Category: Safety

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.

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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 >

By on May 29, 2010

What is that car? Some of you will figure it out immediately, while the rest will want to sneak a peek at the end of this article. Regardless of the make and model, here’s what it is: it’s a race car that competes in an entry-level ARCA series. No longer street legal. Not even close. Since it’s a race car, it uses (some) racing safety equipment. That’s all well and good. There’s a problem, however. In the past couple of years, I’ve seen more and more drivers incorporating “harness bars”, four-or-five-point belts, and other racing-style accessories in their street/trackday cars. Those people are risking their lives, and if you’re one of them, you should keep reading.
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By on March 15, 2010

Jim Sikes’ Prius high-speed dash to fame or infamy is a media hype-fest, with wild swings in sentiment from Toyota bashing to Sikes trashing. The rush to judgment is innately human, and Sikes certainly makes an easy target. But in the process, very little effort has been made to analyze what actually happened, or what might have actually happened, on the basis of the facts rather than Jim Sikes’ financial history and sexual proclivities. Read More >

By on March 14, 2010

A few days ago, James Sikes and his runaway Prius was all over news. Until we mentioned that something is fishy. Sikes’ driving skills were put in question. Stories about a wife swapping website emerged. Stories about bankruptcy. Stories about an unpaid lease on the Prius. And sundry other stories. Quickly, Sikes turned into Balloon Boy 2.0

Michael Fumento, director of the Independent Journalism Project, went on Neil Cavuto’s show on Fox Business and said: “It appears that everybody on planet earth suspected that there was something horribly wrong with this picture – except for the national media. The real hoax wasn’t James Sikes, it was in fact our press.” Read More >

By on March 7, 2010

[Note: This piece first ran in May 2007. It seems particularly relevant again in light of the current Toyota unintended acceleration (UA) situation. But please note that the circumstance that caused the Audi UA may, or may not be very different, depending on the circumstances. In the early eighties, electronic gas pedals and complex engine controls and other interfaces such as with ABS/brakes were still on the horizon. Nevertheless, the rules of physics have not been repealed. And an unknown percentage of Toyota UA events undoubtedly are the result of pedal misapplication. Audi’s near collapse in the American market after this incident remains a painful lesson in the power of the media, the slowness of the NHTSA, and the critical PR choices manufacturers make in the wake of a crisis like this. PN]

When I first heard about the Audi “sudden unintended acceleration” segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes in 1986, I knew instantly that they were blowing smoke. Literally. Read More >

By on March 4, 2010

And the data beat goes on. I asked Edmunds if they had updated model information to filter out the spike of UA reports to NHTSA after the 9/29/09 Toyota mat recall in order to improve my attempt at coming up with a model-specific UA rate. Not only did they oblige, but they already did all the work! A big hat tip to Edmunds, who has taken a lead in the quest to make sense of the data as well as the whole UA fiasco. Read More >

By on March 3, 2010

Here’s TTAC’s and the web’s only complete guide to Toyota’s gas pedals (so far), with tear downs, pictures, analysis, explanation, the shim fix, and commentary, all consolidated into one portal:

Part 1: Exclusive: TTAC Takes Apart Both Toyota Gas Pedals: Tear down of both the recalled CTS pedal assembly and the non-recalled Denso pedal assembly. Note: Assumptions and conclusions in this initial tear down lack the more complete understanding of the importance of the friction arm aspect of the CTS unit.

Part 2: Toyota Gas Pedal Fix Explained – With Exclusive Photos: Describes Toyota’s proposed fix for the recalled CTS gas pedal assembly, with detailed photos and graphics. Explains the significance of the friction arm assembly and its limitations.

Part 3: Toyota Gas Pedal Fix Simulated – Friction Reduced, By Too Much?: TTAC simulates the fix prescribed by Toyota for the recalled CTS pedal assembly, and notes how the fix changes the degree of friction, and the possible unintended result. With detailed pictures

Part 4: Why Toyota Must Replace Flawed CTS Gas Pedal With Superior Denso Pedal: Detailed analysis with pictures of the two pedal assemblies, an explanation as to why the Denso design is superior, and a call for having all CTS pedals replaced with the Denso pedal.

Part 5: TTAC Does The Toyota Pedal Shim Fix:  Stop Gap Solution At Best: Toyota’s solution is carried out here with detailed pictures, the whole Toyota document detailing the fix, and our commentary.

Part 6: Toyota Floor Mat/Gas pedal Recall Includes Computer Reflash And Trimming Of Gas Pedals: Info on the details of the floor mat/gas pedal interference recall.

Part 7: Toyota Recall  Creates Unintended Accelerator Consequences: As predicted in Part 4 (above), the CTS shim fix reduces the carefully designed amount of friction required for comfortable and smooth pedal action to the point where pedal action may now be jerky and potentially unsafe.

