• Feb 2, 2010
Man, when it rains, it absolutely pours. Especially if you're a carmaker called Toyota and are already embroiled in a credibility-killing (and sales-smothering) gas pedal recall plus another for defective floor mats. According to the Detroit Free Press, none other than U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has absolutely blasted the Japanese giant, calling it "a little safety deaf" and noting he was upset that NHTSA officials had to fly to Japan "to remind Toyota management about its legal obligations." That's just the tip of the spear stuff, too. Check out the shaft:
Since questions were first raised about possible safety defects, we have been pushing Toyota to take measures to protect consumers. While Toyota is taking responsible action now, it unfortunately took an enormous effort to get to this point. We're not finished with Toyota and are continuing to review possible defects and monitor the implementation of the recalls.
To paraphrase L.A. Confidential's Captain Dudley Smith, we wouldn't trade places with Toyota right now for all the whiskey in Ireland. Still, we find the timing of Secretary LaHood's comments a little odd. Here's what we mean: the NHTSA official that flew to Japan to verbally beat on Toyota did so in December. And while Toyota seems to have behaved badly at first, the company has found an unobjectionable solution (according to the safety agency) to its gas pedal problem. So, why whip on 'em today? Could it have something to do with next week's Congressional inquiry scheduled to begin on February 10? We'd wager yes.



[Source: Detroit Free Press | Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 74 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Worst two cars I ever had were a 1986 Toyota MR2, and a 1998 Toyota Camry. Both cars cost a fortune to maintain. In the case of the Camry, it was three years old and had a laundry list of issues including but not limited to; outer body rust, power steering failure, master brake cylinder, and water pump.

      Toyota likes to claim that 80% of Camry's sold in the last 20 years are still driving.... But at what cost to the owners!
        invisiblepigeon3
        • 4 Years Ago
        What years did you own those cars? If it was recently, were they garage kept and low mileage?

        If you owned them recently, and they were abused, what exactly are you saying? One car is 24 years old and the other is 12. That's pretty old.
        • 4 Years Ago
        GINTONICS:

        Would like me to even start the list of problems I've had with my Ford Focus? I'm afraid to start because I may never finish.
        • 4 Years Ago
        gintonics

        I second that, Toyota is squeezing every $ out of its customers in service and maintenance. Guess how much a spare wheel cover (plastic) from a Rav4 costs?

        $550

      • 4 Years Ago
      Last night on Letterman, he was sitting behind his desk when suddenly the camera in front of him rushed forwards and appeared to crash. He played it up like he was wondering why that happened and then the other camera showed the runaway camera and it had a Toyota logo on it.

      I'm sure it will show up on youtube at some point.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Does not the house of rep have better things to do like work on addressing the growing deficit or the unemployment?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm not a big fan of Peter DeLorenzo writing style and edginess....but he's probably correct about Toyota in this piece today, Feb 3

      http://www.autoextremist.com/
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes. It is a good piece. Toyota is now "just another car company." No different than the rest.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Toyota's new problem: Prius brake complaints
      http://www.marketwatch.com/story/toyotas-new-problem-prius-brake-complaints-2010-02-02?reflink=MW_news_stmp

      Toyota Motor has issued a statement saying it has received complaints over some of its 2010 Prius models where customers have felt an "inconsistent brake feel" when driven over bumps and potholes.
      http://www.cnbc.com/id/35189772
      • 4 Years Ago
      I know this is not an original thought, but has Toyota become the GM for the 21st century? Obviously, its too early to tell and its stretching their problems too far. However, I wonder how much their drive to become the number 1 automaker in the world and expanding so quickly has resulted in A: sacrifice in quality they are known for, and B: becoming too large and bureaucratic to quickly jump on problems quickly.

      I don't care for Toyota (mostly the styling), but they are a great brand and competition keeps cars on the bleeding edge, so I hope they get their act together. In times when Americans don't trust auto makers much, Toyota needs to rectify this quickly.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Let's face it people, if your Toyota uses the CTS brand Electronic throttle control pedal then you should be scared. The Japanies Toyota's don't suffer from these recalls since it uses Denso ETC pedal, a Japanies company. Moral of the story, US quality = China quality. Sad, even 6-16 year olds can do better job than 18+ year old US workers.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Japanese govt. also admonished Toyota for hiding quality problems that endangered the lives of others. Just today there is a story about Prius brake failures in the US and Japan.

        http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Toyota-hit-by-over-100-Prius-apf-61349719.html?x=0

        What you don't seem to grasp is that Toyota came up with the design. CTS builds it. Chrysler has a pedal assembly built by CTS that has no problems. It is just more expensive to build.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Don't let the facts get in your way.

        CTS subcontracted to a company in Canada, to build the part. So now, are you going to blame the Canadians??

        BTW, you sound like a blithering idiot.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hmm what a surprise Government trying to help Government motors survive by launching a witch hunt on Toyota?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Toyota, if you squint your eyes and listen to what they are not saying, has hinted they have a computer that has safety overrides that malfunction if the sensor are not giving proper data or are "compromised".

      The head of Toyota USA, when asked if he can "guarantee" this fixes the problem; his response was that with these to repairs they feel the problem is UNDER CONTROL.

      In short, the computer is getting confused, but if those systems behave themselves the computer's "redundant" safety system should work normally.

      The danger they are not addressing is that IF those system are compromised, there is no redundant safety system as the computer (essentially) fails.

