the entire corporation out of business.

      • 0 avatar
        CapVandal

        I need to modify this. Per the DOJ: “non-penal sanctions that may accompany a criminal charges, such as potential suspension or debarment from eligibility for government contracts or federal funded programs such as health care. ”

        There is a lot of other bad stuff that can happen. I am most familiar with financial institutions, which are very vulnerable to criminal sanctions, which are frequently considered the kiss of death.

        To list the other stuff: Reputational Risk, for banks, inability to participate in programs like FDIC. State licenses, share holder suits, additional difficulties with product liability and class action suits. plus potentially every other interaction or transaction the corporation has with governmental agencies.

        As far as how this works in practice, outside of the financial area, I don’t really know how this plays out in practice. That is, the extent to which these sanctions are mandatory vs discretionary and the extent to which it would hurt a manufacturer. &c.

        I will have to consult Judge Judy.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    This is the first time I’ve read that – “The sticky pedal problem surfaced in Europe in 2008.”

    Anyway – GM is about to get hosed by Congressional hearings, civil law suits and most likely the Justice Department.

    From rental experience the Cobalt’s all electric power steering didn’t have any feel for when the all-season tires were about to come off the rims in a sharp turn and its rear suspension were outright scary going over railroad tracks.

    The Cobalt typified what was wrong at the old GM in a nutshell. It was totally outclassed by the Ford Focus throughout its brief life span.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    TL;DR…

    Toyota is just as fallible as every other automaker, film at eleven.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Such an odd case. It’s been going so long and through so many iterations that I had honestly stopped paying attention.

    The floor mat issue doesn’t bother me. IIRC, it was only a problem when people were stacking floor mats on top of each other, which is a Darwinian filtering mechanism similar to throwing your empty soda bottle in the footwell and being surprised when it ends up wedged under your brake pedal.

    The sticking gas pedal is a more valid issue, and I think it caused a bit of confusion because it occurred at the same time as the floor mat investigation.

    I wouldn’t worry about owning a Toyota because I at least know enough to put the car in neutral before it runs me into an intersection at triple digit speeds. Benefit of owning a stick; you are aware of the functional relationship between engine and transmission, automatic or not. Apparently we need better driver ed in this country. However, most of us probably have people in our families that wouldn’t know to do this, and Toyota’s evasiveness would be pretty galling if they were affected.

    That Toyota tried to cover it up is no surprise. When the bottom line is at risk, how many companies are going to take the ethical high road?

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      “The floor mat issue doesn’t bother me. IIRC, it was only a problem when people were stacking floor mats on top of each other, which is a Darwinian filtering mechanism similar to throwing your empty soda bottle in the footwell and being surprised when it ends up wedged under your brake pedal.

      The sticking gas pedal is a more valid issue, and I think it caused a bit of confusion because it occurred at the same time as the floor mat investigation.”

      As I recall the issue was the opposite. Floormats were an issue (they became unhooked and slid forward too easily), but the “sticking accelerator” was generally bogus, with most people just hitting the wrong pedal when they thought they were hitting the brakes. Also IIRC the floormats were sticking the accelerator down, as it wedged above the pedal when the user was pushing it down, and not wedging behind the brake.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    I think this is a complete snowjob, even though I despise Toyota cars, and even ‘Toyota Jan’ form those television ads!

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      She always looks see has a secret thought bubble: ” What, another take? Again? This is the 15th one already. Gawd, I wish I was anywhere else. Anywhere…”.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Yeah, but she sure is cute, also very pregnant! I suppose any woman looks good in red, however.

        • 0 avatar
          PRNDLOL

          I feel sorry for her I suppose, because you can tell she’s been directed to be as benign and innocuous as humanly possible. Even her name is an intentionally boring one. I want to see her drink a beer and curse.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Will Toyota be “encouraged” to adjust its pricing or product to offer more living room in the market for government-assisted automakers?

    Nice reference to “Lebensraum”, but does it cross the Godwin line?

  • avatar
    mike978

    It is good to have it confirmed that BS was “in bed” with Toyota. That was obvious from his writing and selection of stories. Hopefully all can accept that now.

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    The amount of intimidation, blackmail, unlawful surveillance, cronyism, cover-up, and “proclaimed unawareness” from the “most transparent administration ever” is scary.

    Life has always been WHO you know rather than WHAT, but this government has brought this to extremes far more damaging than I’d ever thought in my nightmares.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      If you think this administration is any worse than his predecessors, you haven’t been paying attention for the past 60 years.

    • 0 avatar
      NN

      The Bush Administration, after 9/11 in the name of protecting our citizens, is the source of much of the IT advances and mass internet/cellphone data mining (“unlawful surveillance”) that has gone one since via the NSA. This was also when the Homeland Security department was created, border control received massive fund increases, TSA security was increased dramatically, etc…huge expansion of government and surveillance and yes, infringement upon the 4th amendment and US Citizen’s historic rights.

      The current administration, on the other hand, owns the cronyism, cover-up, intimidation, etc. on behalf of NHTSA/Union focused on Toyota. Pick your poison.

      • 0 avatar
        Mr Imperial

        Bush’s administration started the fire, the current administration poured gasoline on it.

        “The current administration, on the other hand, owns the cronyism, cover-up, intimidation, etc. on behalf of NHTSA/Union focused on Toyota. Pick your poison”

        Your opinion. The Teflon President hasn’t owned anything-Bengazi, NSA, Obamacare’s FUBAR rollout, Fast and Furious (esp. Holder)Geitner as a tax cheat, the famous quote to Mendev: “I’ll have more flexibility when I’m re-elected”, and the list goes on.

      • 0 avatar
        Mr Imperial

        (Forgive if my original post somehow shows up)

        I’ll agree that Bush’s administration started the fire, the current administration poured gasoline on the fire.

        “The current administration, on the other hand, owns the cronyism, cover-up, intimidation, etc. on behalf of NHTSA/Union focused on Toyota. Pick your poison”

        Your opinion. The Teflon President has yet to own anything-Bengazi, NSA spying, the FUBAR ACA rollout, Fast and Furious (esp. Holder), Geitner the tax cheat, “I’ll have more flexibility when I’m re-elected”, where the Porkulous Stimulus Bill went, the list goes on.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Extortion is exactly the right word, Jack! The nanny state in extreme. It does not seem that the unions have a whole lot to do with it, though. It looks like GM is getting their turn in the barrel next!