(Thanks to you-know-who-you-are for access to these parts and info)

By on February 25, 2010


After Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood received a somewhat half-hearted tongue-lashing from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and after a more vigorous (yet equally unsatisfying) grilling of Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, yesterday’s hearings wound down with a third panel. Panel three opened with a boost to the committee’s emotional outrage batteries courtesy of the Saylor family relative Fe Lastrella, as well as some of the first compelling evidence of an undiscovered problem with Toyota vehicles from the firsthand experience of Kevin Haggerty. These two witnesses gave evidence that was in step with a lot of the previous testimony, offering more new questions for legislators than answers. But after these two spoke, the committee heard from former Carter administration NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook and the director of the Center for Auto Safety, Clarence Ditlow. Claybrook and Ditlow were the first witnesses to provide suggestions for NHTSA reform, but after the confusion of the day’s testimony, the committee apparently didn’t realize that their recommendations were aimed at bringing NHTSA regulation forward, into the past.

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By on February 16, 2010

According to popular wisdom, the flood of recalls will change Toyota and will permanently damage Toyota’s market share in the United States (much like what happened to Mitsubishi and their cover up scandal). But there are some people who believe (like I do) that this is “man bites dog” journalism. That the Toyota recall (whilst serious) is being blown out of proportion. It seems that other people are starting to see it that way.

US Recall News‘ reason for being is recalls. They would be dead without recalls. US Recall News has written an article that says that the real recall bogeyman doesn’t live in Toyota City, but in Detroit. The identity of the true bogeyman’s name may surprise some. Read More >

By on February 11, 2010

Yesterday, a strange love-fest between U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos and Japan’s transport minister Seiji Maehara ensued. After their meeting in Tokyo, as reported by the Nikkei, the ambassador and the minister said that everything is hunky-dory, and that Toyota’s recent recalls won’t undermine relations between the U.S.A. and Japan. Which is odd in itself: Since when does a $15 gas pedal get a leading role on the world stage of international politics?

Ambassador Roos effusively told reporters that the recall issue ”in no way has any kind of direct or indirect impact on the strength of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan.” Who said it would? Read More >

By on February 10, 2010

Here’s a challenge: try to find a review of the Toyota Corolla that doesn’t bemoan its numb steering. Now try with a Chevy Cobalt. Or a Venza, or Vibe, Or Rav4, or Equinox. What do these vehicles have in common? Column-mounted electric power steering systems from JTEKT, a Toyota spin-off supplier which has done a brisk business in these fun-eliminating steering systems. And though the motor press has been bashing electric power assist steering (EPAS or EPS) for its deleterious effect on handling, the explosive growth in these systems may put more at risk than mere enthusiast-approved steering feel.
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By on February 6, 2010

Recently, there have been voices that mentioned that the attacks on Toyota could be politically motivated. Let’s face it: Toyota has problems. So have other auto makers. There are marked differences in reaction to and treatment of these problems.

One of the tenets of warfare is that you never attack the innocent. You wait until your opponent bumbles. Tricking an “enemy” into doing something really stupid, and exploiting this to declare a “righteous” war, is as old as Julius Caesar. Being the “defender” makes you a winner in the war of  public opinion. You need the public on your side to win a war.

Using an outside scapegoat to deflect criticism is the oldest trick in the book. Time and again, people fall for it.

The Japanese were docile, polite, and cautious when in came to Toyota’s troubles. The more surprising is today’s piece in the Nikkei [sub]. Usually, we don’t copy and republish whole pieces. But in the name of authenticity, and because the Nikkei is only available on-line as paid subscription, we make the whole piece available. Read More >

By on February 5, 2010

Based on the emails I’ve been receiving from TrueDelta’s members, I have underestimated the impact of the unintended acceleration fiasco on Toyota’s future sales. This fiasco is going to hurt Toyota, possibly for years to come. The problem isn’t that many people feel that Toyotas are unsafe. Most seem to recognize that a very small percentage of Toyotas have suffered from unintended acceleration. But they’re hearing about problem after problem, so Toyota’s quality seems to be lower. Most of all, Toyota’s public statements have seemed dodgy, and people seem to feel that they cannot trust the company to keep owners’ best interests or even their safety in mind.

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By on February 3, 2010

Update: a portal to all of TTAC’s articles on the subject of Toyota gas pedals is here:

Toyota has sent instructions and the shims for the field fix of the recalled sticky CTS gas pedals to dealers as of today. We have obtained the instructions (pdf here) [Hat Tip: Roxer], shims, and carried out the fix on a new CTS pedal accordingly. Follow along as we carry out the fix, and how we arrived at our unhappy conclusion. Read More >

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