Toyota's Legacy - Moving Forward?

Toyota has had to deal with a lot of bad press in the last few years regarding problems of unintended acceleration. Officially issue is called Sudden Unintended Acceleration or SUA for short. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration) defines SUA as "the unintended, unexpected, uncontrolled acceleration of a vehicle, often accompanied by an apparent loss of braking effectiveness." SUA is not limited to mechanical or electrical error, but includes other problems like driver error or a combination of these factors. Historically, there has been a number of reports dating back to the 80's with such claim of unintended acceleration including cars from other manufacturers like Honda Accord and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

So, why are there so many reports of Toyota cars with unintended accelerations? Could it be that one of the largest auto manufacturers in the world has continually overlooked this problem in their design and engineering? What I do know is that they've just paid USD 16 Million to Orange County on settlements for the unintended acceleration lawsuits. So what does that say about Toyota?

Here's a little timeline of recalls in relation to unintended acceleration reports (2007-2011):
  • Sep 26, 2007 – US: 55,000 Camry and ES 350 cars in "all-weather" floor mat recall
  • Nov 02, 2009 – US: 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles again recalled due to floor mat problem, this time for all driver's side mats
  • Nov 26, 2009 – US: floor mat recall amended to include brake override and increased to 4.2 million vehicles
  • Jan 21, 2010 – US: 2.3 million Toyota vehicles recalled due to faulty accelerator pedals (of those, 2.1 million already involved in floor mat recall)
  • Jan 27, 2010 – US: 1.1 million Toyotas added to amended floor mat recall
  • Jan 29, 2010 – Europe, China: 1.8 million Toyotas added to faulty accelerator pedal recall
  • Feb 08, 2010 – Worldwide: 436,000 hybrid vehicles in brake recall following 200 reports of Prius brake glitches
  • Feb 08, 2010 – US: 7,300 MY 2010 Camry vehicles recalled over potential brake tube problems
  • February 8, 2011 – US: NASA and NHTSA inquiry reveals that there were no electronic faults in Toyota cars that would have caused acceleration issues. However, accelerator pedal entrapments remains a problem
  • February 22, 2011 – US: Toyota recalls an additional 2.17 million vehicles for gas pedals that become trapped on floor hardware
Gas pedal stuck on floor mat

The SUA problems started back in 2007, and most caused by flooring hardware. There were also problems with brake systems in some hybrid cars, and brake tube problems in 2010 Camrys. Fast forward four years later to 2011, and we are still looking at the same problems. So, I'm kinda siding with the consumers on this one. Toyota is not learning from its mistakes and continues to design faulty products. We're not even talking about the other safety recalls (not included above), which entail power window and pump problems in 2012 that forced the company to recall over 10 million vehicles worldwide. Even back in 2003, when the idea of hybrid cars was still somewhat new, I recall reading an article about how every dash light on a Prius would light up when it started raining. Forgot to install rubber gaskets around electronic components, did we now, Toyota?

A few years ago, Toyota started this new advertisement campaign with the catchphrase "Moving Forward." I'm not sure they've thought that one through, given that their cars do move forward, quite literally and unintentionally. I've never personally been in any car that accelerated on its own but I did drive a 2007 Toyota Camry LE last year - a short 15 mile trip back and forth to the airport to pick someone up - and I must say that it's not a driver's car. Comparing to a similar year Honda Accord (a class-comparable car), accelerator, steering, and braking responses were significantly better on the Accord than the Camry. Travelling at 60 - 70 mph (100 - 112 kph) felt like it was disintegrating, and the super soft suspensions felt like a them park ride (poor stability). Granted that this Camry was a few years old and may have been an isolated case, but I came out of that car swearing never to buy a Camry.

There had never been (at least to my knowledge) a recorded video of an SUA incident until now. A late-model Toyota Highlander crashed into a house, twice, and then spun out of control as the driver attempted to reverse out of the driveway. The alleged SUA incident totaled the highlander and another car sitting inside the garage, along with major damages to the house and another car. A security camera caught the whole thing. Toyota later inspected the car and gave it reported no problems with its accelerator. Hit up the video link and see for yourself.

My own take of the incident is that the driver stepped on the gas pedal unintentionally, instead of the brake pedal. What's fishy about the incident is how the driver is able to shift between drive and reverse without hitting her brakes. What do you think?

So, what is Toyota's legacy? Recalls? Problems? Unintended accelerations? Toyota has lost many people's trust with this issue. Most European cars has a gas override when the brake pedal is pressed. I think that's a good place to start. A safety override like that may give drivers a chance to stop/slow down the car in the event of a SUA. Toyota has contributed a lot to the world for decades and we are all thankful for that, but they need to shape up in this department. And for people who can't determine which pedal is gas and which is brake, their licenses should be revoked pending some sort of  mandatory defensive driving course.

Photo Credits:
various Google images files
floor mat stuck -
Toyota logo -

1 comment:

  1. I can't find out in 2016 if my 2010 Sienna is at risk.
    It has the "Toyota" Denso pedal (better than the CTS pedal)
    but I hope it's the magnetic type Denso.
    NASA found that one Toyota pedal failed because of a "tin wisker"
    short in the resistive type pedal(potentiometer).
    There are a few reports that a voltage spike can create a problem
    in the electronic throttle.
    And the cruise control can spike speed if bumped to re-engage at low speed.
    Then there's the long high idle speed in cold weather in some models.
    I won't mention floor mats.
    I don't have confidence in Toyota's corrective measures and p-r.
    And they don't offer a brake override software change for me.
    (I have the older power train management electronics.)
    [do not oil anything on the pedal unit; Toyota requires replacement if oiled]
    [I would get rid of the CTS pedal if I had it]