Toyota Blames the Victims

Oh no, Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) . Now you've gone and blown it again.

You were doing so well for a while, too. After the unintended-acceleration debacle peaked earlier this year with that epic Congressional inquisition and that whopping $16.4 million fine from the U.S. government, you -- finally! -- made a big point of going all humble. You put your CEO, Akio Toyoda, out in public to shed a few tears, eat some crow, and put a human face on your soulless transportation-appliance-manufacturing empire.

And that -- plus a huge incentives blitz -- worked, kind of. You're still trailing General Motors and Ford (NYSE: F  ) in U.S. sales, but you're afloat. Car shoppers aren't avoiding you like the plague like they were back in February, when they were wondering whether Honda (NYSE: HMC  ) would race past you.

But then you came out and blamed the victims of most of those unintended acceleration incidents.

Way to take responsibility, guys! Not.

Blaming the victims? Really?
Here's the background: Tuesday's Wall Street Journal brought a report of "early results" from the Department of Transportation's examination of data recorders from Toyotas involved in accidents blamed on unintended acceleration. According to the Journal:

The early results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyotas and Lexuses surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes. But the findings -- part of a broad, ongoing federal investigation into Toyota's recalls -- don't exonerate the car maker from two known issues blamed for sudden acceleration in its vehicles: "sticky" accelerator pedals that don't return to idle and floor mats that can trap accelerators to the floor.

So "some drivers" were apparently hitting the gas when they meant to hit the brakes. But -- as the Journal goes on to point out -- the investigation isn't over, and there's still a very real possibility that Toyota's onboard computers have an insidious programming flaw that hasn't yet been uncovered.

Still, I don't think anyone will be surprised if it turns out that some of these cases were in fact attributable to driver error. People make boneheaded mistakes in cars all the time, and one can see how boneheaded mistakes made in, say, one's spouse's new Lexus might get blamed on the car -- particularly if its manufacturer is getting public heat for unintended-acceleration incidents.

But here's the part that gets me: Bloomberg followed up the Journal's report by chatting with a Toyota spokesperson, who said that the company's own investigation showed that "virtually all" of the crashes blamed on unintended acceleration were in fact attributable to -- you guessed it -- driver error.

It's not our fault, in other words. The problem is that our customers are morons.

Dude, even if that's true ...
...it was a huge mistake to say it. At least, in those specific words.

I've argued before (and I'm hardly the only one) that Toyota's arrogance got it into trouble in the first place. Akio Toyoda's roadshow -- the humble-pie performance in front of Congress, the tearful speeches, even the feel-good investment in Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA  ) -- was all part of getting past that. It aimed to show that Toyota was human, was listening, was acknowledging its mistakes, and was going to be more careful and responsible in the future.

But now, the company's right back to the it-can't-be-our-fault routine that did so much damage to oits reputation around the world. Now, it might eventually prove true that driver idiocy caused most of these accidents. But declaring that to be the case before the investigations are completed won't help Toyota's cause, particularly if the investigation's results turn out to contradict the automaker's statement.

What do you think? Did Toyota just take a giant step backwards in its rehabilitation efforts, or am I overreacting? Scroll down to leave a comment and let me know.

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Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of Ford, which is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. You can try Stock Advisor or any of our Foolish newsletters free for 30 days with no obligation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 3:29 PM, SMOKEN42 wrote:

    YOU ARE CORRECT.......... THESE GUYS ARE SHAMELESS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT'S HARD TO GET OVER THE BIG-HEAD, ONCE IT HAS BECOME CORPORATE POLICY. YOU WOULD THINK THERE DISMAL FAILURE IN FORMULA-ONE RACING MIGHT HAVE OPENED SOME EYES, BUT I GUESS NOT.....................

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 3:39 PM, koolwip wrote:

    What do you expect from someone who owns stock in FORD?? Toyota still makes a better product than Ford, GM or Chrysler and the guy that wrote this article must be on board with the UAW and Jesse Jackson ! He doesn't point out the fact that when the NUMMI plant closed in Calif. Toyota....NOT GM provided a severance package to the workers but the wonderful UAW decided they were going to picket / protest Toyota facilities & dealerships ...NOT GM which is really (OM ) Obama Motors. Toyota posted their results based on the facts and the facts are when you step on the accelerator and not the BRAKE pedal the car will NOT STOP!!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 3:40 PM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    Y'know, I don't think success in F1 necessarily equates with the ability to build reliable road cars... ask any Ferrari owner.

    Thanks for reading.

