By on October 29, 2010

Bloomberg reports that a lawsuit accuses Toyota of a widespread coverup of unintended acceleration in its vehicles. The suit alleges that

“Toyota technicians” confirmed that vehicles were unexpectedly accelerating and the company bought back the vehicles, had customers sign confidentiality agreements and didn’t disclose the problems to regulators… In testimony about acceleration defects before Congress, Toyota Motor Corp. didn’t disclose that the technicians had replicated instances of sudden unintended acceleration not caused by pedals or mats… The company also didn’t report the customer agreements to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration… Toyota ordered employees to remove names of executives from acceleration related e-mails and to stop using specific acceleration terms in e-mails to prevent damage to the company in litigation

Toyota’s response:

Steven Curtis, a spokesman for Toyota’s U.S. sales arm in Torrance, California, said today in an e-mail that no technicians for the company or field specialists confirmed unintended acceleration in vehicles. He said the plaintiffs’ lawyers are referring to service technicians employed by dealerships, which are independent businesses… the claims are based on anecdotes and fail to identify any specific defects in the vehicles.

Plaintiffs claim that dealer techs are “agents of the company” and that vehicle repurchases and confidentiality agreements are proof positive of a coverup. Toyota admits that it investigated and repurchased two vehicles after dealer techs found “acceleration events,” but says its factory technicians were unable to replicate any problems. If this sounds like a complicated mess of he-said-she-said, consider that this suit is just one of 300 currently pending against the world’s largest automaker. The lawyers will probably be busy with this one for decades.

By on October 5, 2010

The day after Toyota announced that it still hasn’t found an electronic cause for unintended acceleration in its vehicles and that UA complaints are down 80%, Consumer Affairs reports that Allstate Insurance filed a $3m suit against the Japanese automaker, claiming it “essentially hid the problem.” The suit, filed in the Southern Californian district court that is hearing all UA-related suits against Toyota alleges

This has resulted in numerous claims of instances of property damage and injuries, including in some instances fatalities

Furthermore, the suit claims that it had to compensate UA-related claims because Toyota hadn’t fitted a brake-override to its vehicles, a feature that is not yet required by law. Toyota is adding brake-override to all of its 2011 models, but claims that Allstate’s charges “have no basis.”

(Read More…)

By on September 18, 2010

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

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

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

By on September 14, 2010
Toyota is admitting that its black-box recorder readers have an error that can cause erroneous speed readings, as demonstrated by a 2007 Tundra crash in which the black box indicated a 170 MPH crash speed.  Toyota R&D boss Takeshi Uchiyamada tells Automotive News [sub]
Toyota has acknowledged previously that the event data recorders are not accurate. We have been able to determine that there is no defect in the event data recorders… we have found that there was a software bug in the event data recorder readers that download data. The bug had to do with data that indicated speed
Though this is a far cry from the “ghost in the machine” that many seemed to think was causing Toyotas to run out of control, it does cast some doubt on NHTSA’s finding that brakes were not applied in “dozens” of cases… but not directly. After all, just because the black box readers misread recorded speeds doesn’t mean that none of their readings can be trusted.  Still, yet another problem with Toyota’s gear will only further cloud the appropriate conclusion from the Toyota Unintended Acceleration scandal: that driver error was the main cause of the frenzy. And because of Toyota’s strange pre-scandal black-box reader policies, this latest revelation only heightens the mystery surrounding what should be a fairly open-and-shut case.
By on August 18, 2010

I am looking under every rock and asking the question: Is there anything wrong or unusual about our pedals? We are continuing to look to see if there is something that we could do differently.

Toyota’s Steve St. Angelo tells the WSJ [sub] that Toyota is reviewing its pedal designs in search of a cause for its recent Unintended Acceleration scandal. Thus far, Toyota’s UA issues have been traced only to sticky pedals and floormat interference. Attempts to trace UA to malfunctioning throttle units have thus far been abortive, with a government research panel finding that brake misapplication occurred in many of the Toyota UA incidents.

(Read More…)

By on August 9, 2010

Koua Fong Lee, who had spent over two years behind bars for his role in a collision that killed three people, was freed today when a judge vacated his sentence. The reason: ineffective legal counsel, and evidence that suggested Lee’s 1996 Toyota Camry could have been driving out of control. The Ramsey County (MN) prosecutor has decided against re-trying Lee, making him a free man. Meanwhile, the fact that 1996 Toyota Camrys have not been recalled for faulty brakes or throttle units leaves a huge question mark hanging over this case.
(Read More…)

By on August 4, 2010

Imagine yourself going down the road with your foot on the brake pedal all the time. This is a Japanese inventor’s idea to stop driver error and unintended acceleration. To accelerate, you move your foot sideways against an accelerator bar. To brake, you stomp on the brake. A horrible thought – if you are a personal injury lawyer. (Read More…)

By on July 23, 2010

An anonymous Toyota Tech sent us these recent images of a 2008 Prius and its highly questionable pedal-floormat interface. Did nobody tell this guy that Toyota has had some problems with floormat pedal interference, and that there had been a recall? Did he somehow miss the months-long media frenzy? This is yet more proof that there is literally no way to completely prevent unintended acceleration, even if the problem has been identified and a recall has been issued. Remember folks, when it comes to cars only you can keep you safe.

