By on June 17, 2011

At today’s annual stockholders meeting in Toyota City, Toyota wrapped up most of the SUA and recall troubles that had plagued the company last year. Says The Nikkei [sub]: “When asked about the fallout from the recall of millions of vehicles over the past couple of years amid quality concerns, executive vice president Shinichi Sasaki thanked the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for clearing Toyota of some of the most serious allegations about defects in its vehicles.“

However, there is one man Toyota still holds a grudge against:

Sasaki talked about unfounded claims about problems with Toyota’s electronic throttle control. By name, he mentioned Southern Illinois University engineering professor David Gilbert. Gilbert starred in the now infamous  ABC/Brian Ross freak-show, which quickly was debunked as fakery.

Gilbert also provided testimony in congressional hearings and said that certain Toyota vehicles could be susceptible to unintended acceleration due to glitches in the cars’ electronics.  Research by NASA could not find any glitches, and Toyota was exonerated.

David Gilbert could set the record straight with a very short sentence: “I’m sorry.”

“Mr. Gilbert has yet to apologize to us, which is extremely regrettable,” Sasaki told the assembled shareholders.


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44 Comments on “Toyota Still Mad At David Gilbert, Wants Apology...”

  • avatar

    Corporations are people (see Citizens United v. F. E. C.), and people have feelings.

    By sabotaging their product to stir up hysteria, Dave Gilbert not only hurt Toyota’s feelings, but he tarnished their honor and pride.

    He didn’t do it to help people (manufacturing a fault where none exists didn’t help anyone); he did it for money and fame.

    For that, he should most definitely apologize.

    • 0 avatar

      Someone took the “corporation as a person” metaphor and did a psychoanalysis of the “person”. In most cases he found corporate behavior to psychopathic and strongly recommended removing them from the general populace.

      • 0 avatar

        Here you go:

        Corporations (“legal persons”) have the same legal rights as natural persons, but that is not a bad thing or a reason to remove corporations. Corporations *don’t* have any moral rights, to me that is the difference between the way legal persons and natural persons should be treated.

        I admit I haven’t read all the details on Mr. Gilbert’s investigation, but I see no need for Mr. Gilbert to apologize to Toyota. Partly because Toyota is a legal (not natural) person – but mostly because I don’t see that he has anything to apologize for.

        SUA was a real problem, and the cause was unknown. Mr. Gilbert came up with a possible explanation for the phenomenon, and this reason was later shown to be unlikely. That’s how you solve technical problems – come up with a theory, and then either prove or disprove it. To me it sounds like Mr. Gilbert was just doing his job.

        It now appears that SUA in Toyotas was mostly due to driver error, or poorly designed pedals that were prone to sticking or getting wedged under floormats. We didn’t know that at the time, and Toyota wasn’t exactly forthcoming with the contents of their “Black Boxes” (’s-wrong-with-toyota’s-black-boxes/), so it would be reasonable to suspect and investigate a software glitch.

        If ABC (or David Gilbert) falsified the investigation in the interests of getting a more sensational story then there might be something to complain about – but advancing a theory about an electronic glitch that was later disproved does not warrant an apology.

    • 0 avatar

      Ultimately, Gilbert was proven wrong by very credible sources other than Toyota and Gilbert has lost all of his own credibility. He may have been someone knowledgeable in something at some time in the past but his little scheme to defraud and belittle Toyota backfired. He’s been relegated to obscurity in the dust bin of history.

      Toyota OTOH has gotten a lot of sympathy for these trumped up allegations and more people (myself included) are looking at quality Toyota products that do not have the ostentatious history and track record of Ford and GM. Many like myself have already switched after decades of owning Ford and GM vehicles. Alas, Chrysler is now a foreign company again, just like when it was owned by Daimler.

      I don’t expect Gilbert to apologize. It takes a mighty big person to do that when proven wrong, and in retrospect, Gilbert proved that this was just a vendetta against Toyota — a vendetta that he lost. Why would any rational person want to deal with Gilbert again? Why would any credible person seek Gilbert’s input on anything? It wasn’t Toyota that destroyed Gilbert, it was Gilbert who destroyed Gilbert with his unsubstantiated allegations. Soon he will be out of work. Maybe he can become a consultant to the newly rebuilt US auto industry…

      • 0 avatar

        No. Prof. Gilbert’s observations were proven correct and safety experts confirmed the design was far from the level of robustness Toyota claimed.

        Drink the Kool-aid and repeat the hogwash, but the fact is, he correctly saw is was nasty, rigged a short to prove it would send the accelerator to full throttle and keep it there without throwing an error code.

