• Dec 8th 2009 at 11:29AM
  • 78
We're guessing you've heard about Toyota's massive 3.8 million vehicle recall for unintended acceleration. It appears to be an issue that could have potentially resulted in several deaths and reports of hundreds of accidents. Consumer Reports wanted to dig deeper on the matter, studying National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data for the 2008 model year. CR chose 2008 because the claims occurred prior to the widespread media coverage that has resulted in a flood of new complaints.

In studying NHTSA's accumulated 5,916 reports CR found that 166 involved unintended acceleration complaints. Of those, 128 were reported prior to August 28, 2009, when a California family was killed in a Lexus sedan experiencing uncontrollable acceleration. Of those 128 complaints, 47 came from Toyota and five from Lexus, representing 41 percent of overall unintended acceleration complaints. That's obviously a disproportionate amount of reports for an automaker with 16 percent of the US market's overall share. Here's one complaint logged by NHTSA.
"I felt the vehicle [2008 Lexus ES 350] increasing in speed to about 90 mph, without depressing the accelerator. I had been on cruise control at about 73 mph... [A] passenger screamed at me to slow down. I was unable to do so, even after stepping forcefully on the brakes."
While Toyota had a disproportionate amount of unintended acceleration claims, the Japanese automaker wasn't alone. Ford received an also high 36 overall complaints, or 28 percent of all U.S. models. The F-150 appears to have been one of the Blue Oval's main culprits, and complaints ranged from a gas pedal that was too wide to an engine that decided to go buck wild.
"The engine immediately increased in rpm to the point where the rear tires began spinning on the gravel. I put the transmission in Neutral and the engine rpm increased. I removed my foot from the brake and the engine continued at a very high rpm. I then depressed and released the accelerator and the engine returned to a normal idle."
While Toyota and Ford have the lion's share of unintended acceleration claims, other automakers have a disproportionately low amount of complaints. Chrysler came in with 11 complaints, GM had seven, Honda had five and Nissan had three. Head over to Consumer Reports for its full report and more information on unintended acceleration.

UPDATE: Numbers and percentages mentioned in second paragraph further clarified.

[Source: Consumer Reports]

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      so wait... Toyota is recalling 4 million cars... yet Ford is doing nothing? They had staggering 28% of reports. Thats only ~20% less than Toyota... shouldnt they be recalling 3 million vehicles at least?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Gotta love that quality that is TOYota......
      • 5 Years Ago
      And the number of such occurrences in Europe is like what ... zero ?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I guess Toyota decided to go back to the "oh oh what a feeling!" days. Too bad they chose the wrong feelings to inspire.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ruh Roh Toyota...
      • 5 Years Ago
      At least that's the one time Toyota HAS acceleration...

      What I still don't get is how these people claim the car was driving for several minutes without being able to be stopped...

      Shift to neutral? Shut the engine?
        • 5 Years Ago
        This was covered when the off-duty officer and family were killed in that rental car...

        1. Not all cars let you shift into Neutral (It might damage the engine! Oh noes!)
        2. In cars with keyless ignitions, you need to HOLD DOWN the start/stop button for a matter of seconds. This is likely something not everyone knows.

        Personally, this whole drive-by-wire thing is a load of crock. Give me my keyed ignition and my throttle cable, please.
        • 5 Years Ago
        sc7: "Shift to neutral? Shut the engine?"

        Hit the breaks? If the breaks can't overpower the engine, there's something wrong with the breaks.

        anecdotal note: In another article, it was brought up that there was likely something wrong with the breaks in the infamous case with the police officer.

        montoym: "I've never been in an automatic vehcile that didn't let you shift into neutral. "

        While it's not something I regularly test, I do lean toward you generally being correct. Does anyone have any evidence otherwise?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Also please don't take my comments as an absolution of any wrongdoing by Toyota. I defintely think that something within their electronic controls is at fault in many of these cases and their recall of so many vehicles seems to point to that as well.

        Instead, what I'm more concerned with is the fact that so few drivers seem to know what to do in situations like this. When the requirements to get a license are basically to prove that you can drive around the block successfully and pass a simple written test, these are the things that can happen.

        I would be very strongly in favor of more strict license requirements. Driving is a privilege, not a right. Not everyone should be allowed to drive quite honestly unless they can prove that they can actually do so competently .
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm in no way trying to excuse Toyota or belittle the seriousness of the situation, but if you do experience "unintended acceleration", how come your first instinct isn't to try an ensure that the cause of it isn't the one thing we know for sure controls acceleration... ie: the gas pedal? If a gas pedal design or faulty floormat installation is the cause of all this, then a quick flick of the right foot would be the obvious fix if I found myself in that situation... and I have before, several times (not in a Toyota though). Drivers need to be more alert & aware... if we all knew what was gonna happen, they wouldn't call them accidents. I'm sorry but I'm just being honest, and truthfully I'm a bit mystified that I'm driving around on the roads every day with a bunch of people who don't have the slightest clue what to do if the accelerator ever got stuck. To me, that's way more scary than the thought of my own gas pedal getting stuck. Just my two cents... feel free to disagree.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If I'm another apologist, you're still another person who can't read properly. I'm pretty sure I opened my post stating I'm not trying to make excuses for anybody. I'm not even a Toyota fan. I don't care which manufacturer it happens to: it happened to me several times in a Mitsubishi. What I'm saying is if my gas pedal gets stuck... as it has several times before... my first instinct is to get it unstuck. It's a simple fix, and I'm absolutely appalled that something as simple as this has caught out so many people. It doesn't matter if it was caused when the cruise control is on, because getting off the gas & hitting the brake will reset it. Whether you care to admit it on or not, unforeseen things will happen when you drive or ride. The throttle got stuck on my Yamaha Raptor while blazing through the woods at speed too... with a big group of friends, and I still managed to switch it off without causing an incident. Happened to friend of mine too, only his bike was old & wouldn't switch off by itself, so he had to reach down & actually shut the fuel valve off... and he still managed to slide it through one last turn full opposite lock while waiting for it to sputter & die. There is absolutely no substitute for having your wits about you, and that is the point I'm trying to make. I'm surprised you can't see that.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You are just another apologist. When you read the accounts, you can see that a lot of these unintended acceleration claims happened after the cruise control was engaged. It has something to do with the electronics/throttle/computer. You just blame the driver instead of your beloved Toyota.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "It's a simple fix, and I'm absolutely appalled that something as simple as this has caught out so many people. It doesn't matter if it was caused when the cruise control is on, because getting off the gas & hitting the brake will reset it."

