Reuters and The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Toyota Motor Corp. and the United States Department of Justice are close to a deal that would resolve a criminal investigation into how it disclosed to government regulators customers’ complaints about unintended acceleration. The Journal is reporting that the settlement would involve Toyota paying as much as $1 billion in fines, ending a four year investigation. Sources say that the deal could still fall apart, or the amount of money involved could change.
A Califonia jury ruled that Toyota Motor Corp was not at fault in a 2009 accident in which 66 year old Noriko Uno was killed when her 2006 Camry ran into a tree after being hit by another car. Uno’s survivors blamed the accident and her death on unintended acceleration and Toyota’s failure to incorporate a brake-override system in Uno’s car. This was the first wrongful death lawsuit over accusations that Toyota products could uncontrollably accelerate. The jury found that Uno’s Camry was not defective, instead placing full liability for her death on the driver of the car that hit Uno before she sped the wrong way down a one-way street and into the tree. Uno’s survivors were awarded $10 million.
After losing a motion to prevent him from appearing, Toyota Motor Corporation’s CEO for North America, Jim Lentz took the witness stand in a lawsuit filed by the survivors of a woman who was killed when her Camry allegedly sped out of control and hit a tree after it was hit by another car, whose driver is a co-defendant in the case. One issue in the court case is why Toyota did not equip Noriko Uno’s car with a brake override system that automatically closes the throttle when the brakes are applied.
The first wrongful death lawsuit concerning the sudden acceleration of Toyota cars to go to trial has started with opening arguments. According to Bloomberg, the lawyer for Noriko Uno’s family said that Toyota knew that their gas pedals could get stuck and that the company was liable for her death because Uno’s 2006 Camry did not have a brake override system. The Toyota that Uno, 66 at the time of her death, was hit by a car that ran a stop sign. Her Toyota subsequently accelerated down the wrong side of the road for 30 seconds before hitting a tree, causing her death. (Read More…)
Reuters reports that Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas along with private attorneys filed the first U.S. consumer protection lawsuit against Toyota USA. The main charge is that Toyota has endangered the public by selling defective vehicles and engaged in deceptive business practices. From the 18 page suit filed Friday morning:
“Against this backdrop of fraud and concealment, Toyota has for decades touted its reputation for safety and reliability and knew that people bought its vehicles because of that reputation and yet purposefully chose to conceal and suppress the existence and nature of defects,”
The suit seeks to restrain Toyota “from continuing to endanger the public through the sale of defective vehicles and deceptive business practices.” Toyota said it has no immediate comment. (Read More…)
When it comes to mountains of data like the NHTSA vehicle complaint data base, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure(trove). Yes, there are limitations. But the remarkable degree of similarity of the UA rate between most badge engineered cars, and GM’s consistently low UA ratings speak of statistical relevance to some of us. One of those is David Lapidus, (TTAC handle: David42), whose data diving and Excel skills vastly overshadow mine.
In the last data dive, I used numbers from Edmunds to come up with a UA complaint rate for 117 cars from MY 2005-2010, excluding the flurry of complaints filed with NHTSA after the Toyota mat recall 0f 9/29/09. But those are cumulative, over the five years. David has taken it to the next level, to the individual model year. We may come back to the whole list another time, but initially we decided to focus on the Toyota Camry, since its large volume of sales and UA complaints would inherently increase the statistical accuracy of the numbers. And although this data dive may not solve the UA puzzle, it does raise serious questions about the most recent recalls and the Congressional barbecue of Toyota. (Read More…)
[Update 3: This post is now officially obsolete, having been supplanted by the much more accurate update here]
[Update 2: In a new post, I have noted that 53% of Toyota UA complaints were filed after the mat advisory was issued on 9/29/09. The number used her are not adjusted for that. As soon as they are available, I will redo this spreadsheet, using more accurate sales stats]
[Update ans Disclaimer: As I noted below, this spreadsheet will be updated when I can access actual sales stats from our source, Morgan and Co. on Monday for the years (’05-’10) covered. That will very likely change the rankings somewhat. The Lincoln may actually be #2. But this is not about which car is #1 or #2; it’s about finding patterns in certain makes, and within makes. It’s an attempt to see if these statistics can shed light on a complex and opaque issue. As an example, why the Toyota Yaris is so low in reported incidents. It’s more about these patterns and discrepancies, than about singling out the car with the highest rate, so please don’t take the current exact rankings as the final word. It’s a work in progress. The fact that the complaints are not tabulated by individual MY also limits this substantially, as running changes in a given car during the five year period will change things significantly. So this data dive is fundamentally flawed; take it as such. But nevertheless, it’s still a huge step over the raw data that Edmunds put out, which doesn’t begin to account for the number of any given cars sold.]
Numbers and statistics are largely useless without context. Edmunds.com took a first good step in going through NHTSA’s data base and reporting the number of UA events reported per make, brand and vehicle. But what was obviously missing was the correlation to the number of cars on the road in relation to those numbers. We’ve taken the next (tedious) step, and the results are most interesting indeed. They’re certainly not completely conclusive, but we’re not finished yet. The full list of 95 cars follows, as well as our methodology, a stab at some analysis, and more questions to still be answered. (Read More…)