        His comments on the design have long since been verified. That he said it was the cause to any particular accident; the press made that up, Toyota strapped a saddle on it and took it for a ride.

      • 0 avatar

        If they were proven correct why was all this dropped like a hot potato after the testimony before Congress? The testimony cleared Toyota and only left them open to civil lawsuits.

        It’s been said time and again that when the foreigners started making them in America using American suppliers they fell victim to the same ails that have plagued the domestic manufacturers who used to same suppliers for decades.

        Gas pedals, rusting frames, corroded spare-tire carriers, badly welded FWD quarter-shafts are just a few of the ails that befell the foreign car makers like Toyota using American parts suppliers.

        I don’t expect any problems with our 2008 Jap-built Highlander, but I expect my 2011 Tundra to be no better than my 2006 F150 was, or my 2000 Silverado, for that matter.

      • 0 avatar

        Drink the Kool-aid and repeat the hogwash, but the fact is, he correctly saw is was nasty, rigged a short to prove it would send the accelerator to full throttle and keep it there without throwing an error code.

        This is true. Similarly, I could use a hacksaw to prove that my ball-joints could fail, and there would also be no error code.

        Of course, if you actually looked at the failed component in either situation, you could see that they had been modified, and that the failure could not have happened without the physical modifications.

  • avatar

    Either it’s the size of one’s ego, or the cash he was paid to do it in the first place that would prevent an apology. Or he could be just morally bankrupt as a result of an improper upbringing.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      With the way that the Japanese look at apologies, the absolute *last* think he should do is apologize.

      Toyota pushed an inferior pedal out there and deserves the flak.

      • 0 avatar

        The pedal was made by CTS, an American company. The pedal in our Jap-built Highlander, and many other Jap-built Toyota vehicles, was made by Nippon-Denso (Denso) and was not subject to any recall. It’s been said by many before now that when the foreigners started making their cars in the US, using American parts suppliers, they fell to the same quality levels as the US car makers who were supplied by those same American parts suppliers. That could be why so many foreign and domestic car makers are using Japanese parts suppliers these days, and are now suffering from the disastrous aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.

      • 0 avatar

        The OEM selects the supplier to product a part, this is supposed to be a comprehensive process based, in part on the OEM’s evaluation of the supplier’s ability to produce quality parts.

        Later, the OEM approves the supplier’s part for production. If the supplier has not committed fraud in its PSW submission, and, particularly, if the the supplier’s producing a design provided by the OEM, then the OEM has at minimum culpability, and, possibly, at maximum full responsibility.

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    No, America should apologize to itself. Demagoguery cannot work without a receptive populace. The previous automotive scare, the Audi disaster in the 1980s, never left American borders. In fact, America owns the term “sudden unintended acceleration.” We have a dysfunctional relationship with cars. We rely on them but don’t understand or trust them, and don’t use them properly. So it’s only natural that the triumvirate of journalists, trial lawyers and their allied safety experts have easy access to our central nervous system when the subject is automotive. Nitsa acknowledges our Toyotas worked fine until headlines prodded our autochondria. Then we gave the plaintiffs’ bar just what it wanted. We had a fine nervous breakdown. We served this hollow meal to ourselves, and royally.

    • 0 avatar

      Fact is the Audi’s did have a serious design flaw. They used the power steering pump to provide brake assist and the self leveling feature. The accumulator which is supposed to store the hydraulic fluid at pressure to provide fluid to the brake booster for 1 or 2 stops if the engine dies. The problem is that the accumulator sometimes failed to maintain that pressure overnight. So when the car is first started the fluid goes first to fill that accumulator, then to fill the suspension and once those are “full” to the brake booster. Unlike many hydraulic boosters the Audi unit prevents brake application if there is no pressure, the pedal is firm as a rock, won’t move, and won’t apply the brakes. So you get in the car fire it up and with your foot firmly on the brake pedal you put it in gear and the brakes do nothing as the pump is busy filling the accumulator and suspension. The lame idle solenoid system made matters worse as there is only one high idle speed, 2000 rpm. I’ve repaired more than a couple of Audis of that vintage where the customer had the car towed to me complaining that at random times they could stand on the brake pedal and the car wouldn’t stop or even slow.

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    Disclosure: I sell Toyotas.

  • avatar

    Gilberrt is a terrible hack with enough technical knowledge to razzle-dazzle a lay person, or a juror. Exactly the kind of person you look for when you have a lot of money to spend on a litigation and need an “expert” to say whatever you want him to. Unfortunately, these guys are like roaches, infesting court rooms across America.