  • avatar
    NN

    The former EIC had a strong admiration for Mr. Ghosn, not as much for Toyota, per my recollections. Remember all the homoerotic pictures posted of Mr. Ghosn’s nasal cavities up close at press events? Fascinating & humorous reporting, and I enjoyed reading it, but clearly there was some favoritism going on. Mr. Mulally, more accomplished IMO, never got that kind of respect from BS.

    Interesting that Toyota’s large fine makes the news just as GM’s ignition recall troubles were hitting a crescendo in the media. It really does feed the conspiracy theory of the wool being pulled over the sheep’s eyes. I’m a GM fan, but any objective human being can see that Toyota has a much better history of providing quality products to customers than GM does. Toyota seems to be getting punished severely here…the jury is out on what will happen to GM, but if it is anything less then what Toyota has gone through then it will be shameful. I’m also convinced that GM’s recall will reach deeper, similar to Toyota’s. My brother’s 1998 Olds Intrigue shut off on the freeway on him multiple times in the same exact description as the Cobalts do, and yet the W-bodies aren’t yet on the recall list. He dumped the car out of fear of driving it and switched to Mazdas–of which he has since bought two brand new and loved them both.

    • 0 avatar
      Dirk Stigler

      Yep. You have to keep in mind that this administration is filled with hipsters and wannabes for whom TV and PR are reality. There is very little chance that this fine and its huge media splash just accidentally happened to come down right in the middle of GM’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad press week.

      And that’s not to say the Toyota pedal issues aren’t real, but the more the administration and the media pull this kind of stunt, the more the public is going to discount NHTSA statements, which means people will be driving dangerous cars because the government has thrown away its credibility.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        No wool is being pulled over. The investigation has started on GM. For Toyota this is the end of a 4 year investigation. SO at this rate we will be talking about it in 2018 and seeing what is happening. The conspiracy theorists thought nothing would happen with GM, well they are wrong since investigations (not the plural) are occurring.

        It was obvious BS had a thing for Toyota and showed his bias (we can use that word) in the articles chosen (and not chosen) and the way some people were bared.

  • avatar
    SteelyMoose

    Hearing that lying sack of reptile feces Eric Holder bloviate sanctimoniously during the breathless “media” event, I threw up in my mouth a bit.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    These things happen in the automotive industry. It’s sad, sure.

    People shouldn’t be disposable, but sadly, it seems this is what it takes for this “justice” (if thats what you want to call a fine, recalls, and engineers heading back to the drawing board) to occur. When you’re manufacturing gigantic moving machines that people strap themselves into- yes, bodies will get injured when something goes south.

    Whether a cover up occured or not, they’ll pay Uncle Sam a fine, deal with some scrutiny for a while, AND still hold a beloved spot in Americans’ hearts. This will be an upcoming topic among enthusiasts for x number of years, but the majority of the U.S. of A will have swept the remnants out of their short term memory.

    People will continue to buy Camrys and drool over Land Cruisers. You’ll still see a crapload of uber-rich, conservatives, professionals, or all of the above flocking to the Lexus lot about every four years or so.

    And why not? Lexus continues to be class-leading. Hell, I still pine for an older, low-mileaged LS400. I actually saw one yesterday- absolutely gorgeous. It was black over tan. Despite myself being a card carryin’ member of the “black shouldn’t mix with shades of brown” crowd (I prefer black over black), I would ‘ve happilly added that LS to my stable.

    The media does seem to be more forgiving of Toyota, though. Perhaps its warm fuzzy feelings and beloved memories of liberal journalists’ unbreakable Toyotas from yesteryear.

    Yup, the media loves to hate GM. For reasons still unbeknownst to me, can’t say I blame them…?

    By the way, the audio clip of that family in the Lexus careening out of control in California IS bone-chilling. Give it a listen if you can.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Toyota is predictably going to be good for it’s word to fix it right. The product they release is usually top-quality and well-engineered. Finally, Toyota was fined for late notification to the government, not for a safety defect.

      GM continually has released half-baked goods, relying on the paying public to be the beta testers. If in fact this defect was known in 2003, this is 10x worse than exploding Pintos. I feel sorry for Mary.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “By the way, the audio clip of that family in the Lexus careening out of control in California IS bone-chilling. Give it a listen if you can.”

      I’d describe it as cringeworthy. Like a bad movie, it’s just too ridiculous for me to take the characters seriously.

      “Okay and you don’t have the ability to turn the vehicle off or anything?”

      “No, unfortunately I don’t have the mental capacity to turn it off or even put it in neutral so instead I’m going to do a bunch of praying while I send in my Darwin Award nomination!”

  • avatar

    Extortion! Precisely! It’s the new way of business with the US – though it has little effect on the Ruskies!

    • 0 avatar
      SayMyName

      To a man, the Ruskies realize what a spineless little pussy the Boy King is. Sad that the American people still haven’t realized it, or simply don’t care.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Maybe the Russians realized they got away with it in 2008 with Georgia. Maybe you were referring to that Boy king?

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        So which is he? Spineless pussy or Boy King? You can’t have it both ways, and it’s especially funny when you try to do so within the same sentence.

        • 0 avatar
          SayMyName

          Do a Google search for “metaphor.”

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            You’re missing the point. People who don’t like the president often argue at the same time that he’s a wimp who gets pushed around and that he’s a tyrannical dictator. That makes no sense. And it’s what your sentence did.

          • 0 avatar
            SayMyName

            Not at all. He’s able to assert dominance over the American people because most don’t understand – or don’t care, hey look a new iPhone! – how inept and powerless he actually is. Our opponents on the global stage do understand that fact, just fine.

            If I seriously considered Barry O. to be a competent leader – and not a trumped-up puppet – I wouldn’t refer to him pejoratively as a “boy” anything.

          • 0 avatar

            I was just about to pull the “like it or not, he’s your president” card, but then my thoughts went back to 2000-2008, back when we had a president who had all the foreign policy acumen of a disposable fruit cup. It was no wonder that Cheney and Rumsfeld had to do all the heavy lifting (and look where that got us).

            Right now, your brain is wrapped up in a blanket of cognitive dissonance over a man for which you’d never have any respect for regardless of his foreign policy decisions. And that’s the thing – I had no respect for POTUS #43 personally, but I had plenty of respect for the office of the President. You, on the other hand, have zero respect for neither #44 nor the office.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Let’s face facts, #43 and #44 are both terrible in different ways, so lets assume on foreign policy they equally are weak. The difference between the two administrations is primarily the policies of and who is in charge of the State Department.