By on July 16, 2010

We didn’t make it down to the first meeting of the NHTSA-National Research Council panel tasked with studying unintended acceleration, but apparently we weren’t the only ones. A scan of the MSM confirms that a number of “more study is needed” stories were filed for the occasion, a good two weeks ago now, but we’ve been pointed towards the presentations for that meeting [available for download here, all 128 slides in PDF format here], and we feel comfortable drawing a few conclusions from them. In fact, we’d even argue that this data puts a lot of the controversy over unintended acceleration in Toyotas to rest.

(Read More…)

By on July 15, 2010

Carquestions noticed a troubling issue with the latest Wall Street Journal report on the investigation of Toyota’s black-box data: the report cites its anonymous source as saying that “black box” event data recorders (EDRs) can lose their data if disconnected from the battery. Carquestions points out that this is not the case, cites the appropriate regulations and concludes that it sounds like this source doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. Meanwhile, Jalopnik is running with the story that Toyota planted the story… but then, why would Toyota imply that its own black boxes don’t meet regulatory standards? Especially when Toyota’s official comment is that it has yet to draw any conclusions from the investigation. For a story with such a logical conclusion (yes, most people are bad drivers) this is all getting a bit complicated.

By on July 14, 2010

Much of the hysteria over a possible electronic cause for the Toyota unintended acceleration scandal (aka “the ghost in the machine”) stemmed from an ABC report featuring Southern Illinois University professor David Gilbert. Gilbert demonstrated to ABC’s Brian Ross that unintended acceleration could be triggered in Toyotas without generating an error code, but the report didn’t address the likelihood of this happening. Furthermore, ABC was found to have used misleading footage in that report. Gilbert went on to testify in one of the least convincing panels ever convened before congress, and even after Toyota held an event aimed solely at debunking his suspicions, Gilbert has persisted in believing that something is wrong with Toyota’s electronics. As a result, the AP [via CBC] reports that Toyota has pulled funding for two internships at SIU, two Toyota employees resigned from its automotive technology program advisory board, and another demanded that Gilbert be fired. The AP seems very keen to call these retaliations “smears,” but given recent revelations about the government investigation into Toyota’s electronic throttle control system, it seems that Gilbert and SIU are simply reaping what they’ve sown.

By on July 13, 2010

People “familiar with the findings” of NHTSA’s investigation into unintended acceleration in Toyotas tell the WSJ [sub] that after studying “dozens” of black boxes, the DOT has

found that at the time of the crashes, throttles were wide open and the brakes were not engaged… The results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyota and Lexus vehicles surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes.

Really? Could it be true? It wasn’t cosmic rays or a ghost in the machine causing vehicles to run completely out of control? We’re shocked. Shocked, we tell you.

(Read More…)

By on July 1, 2010

Pre-recall, Toyota was the company to emulate. It was very profitable, its business and production model was the envy of the world (with Lexus-owning Alan Mulally praising it) and it had an iron grip on quality and reliability (even though Honda could have had that title). Then came “acceler-gate”. Customers were petrified their Toyotas would creep out of their garages and run them down in the middle of the night. The government held numerous show trials senate hearings to give the illusion that it was protecting the American people from the nasty foreigners. Only an outcast few questioned the fact that the hearings were conducted by an entity which held significant stakes in two of Toyota’s competitors. If you think about it, is like going to trial on a murder charge and the judge and jury are made up of members of the victim’s family. Yes, it looked like Toyota was down and out. Then, something amazing happened. The ABC News’ “story” on Toyota acceleration was found to be a fake. Customers’ accounts of Toyotas going wild were exposed as lies and some countries stuck by Toyota. So after this roller-coaster ride, was else could happen? Well… (Read More…)

By on June 5, 2010

Chrysler is sending out recall notices to owners of 25,000 Dodge Calibers and Jeeps. The reason: Accelerator pedals could become stuck and cause unintended acceleration, Chrysler said according to a report in Reuters. Sound familiar? Wait, there is more … (Read More…)

By on June 5, 2010

The NHTSA has definitely shut down on-line access to attachments in their Office of Defect Investigation complaint database. It’s about time, but it isn’t enough. To quote Kris Kristofferson, the database has always been “a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” The database has been abused for political propaganda purposes. Now, that it has served its purpose, the database is being shut down. Partially. They have locked away the only content that is of real value: The evidence. We preserved some. To show you what you will be missing. (Read More…)

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