    John Rosevear

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 4:27 PM, UH2L wrote:

    I can't believe people will forgive the company and keep buying Toyotas. Just to protect their image, they stood by and hid a problem while people died! If ever a company should be boycotted, it's Toyota. People have stopped buying products from other companies for reliability issues or poor customer service even after they have been addressed. Maybe the general public should reconsider their priorities on who they buy vehicles from.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 4:41 PM, zizewitz wrote:

    TOYOTA is continuing to make fun of the US, NHTSA and its own customers as they think that the US government will not do anything due to foreign politics considerations.

    Now, that they have to recall a huge number of the LEXUS parade horses, allegedly because of metal contamination of the valve springs, we have following:

    1) Toyota "estimates" that even if they had 0.15%

    failures (unverified, probably much more) in vehicles in average 12-15 months old, that the total failuers suring the Life span of the vehicles (6-10 years) will be only 0.20%. Seems a bad joke!!

    2) They hav stalled nearly 3 years to make the recall, and only are doing so because it is becoming too noticeable

    3) They have already installed mproved springs

    in subsequent years. But they do not say simply that they have corrected the contamination issue,

    but they have reinforced the spring, not once, but 2 times. Which shows clearly that the real problem was not the alleged contamination, but other gigantic screw up of design and subsequent quality control.

    4) The Engine of the Lexus 3.5L is basically the same as of the CAMRY 6 cyl. Therefore, it is more than probable tha these have the same

    spring problem, but are not recalled!!!! WHY??

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 4:42 PM, SimonJester753 wrote:

    When this story hit the news, I bet that it would turn out it was all, or almost all, driver error.

    Since when is it bad to tell the truth?

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 4:47 PM, ppointer wrote:

    To: John Rosevear

    Unless I am mistaken, the WSJ article sites the study by NHTSA, not Toyota. It is the NHTSA that is partially blaming the drivers for their accidents based on a study of crash data, though their report has not yet been released. Could it be possible you over-reacted to a misinterpretation of the article?

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 4:48 PM, ekieekie wrote:

    Here is a prime example of twisting things out of context and manipulating information towards a bias. Shame on the reporter to not disclosing proper information. The article in the WSJ, “Early Test Pin Toyota Accidents On Drivers” (July 14, 2010), the U.S. Department of Transportation is the one that analyzed the data recorders from Toyota and came to the findings that early results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyotas and Lexuses surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes.

    If the article was read with any sort of intelligence, one would read the part, “Still, since the start of Toyota’s troubles late last summer, the Japanese company hasn’t blamed drivers for any of the sudden-acceleration incidents, though in many cases the company couldn’t find another cause.”

    Sadly, with reporter such as this, I find it difficult to have any respect for him.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 4:52 PM, podunkTX wrote:

    It's certainly plausible in today's litigious society that many people tried to jump on the bandwagon and claim accelerator issues led to crashes and or even crashed on purpose for the intended lawsuit claims. No, not all of them, but surely the problem has been greatly exaggerated because of the widespread media coverage and many people trying to get something for nothing.

    I wish that american made vehicles were as well built as the few Toyotas that I have owned. I would rather buy american, but only if the product is the best value...it's that simple.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 4:56 PM, rwyss wrote:

    Buy Toyota Motor (TM)!

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 5:06 PM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    @ppointer: You are correct. It's the follow-up article in Bloomberg that had the quote from the Toyota person that blamed the drivers. Go here, 4th paragraph:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-07-13/toyota-finds-virtua...

    @ekieekie: I won't hold my breath waiting for an apology, but do read the Bloomberg piece.

    John Rosevear

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 5:14 PM, bzw51 wrote:

    I'm so tiered of every idiot bashing Toyota. I've been driving Toyota and Lexus Vehicles and always felt save. This Company survived all the Japan Bashing going on in the 80s and just keept improving the cars. The US always protected our Car Companies and when they screwed up bailed them out. I'm a patriot and will support Toyota since they do treat the employes right (even without a union that thinks it is ok to have workers show up at a job bank for years playing cards and getting overpaid for nothing)

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 5:15 PM, PeyDaFool wrote:

    I, personally, don't think it was wrong for Toyota to point out what they believe to be the truth.

    People get too carried away with what's on the news and after a few people complain about unintended acceleration, next thing you know the whole country is having the problem in every one of TM's cars.

    I'm glad Toyota pointed out the truth, as TM was unfairly blamed for deaths, scares and making unsafe cars. It's only fair they are exonerated.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 5:20 PM, TMFBent wrote:

    Anyone who's been out in traffic in the past decade or two could have told you that the most likely cause of ANY accident is a driver with a foot on the gas, and not enough on the brake.

    If the truth (people who claim their car was faulty are instead the ones at fault) isn't politically correct, so be it. The measure of truth isn't its popularity.