            President #43 first had Gen. Powell and then Dr. Rice. Powell was somewhat qualified for the position to due his military background and the fact he was National Security Advisor (87-89) during the initial collapse of the old Soviet empire, also he later served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 89-93. I’m not sure what his real politics are and I’m not sure what really went on during the Iraqi op, but the fact is this man was somewhat qualified to be Secretary of State when appointed. Next #43 appointed National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice to the post in 2005. Dr. Rice’s political science degree specialized in Sovietology and personally I think its no coincidence she was appointed Secy of State right as a Soviet era strongman Vladimir Putin started to flex his muscles in the world stage. So in her political training and role as a National Security Advisor she was certainly qualified for the post, if only due to her specialized knowledge of Soviet diplomacy.

            President #44 has not fared as well, he first chose former Senator Hilary Clinton, although in his defense this may have been a political deal and not his first choice. Sen Clinton’s background includes being a lawyer, a First Lady, and later a US Senator. When she was US Senator, her role included membership on five Senate committees: “Committee on Budget (2001–2002),[200] Committee on Armed Services (since 2003),[201] Committee on Environment and Public Works (since 2001),[200] Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (since 2001)[200] and Special Committee on Aging.[202] She was also a Commissioner of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe[203] (since 2001)”. I’m not sure what that last one is but it sounds a bit like BS, but of the five US related committees only the Armed Services committee even comes close to being relevant to foreign policy. So in short, you have lawyer whose main qualification for the post is she was President #42′s legal wife with a stint on the Armed Services committee of the Senate and since #42 is a big wheel in #44′s party he gets put in a difficult position and appoints her. Compared to her two predecessors she is barely qualified and if I might say so was simply incompetent in the role. Next #44 appointed longtime Senator John Kerry to the post. Kerry at least had relevant experience for the role being Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 09-13, and had some previous military experience. I’ve never met the man but I’ve listened to him speak rather close, he’s not an impressive man nor does he even strike me as intelligent. I suspect much of his political clout comes from his successful Iran-Contra hearings from the late 80s, who is wife is, and the fact unlike Sen Clinton he is politically non-threatening (to #44). The trouble is this lack of threat is perceived by the US’s enemies in the world. If Kerry had been appointed in a less volatile period of history I think he would be adequate, but with the emergence of the Russian Bear in both Ukraine and Syria (yes), I’m not sure he’s up to the task. Sergey Lavrov runs rings around he and frmr Sen Clinton.

            The Georgian campaign was about some of the same things as the Crimean annexation, but the current crisis hits much closer to home (geographically and politically). Georgia/South Ossetia was about (1) natural gas routes, (2) limiting NATO expansion, (3) reasserting the Soviet sphere of influence in Central Asia, and probably (4) testing the West’s reaction to territory occupation and/or annexation. Crimea is about all of those things plus the (1) Black Seas Fleet and (2) oil pricing.

            The BSF until 2010 has been in a tenuous lease with Ukraine over its home port. This was extended in 2010 by the former Ukrainian president who was overthrown. Annexation of the Crimea permanently solves the problem which I predicted March 3rd in the link I posted below.

            Brent currently sits at $106 and WTI at $98. Most of the economy of Russia is predicated on natural gas extraction and sales to Europe as well as oil extraction for international sale. They need to maintain their control of natural gas sales to Europe (via Ukraine) and keep the price of Brent high enough to keep the country running. Putin will keep pushing for more international incidents in order to keep oil high. He knows the spineless US State Department will do nothing to stop him.

            A stronger State Department would certainly help in these matters, as would a stronger President. However I do believe even a weaker President could weather such a crisis well if his State Department and overall administration were not filled with imbeciles and political hacks.

            http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/cadillac-elr-sells-just-99-units-in-february/#comment-2893793

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Powell

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kerry

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condoleezza_Rice

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillary_Rodham_Clinton

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            28-cars,
            You have presented an admittedly thorougher-than-average understanding of the Crimean conflict and backgrounds of the last Secretaries of State. I’m going to set aside that I believe the Iraq War pretty much says what I need to know about Powell’s and Rice’s qualification and just ask this:

            Competent or not, what possible recourse does the US State Department have in preventing Vladimir Putin from doing what he just did? This appears to be a long time in the making and rooted in a world view and vision of Russian destiny that is far more powerful than our country and the diplomatic options we have. What should the President have done? The State Department?

            If there are certain steps they missed, point it out, but if you don’t know what they should have done and are simply assuming Clinton and Kerry messed it up due to their backgrounds, I don’t find that very concrete.

          • 0 avatar

            > Competent or not, what possible recourse does the US State Department have in preventing Vladimir Putin from doing what he just did?

            28 day later is going to nuke the Kremlin to liberate them commies.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @30-mile-fetch

            The White House is in a bind because no matter who is President, nobody (myself included) wants to revisit the Cuban Missile Crisis. The problem is no matter how deep the moves have been planned you can’t allow bullies to run amok. South Ossetia, now Crimea, soon Eastern Ukraine, what’s next? US geopolitical strategy has been very off-base since the current President has taken office. This strategy typically emanates from the National Security Council which consists of the President, the Vice President, Secy of State, Secy of Defense (as primaries) then the Secy of Energy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, a Nat’l Security Advisor, the Attorney General, the WH Chief of Staff, and some other positions. Now even if I grant the President doesn’t have the best foreign policy experience but is otherwise ok, and the fact I never cared for Robert Gates, I can comfortably tell you almost every other one of these people save the current WH Chief of Staff I don’t know much about and the current Chairman of Joint Chiefs is *completely incompetent* at their job and has been since 2009.

            Lets go to the tape, think about how bad US foreign policy has been since 2009:

            -Ignoring the Iranian uprising in 2009
            -Abandon Mubarak, then install anti-West Muslim Brotherhood only to have that fall apart.
            -Completely screw up the new START treaty
            -Illegally attack Libya, use Al-Qaeda militants to overthrow Gadaffi and throw the whole region into chaos.
            -Illegally fund the same Al-Qaeda militants in their quest to overthrow the Soviet and Iranian backed gov’t of Syria and fail.
            -Now its starting to look like the whole Ukraine crisis started as a CIA backed coup gone wrong, giving the Kremlin pretext to whip out Munich 1938 and annex a territory it wanted regardless on similar reasoning used by a certain German dictator. The only thing its missing is “peace in our time”!

            Grade schoolers could come up with better foreign policy than this stuff.

            What do I want them to do?

