• Jan 29, 2011
If you don't get pinched by the wiper arm on the new Toyota Yaris, you have the company's new "devil's advocate" product development philosophy to thank. The approach entails a team of engineers doing things with the car that Toyota wouldn't normally be able to fathom. The events of the past year have shown that people will do wacky things with their cars, like making floormat layer cakes, and this spurred management changes like more local authority for North American operations.

Toyota has installed more executives in its American plants and given the U.S. arm of the business its own decision-making power on recalls, rather than waiting for word from the home office. A single database of internal and external vehicle quality discussions is also being put together to make Toyota's reaction more nimble.

There are critics of the efforts. Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety doesn't find a new attitude in Toyota's response to quality complaints much of a departure from the past, calling it "pretty much the same-old, same-old." Sean Kane of Safety Research & Strategies opines that Toyota is "biding their time" and still tends to blame the victims rather than solve issues like the ones recently plaguing the company.

Whether Toyota's reactions are percieved critically or complimentary, there is at least the indication of a desire to rectify a damaging situation, and you can now be sure that many engineering mules are undergoing strange experiments deep in the bowels of some Toyota R&D bunker to quantify the effects of ECU pins shorted by a french fry.

[Source: Advertising Age]


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  • 34 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      I got excited because the title made it sound like Toyotas would start sucking less. You know, turning out sportier products, better interiors, better infotainment UIs and systems, etc.

      But then I read the article. I could care less about Toyota trying to find problems with their ECUs, since to my knowledge, no one has found concrete and reputable evidence of ECU problems.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Could be a good idea, but I also see plenty of potential for silliness in this in what essentially is protecting people from their own stupidity. I mean, we live in a country where we need to tell consumers not to place their hands under a lawn mower when the engine is running or not to drive with a windshield sun blocker in place.
        • 3 Years Ago
        My favourite is the one that states "Warning: contains nuts" on a bag of peanuts. I thought that was just a bad joke people told. Turns out it's a real thing.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Wow... The site deleted my comment for having an opinion that stupid people should be allowed to die by their own hands if they do something stupid, nice. :/
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Groza: ahahahahaha
        oh wow

        That's horrible.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Will this new engineering included throttle pedals?

      Just wondering.....
        • 3 Years Ago
        Apparently it is the placement of the pedals that caused the over running/crashing problem, so, swap the placement of the brake pedal with the accelerator pedal and --- problem solved. Followed by some other "new" idea and dumb advertising, and a new way to blame the really stupid aged American drivers.
      • 3 Years Ago
      example:

      -- Engineer -- " Well, this passenger door handle seems to be just fine!! Let's go with it!!

      -- Devil's Advocate -- " Whoa not so fast, someone could get their hand caught in it, then the driver might think they are already in the car, then they might drive away dragging the 'victim' down the road to certain death. Mr. Engineer, I can see mayhem in America"

      Just one example...
      • 3 Years Ago
      Speaking of same-old-same old, what about the same old "safety experts."

      Kane is an activist hired by lawyers suing Toyota, but that gets nary a mention in the perss, and certainly not here. Kane's recent appearances:

      Contributed to a UAW/Teamsters rally to protest Toyota's shutting down a unionized plant it shared with GM, after GM went bankrupt. Here's a video of the rally: http://www.teamster.org/content/japanese-embassy-rally-1 About halfway through the rally, you'll see Kane, the allegedly neutral data guy, telling a union crowd that Toyota is blaming the American worker for its alleged acceleration problems, by recalling American-made floor mats and pedals.

      He contributed to Brian Ross's original ABC News scare story in Nov. 2009, claiming there's a consumer "uprising" against Toyota. The closest he comes to offering supporting data is this statement, transcribed verbatim: "There's no question the numbers in Toyota today are showing up in greater numbers than in other manufacturers." Yet Edmunds.com, National Public Radio and The Truth About Cars examined the government's complaint data and concluded that Toyota never stood out until headlines spurred Toyotaphobia.

      Kane then paid for the sophomoric acceleration demo on ABC News, which aired the night before the Congressional hearings. Since debunked by Toyota.

      None of this renders him unquotable to the press. Hell no. He's the bookish expert that journalists need to validate their stories. The lawyer funding is ignored because it complicates things.

      Ditlow is the guy who claimed that the Audi 5000 accelerated by itself because of stray microwaves from nearby ovens. Remember when Dateline strapped explosives to Silverado gas tanks to make them blow up on side impact? Ditlow said the station's methods were "among accepted testing procedures" and continued to call the trucks "rolling firebombs" even after Jane Pauley read a three-minute apology and staffers were sacked. He's still the voice of non-reason. Here he is again, saying a staged test of a Crown Vic is perfectly sound: http://overlawyered.com/2003/11/back-at-the-old-test-rigging-game/

      The other oft-quoted expert is Joan Claybrook, the mother of the 85-mph speedometer and the motorcylce with seatbelts and side wheels. Just Google "Joan Claybrook motorcycle."

      Now that the government is finding driver error causes Toyota crashes, she told Bloomberg, "That's totally ludicrious." Yes, ludicrous despite a hundred precedents going back to the 70s, when she ran the NHTSA under Carter.