    Sj

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 5:28 PM, Jackender wrote:

    As usual government agency workers exhibit embarassing lack of brains (guess that's a prerequisite for government job). The announcement should have spelled out that "onboard recorder contained sensor readings for throttle open and brake system not engaged". So called "black box" only records whatever sensors are sending. In runaway car throttle was obviously positioned "full open" regardless of the action of the driver. In these cars there is a total disconnect between action of driver and action of computer which in truth control the movements of the throttle and activation of the breaks regardless of driver.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 5:32 PM, mountain8 wrote:

    If I count the times in my 61 years that I have hit the accellerator when I wanted the brakes, I come up with 0.

    Some Points:

    If the accellorator sticks, how do you tell it's stuck vs hit by mistake. Just what do these little black boxes tell you?

    If there are alot of accellorators vs brakes incidences out there. wouldn't that indicate a design problem as bad as sticking accellerators? I know there ain't much room between pedals for a size 10 foot. In these itty bitty cars, my foot can easily cover both at the same time.

    Any comparisons done on toyota brake/accellerator incidences vs say Buick or Honda or Chevy or Tesla? Are they all reporting incidences in line with the amount we have CONFIRMED have happened with Toyota? Is this endemic to driver error in all types of vehicles and brands across the board at the same rate?

    Does something show up like, Chevy had record of 4 complaints about sticking accellorators and Toyota has 21,546. Or does Chevy have 34 and Toyota have 32?

    I need a little more data. But I ain't buying a Toyota.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 6:07 PM, WillyMiller wrote:

    WSJ and others, we have a problem. If the NHTSA is analyzing the on board computer and it says that the driver was hitting the accelerator rather than the brake there are two possibilities. The first is that there is a human error, the second is that the computer system on board is reading a brake command as an acceleration command and executing that command, in spite of the attempts of the driver to apply the brake.

    In other words the computer is malfunctioning or other switches are malfunctioning to the extent that all commands to brake are read as accelerate. Hit the gas it goes, hit the brake it goes. Do nothing and it continues to read a command to continue feeding gas.

    It goes to reason that if you are accelerating and you remove your foot from the pedal to transfer it to the brake pedal, even though there is a moments hesitation, there should be an anomoly in the system that indicates that the vehicle rpm dropped.

    When switching to an electronic command system the only safe way for Toyota to have converted from a manual linkage was to install a failsafe kill switch on dash to allow the operator to hit the panic button that would kill the engine and apply the brakes of the vehicle.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 6:49 PM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    @WillyMiller: Bingo. I suspect that's exactly why NHTSA are not ready to declare this one "case closed"... and why Toyota's rush to move on is premature.

    Thanks for reading.

    John Rosevear

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 6:49 PM, mvwon wrote:

    mountain8 is spot on. Can it be that clumsy drivers only buy Toyota products? Seems unlikely. If other brands are having the same problem then NHSTA needs to inform the public. If that is the case, then pehaps this is another case of relying on computer technology when it really isn't ready yet.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 6:51 PM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    @TMFBent: True. But first, that hasn't yet been established to be "the truth", and second, it's not up to TM to decide at this point.

    John

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 6:52 PM, jwj001 wrote:

    I'm not a Toyota owner or shareholder, nor do I work for the government. I have been a service advisor for a dealership for a number of years and have previous experience with many other brands, including Toyota. The claims of unintended acceleration remind me somewhat of lemmings. For the past 12 years, I have focused on servicing of Mercedes Benz autos and SUVs. Older vehicles can indeed have issues of mechanical linkage sticking, but modern systems with electronic controls have rarely failed in that way. While I would agree that Toyota certainly could have been much better at responding to the initial claims, I firmly believe that 90%+ of the unintended acceleration reports are due to drivers mistakenly pushing the accelerator. (If you think that many people couldn't possibly be that "dumb" or confused...come do my job for a while).

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 8:07 PM, robo9999 wrote:

    I wonder why the daily reports of out of control Toyotas have basically stopped. The three highest profile cases, The 25 mile joy ride by James Sykes in California, the house keeper driving the Prius into a wall in New York and the Camry in Wisconsin that actually has the parking garage video showing the car car hitting the wall with no brake lights were all found to be driver error.Since then the reports have basically stopped. Was it magic that stopped the daily out of control Toyotas, or was it the fact that the NHSTA along with local law enforcement and Toyota were able to determine the cause of these crashes and people realized they cannot simply blame the car if they make a driving error. My guess is the latter. Someone simply explain to me why the reports have stopped. In my eyes there can only be two reasons. A) Driver error and B) The recall for the floor mats and sticky accelerator has fixed the problem.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 8:29 PM, mysticmountainra wrote:

    Most of the others said it very well....the author's comments are at the very least, extremely biased, factually inaccurate, not proportional as to other manufacturers recalls, and just plain mean-spirited. Spend some time with a shrink, get your head on right and get on with your life. Just in case the light ever turns on...welcome to the world...it's much bigger than just the good old USA!!! (I just know you've got to be a "teabagger"!!!)