            First they have to get a Secy of State who can actually match wits with Lavrov. He was appointed in 2004 so in theory he’s dealt with all four Secys of State I named, but the only time I ever saw him grimace was with Rice. I’m pretty sure Putin has no respect for the President, but I’m also pretty sure Europe, along with Brazil and the Far East, doesn’t either. This is a bigger problem than with the Kremlin, so do you know what they did? They sent Biden to Poland to reassure the Poles. Weak move because Biden is a world class joke. Biden is not the sith lord Cheney people might have taken seriously. The President should have gone to Poland and given one of his teleprompter speeches and then followed it up with serious military exercises, not send a dozen F-16s to Poland or wherever they were sent. Let’s give Ukraine a billion dollars we don’t have, sure that’ll do something. If you going to create a puppet regime you should be backing it with military assistance. They were probably wary of doing this because the Red Army might call their bluff. This might have been an indication to me as someone on the NSC to not have gotten involved in the first place (which it appears the West was).

            What the White House must admit is what #43 knew, we are looking at a reemergence of the Soviet empire. The President has to get on stage and fake all of the tough guy stuff he can, really get people to believe in him. Why? People can hate Reagan for many things but the world at the time believed in him and was willing to follow him into the jaws of WWIII if need be. Now? The US is an international joke, worse than when 43 was in office (although he didn’t help our image much) and in the event sh*t hits the fan its going to be everyone for themselves. The key to breaking the Soviets is economy same as before. Their entire economy is based on natural gas, oil, and intimidation. Start exporting LNG to Europe from our shores and the Europeans won’t depend on the Kremlin for energy. Find ways to hurt the oil price for a prolonged period (its based on the fricking US petrodollar after all). Starve the Russian beast. Their demographics shrink every year, in something like thirty years their population will halve at current birth rates. Putin is their czar and he will rule over them until his death in one manner or another. Eventually they will not matter as much. The West had been pursuing a policy of encirclement under 43, this appears to have stopped in the past few years. Maybe that wasn’t the best idea.

            The other part of it is China although China is a whole other discussion and I’m heading to bed.

            http://www.globalresearch.ca/ukraine-was-a-playbook-cia-coup-detat/5371296

            http://iranian.com/main/blog/dr-mansur-rastani/president-obama-you-undermined-2009-iranian-uprising.html

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_National_Security_Council

          • 0 avatar

            > People can hate Reagan for many things but the world at the time believed in him and was willing to follow him into the jaws of WWIII if need be.

            Drumming up some domestic agitprop for the chickenhawks isn’t the same thing as foreign policy. Militarily the soviets short of their own vietnam in afghan were always inward looking and therefore more defensive than US ambitions. It’s always been nothing but a ploy for the “defense” spending boondoggle to play up the divisional rivalry for the ratings.

            It really takes some effort to be an even worse foreign policy “expert” than Biden.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “It’s always been nothing but a ploy for the “defense” spending boondoggle to play up the divisional rivalry for the ratings”

            I agree with you on this point based on what actually happened. If you look at who the General Secretaries of the CPSU were, the four in the middle (after Stalin) were all cut from a similar cloth and adapted a more defensive posture. This didn’t mean Gorbachev or his successors would not have gone on the offensive had the old Soviet empire continued and the US had been put in a weaker position, say after 1984. We are seeing a remnant of this now with Putin, except now the United States is at much more of an economic and diplomatic disadvantage than it was thirty years ago while his country is on the upswing. The fact the Chinese have emerged as a budding superpower is another significant fact to consider. Many believe Beijing and Moscow ideologically parted ways after the Sino-Soviet split. Whether this split was true or not isn’t particularly relevant at this point, what is relevant is what they have in common: 1. Dislike of the West. 2. Membership in the Shanghai Cooperative Organization, the Central Asian “Warsaw Pact”. 3. Both awash in US dollars. The third point particularly troubles me.

            Read “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives” by Brzezinski if you are truly interested on the importance of Central Asia and how it plays a role in Chinese and Soviet foreign policy.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_Cooperation_Organisation

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zbigniew_Brzezinski

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Soviet_split

          • 0 avatar

            > This didn’t mean Gorbachev or his successors would not have gone on the offensive had the old Soviet empire continued and the US had been put in a weaker position, say after 1984.

            The soviets lacked the economics to do it anyway. To understand their mindset must consider the historical justification for a defensive buffer zone compared to a land conveniently flanked by oceans.

            More importantly, rather than assume “we’re the good guys” like simpletons, it’s also worth pondering that the more considerable tally of Murican aggression around the world might make “murica’s enemies” worry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEle_DLDg9Y

            In any case, reading the c̶h̶i̶c̶k̶e̶n̶h̶a̶w̶k̶s̶ ̶ cheerleaders’ accounts doesn’t really provide the perspective necessary to understand what’s going on. Follow the money and you’ll find the people playing the game don’t really care about fighting per se.

            > 3. Both awash in US dollars. The third point particularly troubles me.

            Ok, so they got a bunch of paper iou’s (or in this case, not even paper) and we got the goods. Seems obvious who the winners are in the economics of this.

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            funny, I put yours in the search bar and it returned “mixed metaphor”.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        saymyname

        Just a note for when you are trying to be convincing in public. When you refer to our Commander in Chief as “Barry O” or “Boy King” in a demeaning manner it shows a serious disrespect for the office as much as the man. It was obnoxious when it was coming from Maher et al towards President Bush and it’s equally obnoxious coming from your crowd toward President Obama. I see that and I know I’m not going to learn anything from your post or have my viewpoint seriously challenged in any way. That kind of casual disrespect also probably means that you are underestimating your political adversary, which is your choice, but not a good one.

        I might add that your disturbingly simplistic comments about the Russia situation are not helping your credibility either. There’s a reason that the Cold War was not a hot war, and that’s because no one wearing big boy shoes in either country could sanction the bloody toll an actual conflict between these two countries would quickly result in. Russia still is the only legitimate military counter to the US globally, and that has never not-been the case since WWII. What, pray tell, would you suggest doing that isn’t already being done and that wouldn’t set the stage for an actual WWIII? (I don’t actually want to argue Russia here, just demonstrating how to frame a critique and/or argument)

        I know that kind of chiding makes me seem like an old fogey but I’m in my mid 30′s and I’ve never been accused of being old fashioned.

        • 0 avatar
          ect

          +1

        • 0 avatar
          SayMyName

          Don’t much care about your opinion, but thanks for wasting your time all the same.

