By on March 1, 2010

Edmund’s has been leading the NHTSA data dives to shed light on the UA issue. I used their numbers of NHTSA complaints in our attempt to correlate the complaints to specific cars and their sales in the ’05-’10 period to determine the rate of UA complaints. Now there’s a major new wrinkle that throws that effort into question: Over half of UA complaints against Toyota since 2005 were filed after Toyota issued their On Sept. 29, 2009 consumer safety advisory regarding floormats that could trap the accelerator pedal and cause unintended acceleration. That still leaves Toyota with the highest rate (4.81 per 100k cars sold)  number of complaints for UA events before that date, but only marginally ahead of Ford (3.12). That means our stab at individual car model rates is flawed, and we’ll try a Take 2 when we have more accurate sales and adjusted NHTSA complaint numbers before that cutoff date. It’s obvious that incorporating the flood of complaints against Toyota since the mat issue hit the media would just be feeding the frenzy.

The dramatically large number of Lexus complaints stands out and raises questions. Given the high degree of similarity of popular Lexus models to comparable Toyotas (ES 350 and Camry), it would seem that a higher propensity of floor mat use or different floor mat design, as well as factors of demographics have to be factored in. The physical pedal systems and their environment (floor/pedal well, etc) appear to be identical in both the Camry and ES 350.

Without the breakdown of models its difficult to ascertain precisely, but the Ford family hierarchy of Lincoln (7.88), Mercury (4.78) and Ford (2.71) reflect this same pattern. And although GM continues to be low overall, Cadillac’s rate of 1.80 is triple that of Chevrolet (0.62). Infiniti’s rate is also over twice that of Nissan’s brand.

We identified the Jeep problem in our previous breakout, with very high rates for the Grand Cherokee and Commander, which have a high degree of communality.

As soon as these adjusted complaint number are available per vehicle model, we will use them in our revised attempt to correlate them to their (more accurate) sale numbers. Stay tuned.

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20 Comments on “NHTSA Data Dive 1: 53% Of Toyota UA Complaints Filed After Mat Advisory Issued (9/30/09); All Makers’ Rate Of Complaints Posted...”

  • avatar

    Please correct me if I’m wrong: the author of this article, Paul Niedermeyer, did not file any alert with anyone after he himself experienced a vehicle acceleration incident.

  • avatar

    All this proves is that our US media should be held responsible for Toyota’s sales drop as there really isn’t an issue with their cars at all.

    All of this hoopla for 5 complaints per 100K cars sold.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, no issue and not as serious as it would seem.

      Well, not unless you happen to be driving/riding in one of those five cars, that is…

    • 0 avatar

      …as there really isn’t an issue with their [Toyota] cars at all.

      Although we’re still getting revalations about this issue on almost a daily basis, several smoking guns have been identified so far:

      1. The Toyota pedal sweeps the floor closer than in other vehicles, making them much more suceptable to pedal entrapment with a rubber floor mat and other obstructions.

      2. In some Toyotas, the accelerator pedal, when fully depressed, is mashed into the carpet so far you cannot get your foot under it to lift it back up.

      3. The recall to shim the accelerator pedal is to fix the feel of the pedal and has nothing to do with the acceleration problem.

      4. Professor Gilbert has demonstrated, and Toyota and others have verified, a wide range of signal corruptions in the pedal sensors can occour, including manufactured-in defects, without a fault code being triggered.

      5. Professor Gilbert has demonstrated that if the supply voltage shorts to the signal, the throttle will immediately go to full throttle and stay there.

      6. Toyota electric shutdown systems can take 3.3 seconds to accept the shutdown command, unlike industrial equipment which often must shutdown and come to a complete halt within 1 second.

      7. The Toyota gated shift pattern with some options can make getting the transmission into Neutral tedious.

      8. A poster on the Car and Driver site states that if a Toyota ECM crashes, the system will not process the command to shift to Neutral and it will ignore a shutdown command from a keyless ignition system. (This has not been verified.)

      Nearly all of the above can be mitigated if not outright fixed with a firmware update incorporating what other automakers do. For some unknown reason, Toyota appears to be battling this tooth-and-nail.

    • 0 avatar

      9. Shutting down a Toyota keyless ignition is tedious. It requires you know beforehand how to press the button the exact and only way that will work. (Other automakers allow at least a couple of ways to press the button to shut down the engine.)

      A decal stating “Press and hold to stop engine.” near the button would be a start.

  • avatar

    Well, not unless you happen to be driving/riding in one of those five cars, that is…

    And you’re unable to put your car in neutral.

  • avatar

    I’d be willing to bet that a significantly small portion of those are people who became aware that you could either file reports with the NHTSA or that what they were experiencing was a problem.

    It’s like Tiger Woods before Thanksgiving 09. People would have laughed at you if you said he was having affairs, his “family man” facade was just too strong. Likewise if you were having a problem with a Toyota people would’ve have blamed it on you or that you just got a lemon.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    I’m sure that a lot of these people are just bandwagon jumpers. But I’ll bet a large number have experienced this and it wasn’t severe enough to report. Or perhaps it seemed like such a brief and freakish thing that the driver wasn’t even sure if they caused it or not. But after the widespread report about these multiple defects, which Toyota has confirmed, I’m sure a lot of people were like “yeah, that’s exactly what happened to me!”

  • avatar

    Paul, Since the important point of this chart is either number of reports, or the proratia version of that number (this one seems more significant to me).