      Anyway .. maybe I'm way out to lunch on it, but that is what I read into it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      From the CCN article -

      "But the Toyota official was very adamant that Toyota is not blaming the supplier. He said CTS and other suppliers design these parts to Toyota's specifications. This is a Toyota part, he says, and Toyota takes responsibility for it."

      ^Learn and listen America, this is called 'responsibility'. It begrudges me to say it, but we would NEVER hear this from a GM, Ford, or Chrysler spokesman.

      (just ask Firestone)
      • 4 Years Ago
      Whoa there, "unobjectionable solution". NHTSA said unobjectionable. They didn't say solution. I don't know that given how rarely any of these acceleration incidents happen that Toytota or NHTSA can be sure that this actually solves the problems that have been seen. I'm sure Toyota and NHTSA agree the shim doesn't make anything worse and keeps the guts inside from sliding around. But time will just have to tell to see if this actually fixes the problems that have been happening lately.

      Remember, the floor mats fix was going to fix the problems too.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @LS2LS7?:

        I agree with pretty much everything you've had to say, but wanted to add a couple things.

        If you take into account the reports going back to the 2003MY, it's more like 3,000 reported acceleration-related incidents. Then again, at that point, it's more like 10~12 million cars. Certainly, a significant portion of the reported incidents are probably bogus/driver error/etc. Assuming half of the reports are accurate against 12 million vehicles, you end up with 125ppm. Granted, that's not 125ppm fatalities... just incidents.

        My mother (and her Solara) are one of the incidents, but thankfully not one of the fatalities. Based on her experience, I've believed all along that an ECU software bug is to blame. Perhaps the floormats and pedals were issues that needed to be addressed as well, but neither was a culprit in my mother's case.

        As you mentioned, finding 6 (or even 125) ppm mechanical problems isn't easy. Fortunately, even with a rare, "black swan"-type mechanical event there is usually the opportunity for some kind of forensic analysis. I would imagine that's how we got where we are now with Pedalgate. I don't doubt the fix will make the assembly safer, but I do doubt that it will make the problem go away (at least in its entirety).

        I would be surprised if the NHTSA looks at the software at all, since that isn't really in their wheelhouse of tricks. With computer code-related items, they tend to take the manufacturer at their word. I'm sure that at some point Toyota will be externally compelled to dig into the ECU. Then again, I'm sure that Toyota has already looked at that programming several times since 2004. That's where the 125ppm software problem really comes in.

        See, you would need the combination of three statistically improbably things to happen together:
        1. you would have to have a Toyota experiencing the problem (that's arguably rare)
        2. that car would have to be equipped with telemetry or data logging (that's usually only common on mules or cars that are getting tuned)
        3. that car would also have to be continually dumping a code trace (that's not even common on mules)

        Without those three factors, it's just some programmer/analysts looking at code. It's pretty easy to overlook a variable that's being set with a wrong value, if it's buried in a code path that's hardly ever executed. In a worst case scenario, it's even conceivable that a code trace could prevent the bug from ever occurring.

        In any case, it points to a level of system integration that makes meaningful diagnosis difficult. Shadetree mechanics have long complained about the computerization of the automobile, but this may end up being the first instance where the benefits of computerization may not look as good as they usually do.

        This kind of reminds me of the (non-fiction) book "Common Accidents", by Charles Perrow. It seems like this type of incident would merit a chapter.
        • 4 Years Ago
        not that i'm trying to stick up for toyota or trying to make the argument that this situation is fixed by this latest recall... but NHTSA never validates recall fixes. They object if they see something they don't like, but they never really give it a stamp of approval. They simply object, or they don't. So when NHTSA says it's "unobjectional" there's no reason for alarm. That's the most positive response you'll get out of them.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Toyota makes it clear that the fix is only required for cars assembled in the US (and Canada).

        Toyota issues a press release on January 30, 2010 in its entirety:

        "Toyota Update Statement
        Regarding reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has "approved" a plan for our pedal recall; it is Toyota’s understanding that NHTSA does not officially approve recall remedies. We have reviewed our plan with NHTSA and are finalizing details, which we will announce soon. "

        The arrogance simply leaps off the page here. Let's insult your NA parts and assembly and then specifically state the solution does not require your approval. You get what you get from Toyota and should be damn glad you get it.

        Ok the NHTSA doesn't approve remedies, but they can reject unacceptable ones.

        So now the NHTSA looks to the electronics...and do you think they will find something?
        • 4 Years Ago
        alex:
        I agree. I didn't say this situation was exceptional, merely that it wasn't as autoblog stated it (that NHTSA was somehow certifying it to be a fix).

        JohnAngelo:
        I don't really know. This seems like a good fix to me. But given we've seen like a dozen problems in 2 million cars, I think it's likely neither NHTSA or Toyota is sure this problem is "the" problem so to speak. Heck, some of the problems reported don't even make sense (there's no mechanism that could malfunction and "suck the pedal away from your foot"), so it's difficult be be sure what impact on the problems this fix will have.

        I don't know if NHTSA turns to the software next or if Toyota is supposed to do that. I assure you that finding 6ppm problems in software isn't easy, it might even be more difficult than finding 6ppm hardware problems.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just came across this news item, with regards to brake problems on Prius - apparently, something in the braking system can stop working - ON BUMPY AND SLIPPERY ROADS - you know, those kinds of roads where braking would be kinda...important?

      http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20100203/prius_brakes_100203/20100203?hub=TopStoriesV2
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