          • 0 avatar

            > Don’t much care about your opinion, but thanks for wasting your time all the same.

            Then it’s puzzle why you even bother in a discussion thread.

            Oh I get it.

            http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/australian-supplier-association-warns-of-33000-jobs-lost-in-wake-of-producer-exits/#comment-2793505

          • 0 avatar
            SayMyName

            Clever. Simply put, the closer your political opinions skew towards the far left, the less relevance I assign them. Any apologist for the Boy King is less than worthless to me, and those of that ilk are not to be approached rationally, nor reasoned with; they must simply be stomped into the ground, metaphorically… or not.

          • 0 avatar

            > Clever. Simply put, the closer your political opinions skew towards the far left, the less relevance I assign them.

            I see, the SayMyName-centric view of the universe.

            Merican politics is what happens when these sorts are put in a room together.

            > not to be approached rationally, nor reasoned with; they must simply be stomped into the ground, metaphorically

            This rather assumes you’re right. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “Don’t much care about your opinion, but thanks for wasting your time all the same.”

            I don’t care what political side you’re on. Comments like that show you have no firm rebuttal, no real answer, nothing constructive. It’s the white flag for people to self-impressed to admit they are waving the white flag.

          • 0 avatar
            tedward

            saymyname

            “Any apologist for the Boy King is less than worthless to me, and those of that ilk are not to be approached rationally, nor reasoned with; they must simply be stomped into the ground, metaphorically… or not.”

            I was letting you know that your political statement crossed a line and resembled actual disrespect for the office of the President of the United States rather then just for this President. I also shared that this makes you sound like a bit of a fool or a hormone addled teenager (although more politely obviously.) You follow with this? Violent political persecution with a side order of likely future civil war is your personal preference? There aren’t even words for that. You sound like you really might think that we’d be better of killing our neighbors over tax code and regulatory disputes.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “You sound like you really might think that we’d be better of killing our neighbors over tax code and regulatory disputes.”

            Ultimately human beings are simply animals who gained reason and learned civilized behavior. A simple glance of occasional human behavior in the Ninetieth and Twentieth Century confirms these facts.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Maybe the little pussy boy king is still worried about the trillions of dollars of war debt he inherited for useless machismo. Seal Team Six was all that was needed, not the TSA and ravaging of Iraq and Afghanistan. Fighting in a conflict half a world away? Pure stupidity.

        Maybe he’s read the history of The Ukraine and realized it’s been dominated by neighbors for a millennium; and that in fact it is heavily populated by many different Slavic peoples other than ethnic Ukrainians.

        Don’t get me wrong, as a pure bred Ukrainian I was exhilarated when The Ukraine “won” its independence. I also knew that it would be short lived with the varying ethnic groups identifying and having transitioned from other places. Complete absorption in the EU wasn’t never a realistic possibly as much as I and millions of others wanted to believe.

        Personally, I’m glad the pussy boy king is keeping his dick in his pants for now.

  • avatar

    It’s rather telling that while the DoJ goes on and on about “deception”, they had to hang this all on a single charge of wire fraud.

    I have no great sympathies for Toyota, or GM in its own safety related recall issue, but the simple truth is that all of us are technically violating all sorts of laws and all it takes for one of us to have our lives put into a maelstrom is for a cop, or prosecutor, or a bureaucrat to decide that they don’t like us for whatever reason, and then they’ll find a crime for which to prosecute us. If they can’t find an actual crime that they think they can win in court on, they’ll say that declaring your innocence is lying to investigators like they did to Martha Stuart. And if all else fails, they’ll use the bureaucracy to hassle you, like the IRS has done with non-profits in favor of limited government.

    Federal prosecutors will throw anything and everything against the wall, figuring that you’ll plea bargain to something. At the same time, those prosecutors don’t think juries should know what kind of deals they’ve offered and they insist on absolute immunity for their own misdeeds.

    Is anyone naive enough to think that the same standards for fraud will ever be applied to Mr. Holder, his boss, and their associates? Remember, this is the administration whose EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, used a sockpuppet email account that I’m sure violates some federal wire fraud statute.

    Like Stalin said, show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.

    Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent
    http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/1594035229

    Glenn Reynolds has some good suggestions:
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/03/19/law-enforcement-clue-jury-criminal-column/6490641/

    “In a recent Columbia Law Review essay, I suggest some remedies to this problem: First, prosecutors should have “skin in the game” — if someone’s charged with 100 crimes but convicted of only one, the state should have to pay 99% of his legal fees. This would discourage overcharging. (So would judicial oversight, but we’ve seen little enough of that.) Second, plea-bargain offers should be disclosed at trial, so that judges and juries can understand just how serious the state really thinks the offense is. Empowering juries and grand juries (a standard joke is that any competent prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich) would also provide more supervision. And finally, I think that prosecutors should be stripped of their absolute immunity to suit — an immunity created by judicial activism, not by statute — and should be subject to civil damages for misconduct such as withholding evidence.”

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Ronnie

      I agree with everything you commented on regarding prosecutorial overreach and the practice of overcharging (doubly so for stripping absolute immunity from prosecutors.) On the other hand it seems like (from the summary above) that Toyota had this coming in spades. Their actions in cancelling the improved design from being implemented, and in attempting a no paper trail communication of same, ring pretty clearly to me of an organized attempt to hide their liability in an issue that killed some of their customers. That’s a despicable act in any industry and it also a 100% surefire way to find yourself on the DOJ’s $hit list.

      As to this being political I just don’t see it. Any company would find themselves in this position having made these mistakes. If anything I’d say they were given some consideration.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      The IRS also looked into “liberal” groups. No group was barred, but if you are claiming exemptions from tax laws then these should be looked at.

      Martha Stewart was guilty, found by a group of her peers. It wasn`t just an arbitrary Government decision to put someone in jail. There is due process and she can afford good lawyers.

    • 0 avatar

      The Columbia Law Review has some interesting ideas. In order to reduce human passions from interfering, the law should more carefully regulate the profession and even the choosing of people to become prosecutors should be done by tests and not invitations. The plea bargain is not allowed to the State in many countries, specifically to avoid this kind of thing. This prohibition and the shackling up of the profession by more legal shackles lead to its own set of problems.

      I believe some of the problems faced by the US today is the lack of law not over-regulation. Many opine that the housing/banking crisis was in part due to lax regulation and lack of oversight. As society gets more complicated, and more interests are at play, more not less law is needed.