    Toyota’s reaction though is quaint. A U.S. firm, instead of sniffing about an apology, might have slapped a libel suit on him, his university, his grad students, and anyone he knows with two nickels to rub together.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota should look to “saddle-tank-gate”.
      To summarize,
      Brian Ross (working for NBC) reports GM pickups with saddle-gas-tanks are more prone to explode in a crash. Shows (rigged) demonstration.

      GM discovers that the demonstration included real fireworks to insure explosion in the demonstration. GM lawyer and management talks to NBC. Announcement of settlement includes admission of rigged demonstration.

      Brian Ross moves on to ABC and later participates in the “demonstration” of the failure of the Toyota electronic accelerator circuits (after they have been rigged).

  • avatar

    I know several people that think the Toyota SUA fiasco was trumped up by the gov’t to cast a shadow on them for the benefit of Gov’t owned GM.

    The conspiracy theorist in me likes to believe it since E V E R Y B O D Y that I know under the age of 50 wouldn’t even consider a GM vehicle over Toyota unless there were a huge failure at Toyota of epic porportions.

    Oddly enough I think the public saw through the SUA side show for what it was. A close friend recently bought a brand new 4Runner saying, “GM/Ford/Chrysler make nothing that even compares.” One person’s opinion, but I doubt he’s hardly alone, which is bad news for the likes of the fed gov’t when they own a stake in GM.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      There are lots of low-Q types who listen to Rush and wear tinfoil hats. That doesn’t make them right about their conspiracies.

    • 0 avatar

      “E V E R Y B O D Y that I know under the age of 50 wouldn’t even consider a GM vehicle over Toyota”

      Interesting. It seems to me, most of the biggest Toyota fans are *over* the age of 50. This makes sense when you thing about it, the aging baby boomers would be the group most likely to have suffered through a POS hand me down Citation in their youth.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m well under 50 and would definitely consider GM over Toyota. And I did suffer through a POS hand me down X-body Skylark, 22 years ago. I’ve gotten over it.

  • avatar

    ” E V E R Y B O D Y that I know under the age of 50 wouldn’t even consider a GM vehicle over Toyota…”

    What a depressing world it would be if those were the only two choices. I’m well under 50, and I’d rather ride a bike than drive a Toyota. I find it interesting that some people cannot fathom that Toyota would build an unreliable product. In my opinion, Toyotas really aren’t very well designed.

    The reality is, there were a number of different possibilities when it came to the cause of their SA reports. Only one being the electronics. Some issues were valid, most weren’t… including the electronics apparently. Poor throttle design and placement was another issue that, based on Toyota’s hurried response to shave them shorter, appeared to be valid.

    Whatever. Every automaker has issues. And Toyota botched it big-time over the course of many years. And attacking people to called them out on it is not a good strategy.

  • avatar

    Nearly ten years ago, I was driving my vehicle along a limited-access, four-lane highway. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Without provocation or warning, the car proceded to go through a crash sequence over the course of four minutes which resulted in full deployment of all airbags. Fortunately, nobody was injured.

    My point is that modern vehicles are extremely complicated. The unexplainable can happen. Viewing the David Gilbert piece several months ago showed me that it is possible for the condition to occur. Mr. Gilbert wasn’t doing anything that he didn’t explain, unlike the NBC’s faked pickup explosions in the ’80s. I don’t recall Mr. Gilbert throwing Toyota under the bus by name, either.

    I’d wear a Team Gilbert shirt.

  • avatar

    Let me correct the statement.

    ” E V E R Y B O D Y that I know under the age of 50, who lives within a day’s drive of Detroit, wouldn’t even consider a GM vehicle over Toyota…”

    Statement fixed.

  • avatar

    Gilbert didn’t claim his demonstraition was “real world” and it simply proved that if cars do accelerate on their own, they won’t necessarily leave a trouble code. Toyota, at the time, was proclaiming that cars suspected of SUA were not showing trouble codes, IIRC. Why should Gilbert apologize?

    • 0 avatar

      Gilbert didn’t claim his demonstraition was “real world” and it simply proved that if cars do accelerate on their own, they won’t necessarily leave a trouble code.

      Gilbert proved that if rewired in a specific way, a Toyota left no code. That no Toyota was ever rewired or failed like Gilbert’s re-wiring (and that there was zero evidence of any brake failure / brake usage in cars that did) pretty much proves Gilbert’s ass-clown credentials. As did every hard engineering and scientific look at the Toyota “sua” issue.

      dmw above is spot on about these “expert” roaches in America’s courtrooms… For the media / trial bar lobby, this is all about convincing 12 borderline-literate jurors to give you a 7 figure lottery ruling.