    Alphabetical ranking has no significance. Let the whiners whine, please abandon the alphabetical ranking and rank by pro-rated reports.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    How are we supposed to interpret these numbers? It looks like a snapshot in time similar to a poll after a political scandal so the Toyota numbers soared.
    Either way those Dodge and Chrysler numbers look good. GM too.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Clearly, the sort of women who drive “luxury” cars, drive them while talking on the phone, and wearing heels. I always insisted that my girl children wear proper footwear while driving.

  • avatar

    Carperson – actually you have grossly mis-characterized what Prof Gilbert did, and has said publicly. He shorted the redundant Toyota pedal Sensors. Then injected the same voltage signal across both sensors. This was to provide what the pedal would normally provide to the throttle computer. So it was basically like if you created an engine test stand. Or if you take your car into the dealership, and they use the computer to test it out.

    AND Toyota and other external engineering firms recreated the SAME issue on other automobile makers. So it is a totally unrealistic condition. And secondly, it is NOT Toyota unique.

    And it wasn’t just a ZERO ohm direct short (the Toyota computer actually DID detect that as fault). But he had to play with varying the resistance across the redundant sensors to get it just right to trick the computer’s fault sensors. And once he did that, he had to inject a normal voltage across the shorted sensors. All this did was provide the same effect as if you had pressed the pedal.

    I would not be worried about this happening in any kind of real world situation.

    When all the testing is done, Prof Gilbert and ABC will be the new 60 Minutes/Dateline of our decade. His testing will be proven to be a sham.

    • 0 avatar

      Professor Gilbert’s testimony in D.C., subsequent video interviews, and published documents have been fairly and accurately summarized in #4 and #5 above.

  • avatar

    Now that we have had lots of stats and charts from Edmunds and Paul, let’s take it as a given that there is definitely something going on with UA in cars, and that it is not limited to Toyota. If you accept that, then ignore the UA reported stats for a while and read this article.

    Finished? Now are you willing to tell me that there is no way that electronic components in cars are at risk.

    Dr. Gilbert has shown what can happen to Toyotas due to ETCS design issues under certain shorted circuit conditions.

    Some brands have figured out the need for brake overrides, and I would bet that if their customers are having one or two UA events, they are probably not too worried about them, and probably not reporting them.

    All this leads me to suggest what is going on in the industry is as follows.

    The European manufacturers have an appropriate fail safe system in their cars. UAs are not relevant to them, except for operator error events. Chrysler is in the same boat, possibly due to their relationship with Daimler.

    GM is experiencing very low UAs and one possible explanation is that they are using suppliers that use lead/tin solder and therefore are not experiencing shorts. ETCS design and brake override would therefore be less critical for GM brands.

    Ford may be using suppliers that use tin only solder and Ford is experiencing shorts, does not have a fail safe system, but their ETCS design is solid and is not leading to deaths. I wonder though if Ford is having more intermittent Check Engine lights than GM.

    Toyota may be using tin only solder and has a weaker ETCS design and no fail safe system, therefore leading to more tragic events.

    The chart I would like to see would be one that shows how each manufacturer deals with tin solder, ETCS design, brake-override, and how many intermittent and unresolved Check Engine lights are being reported to their service departments for each of their model/years. Good luck in getting that data.

  • avatar

    Hi Paul, this article from IHT: “Data Shows Not-Recalled Camrys Also Had Problems”, should help to cut thru some of the “domestic vs. transplants” bias some posters were claiming existed here on ttac.

    ..analysis of government documents shows that many Toyota Camrys built before 2007, which were not subject to recalls, have been linked to a comparable number of speed-control problems as recalled Camrys.”

    “In Japan, The Times examined all the reports of Toyota malfunctions brought to the transport ministry since 2001, about 3,700 in all, and, for comparison, all comparable reports on Honda over the same period, about 2,400.

    The examination found 99 cases of sudden acceleration or engine surge in Toyotas, compared with 18 reports of similar problems in Hondas.

    The transport ministry received a sudden acceleration report for every 150k Toyotas sold. This compares with one report for about every 300k Hondas sold.

    Although Toyota sold 1.35M cars and trucks in Japan last year, that many reports “is not a small number,” said Tetsuo Taniguchi, a chief researcher at the Japanese government-affiliated National Traffic Safety and Environment Laboratory. “If pedals or floor mats are not the problem in Japan, it’s time for Toyota to investigate what is.”

    (Here is the part I like, in part, because it substantiates my earlier posting that not all incidents will be reported to a NHTSA because some drivers will only report to dealer, or OEM, or both, but not go further, and without standardized reporting questionaires and integration of dealer/OEM/government reporting systems, a complete picture of what is happening is more difficult to obtain. But mostly, it is a good illustration of the conflict-of-interest that an OEM has in minimizing and slowing down an investigation versus timely reporting and performing a comprehensive recall.)

    Ministry officials note that a small fraction of incidents make their way to the ministry because most drivers report auto malfunctions to their dealers. And in Japan dealers and manufacturers are under no obligation to give that information to the government, unless the company believes it failed to comply with national safety standards.

    For the government to order a recall, it must have proof of a potentially dangerous defect, which is difficult to find without cooperation from the automaker.”



    p.s. re. your cut&paste reply above. ah, I understand, it’s ok. thanks.

  • avatar

    Toyota should have came forward with a full disclosure. Instead of waiting for a huge media blitz and tons of public pressure. I never seen so many car companies having recalls all at the same time. I had no idea my car was affected until I searched on and found I had a bad Anti Lock control unit on my 2008 Pontiac G8 , So be careful

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