      As to automakers, like any other business, big, small or huge, they will try to get away with anything they can. Benevolent, transparent, company-society relations are a myth and a fallacy that exist only on Bloomberg TV or The Economist. There must be someone to address the evident imbalance between the organized interests of business and the diffuse and unorganized societal interest. And the answer to that is closer regulation and oversight, with clear laws (not guidelines) saying exactly what overseers can or cannot do.

      It’s the age old question, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? The answer is to depersonalize it as much as possible by turning it to law.

      • 0 avatar

        > The Columbia Law Review has some interesting ideas. In order to reduce human passions from interfering,

        Common law in commonwealth countries deals with this by operating on precedent more than immaculate interpretation. This provides plenty of “law” to cover just about anything.

        > As society gets more complicated, and more interests are at play, more not less law is needed.

        Regulatory ruling also operates differently than statutory. There are better resources to explain this but the gist of this particular issue is here:

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/the-united-states-government-acting-at-the-direct-request-of-some-union-somewhere-extorts-over-a-billion-dollars-from-toyota-while-in-the-parking-lot-outside-the-justice-department-defective-gm-ig/#comment-2980457

        • 0 avatar

          “but there needed to be some fair continuity for the regulatory precess to work well and that’s where they failed miserably”

          I agree, but that is exactly where a statutory approach could be helpful as being written down in law a substantially cutting down on discretionary possibilities, continuity would be more consistent.

          Common law has many, many positive points specially as relates to flexibility. However, to work as intended it also takes dedicated people, dedicated to the common cause and not private ones. Again, as it seems this selfless dedication is lacking, more and more mandating laws could help.

          • 0 avatar

            > I agree, but that is exactly where a statutory approach could be helpful as being written down in law a substantially cutting down on discretionary possibilities, continuity would be more consistent.

            Actually it’s the *interpretation* of statute that’s the problem. Common law by contrast resolves this by provide similar templates instead of relying on judicial discretion.

            That was also the problem here. The aggressive new DOJ prosecutors views the same words differently than their predecessors and that scared Toyota into settling. The case technically never went to trial.

            This wasn’t a regulatory anything per se other than the NHTSA operating out of a completely different book than the DOJ right now.

            > Common law has many, many positive points specially as relates to flexibility. However, to work as intended it also takes dedicated people, dedicated to the common cause and not private ones. Again, as it seems this selfless dedication is lacking, more and more mandating laws could help.

            The main benefit of common law is the consistency. The benefit of civil law is possibly greater accuracy (judge not as template-applier but fact-finder). In general the latter depends more on the quality of people involved.

  • avatar
    Pan

    Where these accidents due to incorrect floor mats or stuck accelerator pedals occurred, would shifting to neutral and/or turning off the ignition have made any difference or just made things worse?

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @Pan…As others have pointed out ” disconnecting the power from the drive wheels would have prevented the accident”

      Shifting to neutral might of cooked the engine. The Rev limiter would have kicked on, and then you shut the ignition off.

      I’m no Toyota fan. However this is for sure “driver error”

  • avatar
    rpol35

    “The United States Government has imposed a $1.2 billion penalty on Toyota Motor Company in exchange for deferring its prosecution of one count of wire fraud for the next three years.”

    Good work if you can get it.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Thank you for the summary of events JB, this has been off the radar for quite a while but seeing it all laid out really clarifies what happened. I have to admit that I’m kind of indifferent to the fact that the mistakes occurred (cars are complicated, it happens,) but seeing how it was handled internally is an eye opener. It also puts Toyota’s subsequent practice of public, and frequent, recalls into perspective. The company clearly went from one extreme to another in how they handle these matters, and it would be interesting to know if this course correction came from their internal legal department or from outside counsel.

  • avatar
    SayMyName

    The very language of Holder’s trumped-up press release suggests this was politically motivated from the very beginning. It is impossible to ignore that the government did not become interested in this matter until it started dabbling in the car business in 2008-2009.

    Yeah, fine, whatever, Toyota had a SUA problem… that also served to strike at least 19 morons from our planet, who couldn’t figure out what “N” means. I call that a win in the end; likewise, GM should get at least some credit for rapidly approaching its competitor’s death count with the ever-growing faulty ignition switch recall.

    I, for one, also appreciate that Toyota has just helped taxpayers recoup nearly 1/10 of the money we lost forever in the GM bailout!

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    I would like to address one small thing in this article that isn’t car related.

    “The reason this story didn’t run yesterday is simple: we didn’t have time to write it. Nothing more sinister than that. We promise.”

    Thank you. All too often I have witnessed news sites post what are in effect first drafts and then edit them later. I appreciate that you take the time to write a real story and if there isn’t time to do so you don’t.

  • avatar
    tedward

    As for your speculation/trolling at the bottom about pressure from the DOJ (to unionize, price adjust etc…) I find that to be extremely unlikely. The DOJ staff are pretty career oriented and very protective of their investigations and outcomes. The kind of resolutions they typically are after tend more towards what we see here, the loaded gun insuring future compliance. If you want to see comparable outcomes check out their pharmaceutical or energy industry actions.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree and there is no better agent than the State to hold off and mitigate the ambitions and over-reach of companies that despite all the benevolent rhetoric are only interested in the bottom line. The State must balance out conflicts, in stakes are huge as these, doubly so.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Great work Jack, and well worth the wait.

    I doubt any of this will affect Toyota’s future sales in America. People just don’t seem to care about anything anymore; their privacy, taxation, personal freedoms, national debt, nothing. So why would safety even enter their minds when it comes automobiles? Heck, Toyota’s sales might even increase for 2014.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I’m not a fan of Eric Holder or this administration. My family’s owner experience with two Toyotas, made in the 1990s, was exemplary; and two of my daughters drive 10+-year old RX-300s, which have been great for them.

    That said, there is a legal obligation to not make false or misleading (by material omission) statements to federal officials responsible for vehicle safety. Assuming the truth of the facts in this statement, Toyota did that.

    Whether or not people actually died as a result — or how many died — is irrelevant. The whole point of safety regulation is to be proactive, not reactive.

    Similarly, the “expert drivers” aka the B&B, none of whom I presume have ever been in a motor vehicle crash, miss the point by blaming the driver for not knowing how to shift the transmission into neutral (assuming that’s possible) or shut down the car (and, incidentally, doing so without locking the steering column) miss the point.

    The GM defective ignition lock sounds pretty serious, but before making invidious comparisons between GM and Toyota’s treatment at the hands of the government, let’s wait and see how it plays out.