        Franz - do some research:


        These are electronic glitches that are causing the cars to race out of control, and at least until the recall is done, these cars do not have a throttle kill switch that engages when the brakes are pressed.

      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder how that 41% matches up with the brand habits of senile drivers.

      "I stepped on the brake but the car instead lunged through the wall of country kitchen buffet."

        • 5 Years Ago
        I know what you mean Dan, I work at a Kroger store and this past September a old lady confused the accelerator pad with the brake pad and literally missed driving through the store by only a few feet. She took out one of our evergreen trees on the side of the store. It was in the afternoon when the store is at its busiest too. The lady was driving a Corolla but it wasn't the car's fault.
        • 5 Years Ago
        funny, but the example mentioned in the article was clear that the driver's foot wasn't on the accelerator, as the cruise control was engaged. The problem is with the CAR, not the DRIVER.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "41 percent of overall unintended acceleration complaints. That's obviously a disproportionate amount of reports for an automaker with 16 percent of the US market's overall share."

      And that would be why jdm fanbois get their panties in a twitter. what the hell does market share have to do with claims? Has your independent research as a qualified journalist uncovered a trend over the last decade where claims were 100% in line with market share? How on earth are the two related?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well there is a telling relationship between market share and percent ownership of complaints.

        Let's pretend:
        Ford has 50% of the market share and Toyota has the other 50%
        If both have 50% of the overall complaints, then neither has a bigger problem than the other.

        Not let's pretend:
        Ford has 80% of the market share and Toyota has the other 20%
        If both have 50% of the overall complaints, then Toyota has a bigger problem than Ford.

        There may not be a statistical correlation between market share and percent ownership of complaints, but there is a telling indicator being inferred here. If everyone had a percent ownership of complaints equal to their market share, then there may be a problem with the technological concept, whereas if one manufaturer has a disproportionate share of the complaints, then perhaps the problems lies with that manufaturer's implementation of said technology.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Are you kidding?

        Without doing the math I would bet that a complaint rate in excess of 100% over the market share would be an outlier and more than 2 standard deviations from what would be statistically expected.

        Of course it's never going to match 1:1, but 2:1 or nearly 3:1, as is the case here, is statistically significant no matter what the fanbois want to claim.
        • 5 Years Ago

        I'm not quite sure what you are getting at but I think its this. If I or one of my loved ones owned a Lexus ES350, I would not care that it has so much of a percentage of the market share, only that a lot of people seem to have this problem. Market share assumes there is some correlation between the number of cars on the road and the number that are affected. IF we could someone screen out the stupid/driver error cases, it would not matter to me if my car happens to own X% of the market, only that drivers of them are having problems. So yeah, TO ME, market share doesn't mean anything.

        The only reason I think they include it is because there's no way to screen out driver error and that these types of complaints occur to every type of car on the road and they want show that Toyota has a disproportionate amount of complaints.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Turn the key to the off position?
      Push the gear selector into neutral?
      Engage clutch pedal?

      What I always find amazing, if you go back to the Corvair to the present day, it is ALWAYS the car that is at fault. Are all the drivers good? Do they all pay attention? None yap on their cell phones? These cars just happen to take off?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Most of these are push-to-start vehicles. The gear selector is a fancy electronic switch. The pedals are attached to a wire that leads back to the ECM that tells the throttle what to do. If the cars HAD a clutch this wouldn't be a problem, but I'm sure the affected vehicles are all automatics.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You had me right up until the cell phone comment. Of all the people I know, I myself am the biggest stickler on safe driving. Yet sometimes I think I must be the only one on autoblog that talks on a phone while driving and thinks it can be safe to do so. Phones don't make bad drivers. Bad drivers just happen to use phones.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Apparently Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, GM, Honda, Nissan, Others had 52, 36, 11, 7, 5, 3, 14 (totaling 128) complaints respectively. Of the 166 complaints we know that CR counted 128 that were the submitted before Aug 28 (the trooper crash day), since 52/128=41%, 36/128=28%, etc. (The value 128 is the only integer that works, here.)

      CR says the respective market shares are 16, 16, 12, 23, 5, 6, and 22 (totaling 100).
      If defects were proportional to market share we would expect 20.5 (i.e. 16% of 128), 20.5, 15.4, 29.4, 6.4, 7.7, and 28.2 complaints (totaling 128) respectively.

      Chi-square is ((52-20.5)^2)/20.5 + ... + ((14-28)^2)/28 = 89 with 6 df. Highly significant. So we reject the null hypothesis that complaints are proportional to market share.
      • 5 Years Ago
      For those of you discussing how you think its fishy that power brakes cant overpower the engine at or near wide open throttle; as a throttle is opened farther, it reduces the amount of vacuum in the intake system which is where the power brake booster gets its 'power'. Simple physics. The man driving the car stating the brakes failed him in his situation is completely justified in saying the brakes were all but worthless.
    • Load More Comments