      Given the histrionics of these alleged safety advocates, you'd think they were all connetcted to Ralph Nader. And you'd be right. Speaking of Nader, dont' forget the Corvair was exonerated by two tests, one by the government and one by Texas A&M University. Both tests found it handled at least as well as its contemporaries. So a fallacy launched all of their careers.



        • 3 Years Ago
        No kidding.

        Plus let's take into account the fact that when all the investigations finished, they found the great majority of the cases of acceleration were driver error, ie. hitting the wrong pedal; and that a very small number was the floor mats, which is what toyota said from the first is the only thing they could possibly see as a problem and everyone laughed at them.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't get it.

      Did everyone go insane and completely forget that after all the noise, bad propaganda, fines and insane ray lahood bullshit; the investigations found that almost ALL of the unintended acceleration cases were caused by driver error?

      Guess the only mechanical failure that caused a small percentage? People balling up their floor mats under the pedals.... IMHO 100% is driver error.

      Why are you crab jelly nutsos talking as if there's something wrong with toyota, instead of talking about how there's something wrong with their persecution by raylewd and the govermint, and with the fat, disgusting, scheming fat and lazy americans who made this whole thing up out of vegetative level stupidity or dishonest lying?
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is a great idea, with companies this large it cost them very little to have a few staff who do nothing but trouble shoot, if they save a 10000 drivers from mismatched windshield wipers making loud noises, or seats that dont fit in standard seat covers it is worth it.
        • 3 Years Ago
        The only way this would work is that 2/3 of their engineers drive non-Toyota cars, period. And make it non-competitive, otherwise politics will get nasty. And with company discounts & incentives, isn't gonna happen unless there's a incentive to buy your competitor's car.

        Since pay is based on merit too in Toyota, I doubt this will work. Much like their agile engineering, which resulted in more recalls and no history recap of what happened... This has [lack of] communication with the customer fiasco and politics galore written all over it.

        Toyota, just listen to your audience, creatively. K.I.S.S. always sells best in the end.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Both fascinating and sad. Demonstrates the evolution of engineering and product development. Demonstrates the devolution of the customer and his ability to legally shirk responsibility for his own actions.
        • 3 Years Ago
        He said seat covers? Oh my. Are they also checking to make sure fuzzy dice can be hung from the rear view mirror? With Air Bags built into the seats of most new cars these days you might want to pass on the seat covers.

        Absolute PR. Every automaker tries to test for everything. I remember hearing how Ford was testing the all new Tempo in ways it never had tested a car before. The original Windstar also had some big PR story. They sent some home with workers to test them in the real world and made changes based on their input. This was supposed to be revolutionary according to the press release. Of course it wasn't and we all know how those products turned out.
      • 3 Years Ago
      If you own a Toyota you should probably just burn it.
        • 3 Years Ago
        While I agree that most new Toyotas are rather.. uninteresting and there are other cars which would be much better at comparable prices, don't forget that they're bringing the FT86 which will hopefully do better than the Genesis Coupe did, not that the Genesis Coupe is doing badly but I would say it didn't quite live up to the hype.

        But don't forget that Toyota made the Supra, the MR2, the Celica, and now even the LF-A.
        • 3 Years Ago
        100% agreed
        • 3 Years Ago
        And what do you drive?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Even if it's a Supra?
      • 3 Years Ago
      "...making floormat layer cakes."

      blaming the victim, much? it took exactly one factory floormat to stick under the poorly designed accelerator pedal.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Haven't you heard? Toyota can do no wrong .If anything goes wrong with a Toyota, the blame has to be with the stupid Americans.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I guess you've never heard of Darwin.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I hope this article isn't trying to present this as innovative. It's pretty basic risk analysis. The auto industry invented it. Decades ago.
        • 3 Years Ago
        att : flychinook - For many years, GM ridiculed Toyota for investing in hybrid technology but now GM promotes thier own advancement in the very technology they spent manys years critising.

        Way to go GM ... pfttt !!
        • 3 Years Ago
        But Toyota makes a decent living of trying to sound innovative and benevolent for doing what other automakers just DO. Like in 2005 when they raised vehicle prices to "help GM", or their current ad campaign talking about how they spend money developing safety tech. Wow, an automaker developing safety technologies. Way to pave the way, Toyota!
        • 3 Years Ago
        "FMEA" = "failure mode effects analysis"

        You are supposed to analyse every foreseeable outcome of every foreseeable fault. The problem, of course, is that you cannot ever foresee either every possible outcome, nor every possible fault.

        All this means is that a few more faults have been added to the list of things to check for ...

        Having been through many of these sorts of things, it is always a learning process and it always becomes a compromise. You learn of something that has happened which nobody has ever thought of before, and it gets added to the list in the future. But just because it's on the list, doesn't always mean you are able to do anything about it (or can afford to do anything about it). There will frequently be contradictions - the thing you want to do to fix problem X, will cause problem Y under other circumstances.
      • 3 Years Ago
      My 2010 Rav4 has more creaks and squeaks than a haunted house. Toyota, please send your crack team of specialists over to my car since the dealership is clueless in fixing them.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm glad toyota has formed a thinktank to think of all the stupid things people can do to their car.


      and as for the Toyota witch hunt of yesteryear....... remember Iraq's WMD's ?
      wasted effort.
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