    One would think that car manufacturers would identify “mission critical” components of their cars, the failure of which is potentially catastrophic to the occupants, and spend what it takes to achieve 100% reliability of those components, even if they are forced to cheap out on other stuff to meet a price point.

    I don’t give a crap if My Ford Touch is balky, has a stupid interface or whatever. Presumably, I would know that before I decided to buy the car and be willing to live with it. What I care about is that the brakes will work consistently, the steering will work consistently, the wheels won’t fall off from some catastrophic suspension failure and the engine will not shut off unexpectedly or accelerate out of my control.

    And I’ve never been a fan of suspended accelerator pedals either.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I haven’t really paid much attention to GM’s recall, but the issue with Toyota’s was mostly to do with communication, inasmuch as they failed to communicate the issue in one geography while doing so in others.

      For this, Toyota did deserve a slapping.

      The witch-hunt aspect was amateur engineers, lawyers-for-hire and media rabble-rousers trying to prove that there was some kind of electronic gremlin. It didn’t help that a) the Secretary of Transportation did some rather bombastic PR, and b) this played into the right-wing “Government Motors” schtick. All of that, the media, Ray LaHood and the “Gubmit Motors” nonsense was noise and chest-thumping.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        psarhjinian

        That’s a really good point about the witch hunt being tied to the hunt for an electric gremlin. I have to admit I was misled by that as well, and while I didn’t every really follow this story I’d consider myself (and many here) in the top 1 percentile for general awareness of auto industry stories. It’s a bit humbling to see this kind of summary come out when I had already dismissed the issue as belonging primarily to money seeking plaintiff attorneys and publicity seeking politicians. Lesson learned.

  • avatar
    86er

    Toyota was winning a bunch of class-action lawsuits until they lost one in Oklahoma, and now it seems to be going downhill.

    Jurisprudence is a bitch.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That’s one of the best TTAC headlines ever.

  • avatar
    Frillo

    “The current EIC’s last interaction of any type with Toyota or its employees, which occurred on December 12, 2011, was being disciplined in writing for supposedly using press-event hotel rooms to have two separate threesomes with a total of four women, a claim the current EIC disputes in the most insincere manner humanly possible.”

    Mr. Baruth, you are a disgrace to this profession. People were killed in both Toyota and GM products, and all you can do is brag about sex with multiple partners? How old are you, 16? If that’s your idea of being in bed with Toyota, then I definitely prefer the kind of close contact kept by your departed predecessor. At least, they produced some behind-the-scenes information. All we get from you are hints about sexual escapades that most likely happened only in your imagination.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    1.2B for FAILURE TO DISCLOSE.
    Not for engineering failure.
    GM is TOAST!

    • 0 avatar
      SayMyName

      We can only hope. Maybe this will be enough to finally kill the company.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Actually, it was failure to disclose an engineering mistake (inadequate distance tolerances from the floor to the base of the gas pedal) and the subsequent punting of the recommended fix for found engineering mistake, and then the cover up for not addressing the engineering mistake. The icing on the cake was bragging interally in a PPT deck about successfully covering up the engineering mistake and engineering recommendation to make the change in the first place.

      To say it was failure to disclose, and put a period on the sentence is living in denial.

      Failure to disclose what?

      That the gas pedals didn’t have enough gap between the floor and the base of the pedal by a centimeter (which isn’t a small distance) and because of this there was a legitimate possibility it could get entrapped in floor mats. They then tried to cover up the fact they already knew of the problem.

      That is the issue.

      Agreed GM is toast – or “boned” as I wrote.

      [INSERT YOU\'RE JUST PRO GM SCREED HERE]

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Toyota took steps to internally deal with the problem which is typical of any company.

    Profits before people.

    Car companies sell products with virtually all of the safety measures removed in jurisdictions that allow it.

    Toyota is guilty and should be punished and so should GMC.

    I agree with the posters who say one should be able to control their vehicles.

    Helicopter pilots have to certify by doing auto-rotation landings with functioning hydraulics and without. (That would be landing the helicopter with the “engine” off”)

    Car drivers?

    Driver testing procedures are way too lax and everyone thinks driving a car is one’s God given right.

    For most people it is the most dangerous thing that they do.

    • 0 avatar
      brenschluss

      I once tried one of Lockheed’s big chopper simulators- massive fun when it’s not your job. Thought it was easy when I was taking off and in the air, but I crashed the sh!t out of that thing rushing the landing. Didn’t seem so easy anymore.

      Maybe the first step of driver training should be a well-simulated, overpowered car with grisly and disturbing crash animations.

  • avatar

    V as in Vermouth, use more and less Vodka.

    and here I thought our relationship was “special”…

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Between this action and the lack of prosecutions on either the financial meltdown or HSBC money laundering, I grieve for American “justice”. Yet some poor sap trying to make few bucks selling pot to his friends forfeits his house, money and freedom for years. Justice is a theoretic abstraction.

  • avatar
    George B

    Suppose you’re driving the typical Toyota vehicle where the accelerator pedal might stick, what do you have to do to die? If you hit the brakes in a panic in your 4 cylinder Camry or Corolla, the brakes easily stop the car. I would argue that WOT with a Corolla involves more noise than acceleration. The V6 engine models would fight the brakes a little harder, but the brakes would win. Suppose you don’t slam on the brakes, but instead partly depress the brakes. The brakes will fade, but the problem doesn’t happen instantly. A person alert enough to drive would realize that they need to do something else to disable the acceleration. They have the options of turning the key, shifting to neutral, or shifting the automatic to a lower gear. All would slow down the car. Actually dying in a fiery high speed crash with a stuck accelerator pedal requires both cooking the brakes and failing to do any one of several actions that would slow down the car.

    Suppose that, in a parallel universe, Toyota had announced to the world that they identified a problem with sticky accelerator pedals along with the floor mat problem, how would they handle the logistics of swapping that part on the huge number of cars affected? As a customer I would reject their crude dealer service sawing/grinding of the accelerator pedal and held out for a single trip to install the new-and-improved part. How does Toyota get a recall done in a way that saves lives relative to what they did?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      An engine stuck at WOT produces almost no vacuum, vacuum assist the brakes. If you pump the brakes (which is a very natural, automatic, reaction) you lose brake effectiveness.

      If I stand on the gas and brake at the same time, the car goes no where.

      If I floor a car, run it to say 60 MPH, keep it floored and pump the brake a couple of times – no more power brakes (assuming there is no brake override system)

      I am not saying that did or did not happen with the Toyota vehicles in question, I’m just stating how things work in a car without a brake override.