      • 0 avatar

        Gilbert wasn’t arcing the wires to bypass the computer’s memory but simply proving that no trouble codes were given to or stored by the computer following an out or control engine whether in a parked car or in an SUA situation whether artificially enduced or the car’s computer gave the wrong command to the throttle controller.

        Even the best home computers go berzerk momentarily and once you cycle them off/on they return to normal without any indication of past errors. Car computers will give you outside/external errors or “Codes” but never a history of inboard errors. We didn’t need NASA to tell us that no “glitches” would be found inside those computers.

    • 0 avatar

      How in the world can so many people gets this story so screwed up and what in the world is causing them to post such easily to prove false information on a website called “The Truth About Cars”? The really perplexes me…

      Prof. Gilbert correctly observed a short within a particular range of resistance values would send the accelerator to full throttle and not generate an error code. He rigged a short to prove or dis-prove his theory. He and a kazillion others confirmed his observation is indeed correct.

      He and others went on to identify several other shortcomings in the Toyota throttle system. He never said this or any other particular fault was the cause of any particular crash.

      BTW, HBO on June 27th will air a documentary on the McDonald’s Hot Coffee suit. Please make every effort to watch it so the incredibly uninformed postings on this can finally stop.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, Professor Gilbert performed an interesting exercise. Only problem is that there is no proof that his exercise is even remotely the cause of the unintended acceleration events. Which is what really matters.

        Ultimately, what he says has no bearing on the real question at hand – is unintended acceleration the result of driver error or some sort of electronic glitch? Those who have actually studied the issue realize that it is the first scenario, and that everyone else is attempting to prove that P.T. Barnum’s axiom still holds true in 21st century America.

  • avatar

    Poor Gilbert. Only doing his job, as the usual expert in one of the usual mass hysteria games. Why should HE apologize? It’s just a game.

    But he is a perfect example to explain why you should not trust mass-media anointed “experts”.

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    Denver, I suspect these are the aggravating factors:

    • The ABC News demo aired while the press was speculating that Toyotas have an electronic Bigfoot that kills people without leaving evidence. Turned out that Gilbert’s wiring stunt was not only beyond preposterous but also affected non-Toyotas the same way, as Toyota later showed.
    • Gilbert was paid by Sean Kane, who in turn is paid by plaintiffs’ lawyers with active cases against Toyota, but the station never mentioned any of that.
    • The station spliced in a quick shot of a redlining tach to dramatize things, but it turned out to be footage from a parked car. This stirred up old thoughts of erstwhile safety demos gone bad. Google “It Didn’t Start with Dateline NBC” for the hall of shame.
    • The segment aired on the eve of Congressional hearings at which Gilbert and Kane badmouthed Toyota — after Kane stirred up the Lexus “911” crash, that is. See the impact now, Denver? The implication is that the electronic Bigfoot caused the crash heard ‘round the world.
    • The dynamic duo looked a bit slippery when Kane was asked about his gravy train. See page 124:
    • Gilbert had recently approached Toyota with his concerns, but regarding a Tundra instead of an Avalon, and Toyota couldn’t duplicate the results anyway. Rather than continue the dialogue, Gilbert went on TV and blindsided Toyota.
    • Nitsa/NASA failed to find Bigfoot and said there isn’t even a telltale consumer complaint pattern to suggest one, though the plaintiffs’ camp will argue both points ad infinitum since there’s quite a bit of ka-ching at stake.

    • 0 avatar

      Robert Fahey,

      ABC is all about rating/drama no doubt about it and Gilbert may be on the take so yeah follow the money but NASA didn’t prove anything we didn’t already know. Toyota will never be found liable because electronic SUA can never be proven 100%. That’s the nature of computers and doesn’t mean it never happened in rare instances or in a small percentage of all SUA cases whether involving Toyota/Lexus or other brands.

      Thank you for announcing earlier of your Toyota sales position. I’ve worked for my local Toyota dealer for many years (directly) and don’t have a problem with them or the corp. I’m still a sub-contractor for them.

  • avatar
    George B

    As others pointed out, David Gilbert created more confusion than clarity in the SUA issue. Sort of like an expert witness for the defense paid to create reasonable doubt. The most likely causes of SUA have always been pushing the accelerator pedal instead of the brake pedal and incorrect floor mat installation. I bet that errors in dealer accelerator pedal modification will cause more problems than the leaving the pedal assembly unmodified, but useless lawyer/politician types demanded that “something” be done immediately if not sooner to fix SUA.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem the UA is that it’s one of those things that will almost always be human error. In any contest between an unreproducible computer error and the driver stomping the wrong pedal that he can’t even see, it’s pretty much always going to be the driver.