      In that system with full brake application and full throttle, the throttle is pulled back – reducing acceleration and making vacuum available to assist the brakes.

      • 0 avatar

        > An engine stuck at WOT produces almost no vacuum, vacuum assist the brakes. If you pump the brakes (which is a very natural, automatic, reaction) you lose brake effectiveness.

        This a misconception of how power brakes work. The vacuum reservoir barring leakage provides enough deceleration to stop the car no matter how many times it’s pumped.

        The issue is when the driver provides *prodigious* time for the “WOT” engine to counteract with its own acceleration. Ie. not really trying to stop car quickly in the first place.

        Consider a video game match-up between a strong character with limited energy and life, vs. a weak one with slowly regenerating life and unlimited energy. The only way for the former (ie brakes) to lose is for the them to be lethargic for a spell while the engine keeps hitting him.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Actually I agree with your post – but there is one issue here. The variant is the capability of the car versus the understanding of the driver.

          In High Performance Driving School one of the first things they teach you is that even under emergency conditions, the average driver never uses the full capability of the brake system in their car. Not even close.

          The car may have every bit of capability – but the driver just doesn’t “get it.”

          Hence we had Toyota owners flying off the road at 100 MPH when holding down an auto start button for three seconds would make all problems go away.

          We have GM owners panicking over a power loss when the key in ignition turns on its own.

          The downside to this is a system that instead of solving the problem by mandating better driver education and setting the bar higher to get a DL, looks for more electronic nannies to solve the issues.

          The makers are then stuck in a big ball of suck.

          You are technically accurate – and in your third paragraph we basically come to full agreement.

          • 0 avatar
            Russycle

            Far be it from me to argue with racing experts, but I’ve driven a vehicle with a stuck WOT, and my instinctive reaction was to stand on the brakes hard. Fortunately, it worked.

            Of course, if I hadn’t been rapidly approaching a T-intersection with a thick stand of trees on the other side I suppose I might have screwed around with subtler approaches. STOP OR DIE NOW!!!! is a powerful motivator.

  • avatar

    This entire issue revolves around regulatory documentation:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-found-ignition-switch-issues-in-2001-with-saturn-updated-chonology-new-study-shows-303-no-airbag-deaths-w-full-text/#comment-2955010

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-offers-cash-allowance-nhtsa-cites-lack-of-sufficient-data-amid-recall-fallout/#comment-2953474

    It seems the broader overarching theme here was a lackadaisical approach during the last administration followed by a 180 on “consumer protection” for this one. Toyota along with pretty much everyone else all got caught off guard not only with processes inadequate for the new paradigm (observe the transitions here from 2007 to 2009), but by prosecutors intend on *backdating* their new interpretation. It’s esp. negligent when differing agencies aren’t even on the same page. Note NHTSA reports never mentioned any willful/forceful misdeed, and only by digging into the mountain of comms did the DOJ find the not unexpected trail of apathy.

    As much as I like to kick corps while they’re down, but there needed to be some fair continuity for the regulatory precess to work well and that’s where they failed miserably.

  • avatar
    Turbo-4

    Jack just posted an article recently about Toyota ecus over heating. Maybe they knew about the overclocking when the software was making cars acclerate, went ahead with the brake over ride, amoungst other things, during the post SUA updates and now run out of memory?

    http://www.safetyresearch.net/2013/11/07/toyota-unintended-acceleration-and-the-big-bowl-of-spaghetti-code/

    • 0 avatar

      > Jack just posted an article recently about Toyota ecus over heating. Maybe they knew about the overclocking when the software was making cars acclerate, went ahead with the brake over ride, amoungst other things, during the post SUA updates and now run out of memory? http://www.safetyresearch.net/2013/11/07/toyota-unintended-acceleration-and-the-big-bowl-of-spaghetti-code/

      I spent some time looking over this issue in detail and all the publicly available material (court transcript/presentation) was too technically impoverished to make anything but vague accusations. However, given the nature of the accused faults, it’s unlikely. There’s supposedly a massive 800pg report but it’s not public record. Frankly if they’ve present the best evidence available after 18months it’s a non-case.

      The jury only found for “negligence”, but negligence *should* imply a causal negligence, not a *possibly* causal one (also incredibly unlikely in this case); but the dummies were too stupid to understand how words and reasoning work to know better.

      In short, only toyota knows for sure given how either incompetent or dishonest the plantiff’s witnesses were, but if I had to guess it’s just as unlikely before or after any update.

  • avatar
    CapVandal

    Toyota is hardly unique regarding US judicial process. A careful examination of the facts suggest that they are being treated overly harshly for a specific incident where they likely were conducting business as usual, &c.

    In a lot of cases, it is simply a result of Rough Justice. Getting the right person or corporation for the wrong reasons. Or picking a single firm to send a message to the entire industry.

    Simple historical examples include Al Capone dying in jail not for being a gangster but for tax evasion. O J Simpson is now in prison for getting in an argument over what may have been the theft of his personal property. Elliot Spitzer bing prosecuted and having his career ruined for visiting a high end call girl. Violent, dangerous criminals in prison for non violent drug offenses.

    In this situation, Toyota had the absolute best ‘justice’ that can be purchased in America. The best lawyers money can buy. The most political influence that can be purchased. In principle, in my opinion, less unjust that someone that is innocent pleading out for time served because they can’t afford bail or decent representation.

    Yet they settled up for a billion dollars. Which is likely to be 10% to 30% ( a guess, but plausible figures) of their annual US profits.

    And, this comment isn’t specifically aimed @ Mad Scientist. A lot of comments are directed at the detailed facts of this specific incident. This is simply another point of view.

    Toyota made a business decision and paid a huge fine. The rest of the US auto industry, in the future, will make business decisions that involve spending a lot more money on safety compliance. A lot of it will be wasted money … more paperwork and covering their asses. I think its likely that a non trivial amount of the effort will be worthwhile regarding safety. And, although this is likely controversial, process improvements frequently have secondary benefits that are worthwhile.

    • 0 avatar

      > Getting the right person or corporation for the wrong reasons. Or picking a single firm to send a message to the entire industry.

      This is completely correct. The DOJ was swinging a big stick around and it just happened to hit Toyota.

      Toyota was guilty of some (minor) degree of negligence, for which they perhaps deserved some commensurate punishment but they got the book thrown at them instead.

      The worst part was it done after the fact for something which was in regulatory compliance at the time.


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