  • avatar

    My suggestion would be for Toyota to hire the Sopranos to have a little talk with the guy. I’m thinking afterwards he’ll be apologetic as can be.

  • avatar

    It did sum up the 2010 midterm elections that government was here to help. Thanks Tea Party. But then the recalls continued almost weekly for most of the following year.

    Then to find out Toyota contracted to suppliers or the same companies everyone else uses here in the states. Then to find out NHTSA and Toyots share employees. Then memos of how much they saved by avoiding recalls.

    Just like the internet bubble, housing bubble, and stock market bubble, the Toyota bubble has popped. Even Consumer Reports would not approve with a blind eye.

    • 0 avatar

      Hmmm … Toyota may make Maytags on wheels, but the latest Consumer Reports survey has nothing but glowing praise for them …

      “The major Asian brands are still doing well overall. All models from Acura, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Scion, and Toyota have at least average predicted reliability.”

      “Despite recent safety recalls, Toyota models remained among the most reliable and earned top scores in five vehicle categories”

      There’s plenty of reasons I wouldn’t buy any new Toyota product, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend one to someone else.

  • avatar

    To Toyota: BITE ME!

    Professor Gilbert saw the signal and witness signal were parallel straight lines with a wide tolerance before an error was triggered, the poorest safety design possible. You hit the main stream media with how “robust” the design was, a flat-out, in your face lie.

    Prof. Gilbert apologize??? BITE ME!

    • 0 avatar

      I thought that the two signals were opposite, in that as the pedal traveled in a given direction, one signal was increasing and the other signal was decreasing.

      A change in pedal direction would swap an increasing fxn for decreasing fxn for the given circuit and vice-versa.

      The basic lack of robustness in the system was in the vehicle packaging, i.e. pedal placement as well as in the kinematic conceptualitation of the pedal assy (the hysteresis fxn).

      The above demonstrated weaknesses, and the subsequent cover-up and foot-dragging on the existance of these design defects as well as their amelioration is what made it reasonable to call into question the robustness of the electronics (electronics is a well-known sorce of vehicle recalls) and software (another well-known source, and don’t forget, that about this time, Ford and Toyota had to recall the Fusion Hybrid and Prius (respectively) to reprogram the software due to braking problems on rough or undulating surfaces.)

      • 0 avatar

        You view the safety net independent of the High Wire; It must stand on it’s own.

        I did not even mention the wires and circuit board traces were parallel and adjacent, creating a fertile ground for “tin whiskers”, debris, or moisture to short the circuit.

        The failure mode sends the accelerator to full throttle in an instant and keeps it there. WTF!

        Toyota is front and center how NOT do design a safety circuit. Many posters described how other auto manufacturers designed theirs, perhaps explaining their very low number of stuck-throttle incidents.

        Toyota: Your problem was not Prof. Gilbert. It was your supposedly skilled engineers signing off on a horrid safety circuit design.

  • avatar
    Corky Boyd

    It was important to the trial lawyers that the SUA was caused by electronic problems, not mechainical ones. Mechanical ones are relatively easy to prove or disprove. Having an it an electronic glitch would open the door for damages for every single-vehicle fatality.

    The technical analysis by TTAC of the accelerator sending unit during the dustup was simply outstanding. It blew Gilbert’s thesis totally out the window.

    My personal opinion is the whole blow up over Toyota’s SUA was cooked up at DOT to pressure Toyota not to close NUMMI Motors in Fremont CA. Not only was NUMMI the highest cost plant in Toyota’s stable, but being organized by the UAW, it was a potential Trojan horse that could force the organization of all Toyota plants without a vote.

    Despite some missteps in addressing the SUA, Toyota stood firm on NUMMI. Bravo Toyota.

    • 0 avatar

      Conversely it was important for Toyota to blame a mechanical component to pacify the public because having zero solutions to an electronic gremlin was not an option. Toyota can still be held liable for deaths involving the mechanical part of gas pedals as well as electronic problems as long as plaintifs can prove it wasn’t ‘driver error’.

      If all old and new Toyotas are now equipped with new ‘brake override’ software and new SUA cases have all but subsided, doesn’t that prove it wasn’t only ‘driver error’ causing past SUA accidents?

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry, drinking the Kool-Aid and throwing eggs at Prof. Gilbert doesn’t change the circumstances.

      Prof. Gilbert’s observations were and continue to be dead correct. Whether or not that accident or any other accident was caused by what Prof. Gilbert observed as severe, fatal defects in the design is a different question to be answered by different experts. As a matter of fact, the knowledge the investigators employed used Prof. Gilbert’s observations…

      Professional safety experts have repeated stated what he observed is correct and his opinion of the robustness of the design is also correct.

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