    BTW, "Fool" seems to rapidly be turning into a low level reality show! Whatever happened to their original ethic and thinking? MF has lost a lot of the respect and credibility that I used to have for them!

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 9:04 PM, deong wrote:

    Unfortunately opinions like this tend to have me questioning all MF columns. A few years ago I regarded them as reliable and an important source of additional information in my overall MF experience. As a subscriber to various MF services since early 2002 I feel that these columns are no longer of any value. As there is no disclaimer (opinions expressed here blah blah blah...) I guess I must assume that David and Tom stand behind them. A pity.......

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 9:44 PM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    @mysticmountainra, show me where I'm "factually inaccurate". Toyota's people essentially declared themselves exonerated while the NHTSA investigation is still ongoing. That's fact, as reported by Bloomberg, link above. I think that's an arrogant thing to have done, and I have previously argued that that particular flavor of arrogance was a bigger problem for them over the past year than were the actual acceleration incidents themselves. They had been showing signs of a new approach, but this looks to me like a relapse, and a mistake. Is it really "mean-spirited" to say that? How?

    John Rosevear

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 10:43 PM, geoman77 wrote:

    Don't forget Audi had the same problem as Toyota and it was found to be drivers with their foot on the gas thinking it was the brake. History had repeated itself. Check it out.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 10:46 PM, drdonrs wrote:

    My daughter and son-in-law just shed their Lexus SUV, liked it very much but have no faith in Toyota. They are replacing it with an Audi A5 SUV. How many former customers have left the fold?

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2010, at 11:03 PM, robo9999 wrote:

    Toyota did not exonerate themselves, they simply reacted to the initial findings of leaked NHTSA report.I think they are fully aware of the ongoing investigation from NASA and the National Academy of Scientists. The president of Toyota sat in front of Congress and took responsibilty for the Sticky pedal and the floormat entraptment problem and Toyota adressed those problems late and have taken incredible worldwide heat for that, and justly so. However what Mr Toyoda also maintains is that there are no defects in the ECT and welcomed the aforementioned institutions to scientifically access this system. Mark my words, when all of the data has been collected and the results are published, no problems will be found with this system. Unfortunately the damage has already been done.And arrogance can often be mistaken for belief.

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2010, at 2:44 AM, Kakabeka wrote:

    Very disappointed that MF would use such a moronic headline.

    IF you REALLY wanted to PROPERLY summarize the results the headline

    SHOULD have been

    Once AGAIN FACTS Reveal Unintended Acceleration Caused by Terrible Clueless Drivers

    The press and the US govt have tried to tar and feather Toyota. (Can't really blame them as the US and Canadian govt. still own over 70% of the pos GM.

    Give the UAW enough time and they'll put Ford into bankruptcy, too.

    Toyota Nissan and Honda make the best value cars available today!

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2010, at 12:08 PM, baldheadeddork wrote:

    Toyota's massaged reports this way throughout the SUA crisis.

    Earlier this year Toyota said about the Lexus crash that killed CHP officer Mark Saylor and his family "As reported in the law enforcement investigation, the floor mat in the Saylor vehicle was not only improperly secured, it was incompatible and and incorrect for the vehicle." (http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/document/LA_Times_questio...

    Sounds pretty declarative, doesn't it? But the actual police accident investigation report includes this: "Due to the catastrophic damage to V1 (vehicle 1), other avenues of unintended acceleration could not be explored. Beyond the all-weather mat, other and/or additional factors causing a sudden unintended acceleration event (re: electrical, mechanical, or computer generated) should not be ruled out." (http://autos.aol.com/gallery/saylor-crash-report/#)

    (If you've never seen the Saylor car, here's what Toyota says they and the police examined and proved the cause was the floor mats and nothing more: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fiw-toyota-deaths-list28-...

    If you ask, a lot of people who have paid attention to this story will tell you the police report said it was caused by improperly installed floormats, when the actual summary makes it clear that the police left open other possible causes.

    How does this happen? It happens because Toyota uses an automotive press that is overwhelmingly biased towards the manufacturers to carry their arguments, especially when it involves any government oversight. You can see this right now in the reaction to the WSJ story. Go to the car blogs, check out the enthusiast magazine sites, and check out how they're reporting this story. They're saying Toyota has been cleared by NHTSA and the whole thing was just another witch hunt.

    This gets into the mainstream press when an editor for a car magazine talks to a newspaper reporter or goes on cable news to explain it to the lay people. From there it gets accepted as the truth, the actual truth be damned.

    The best part of this is, no one asks the obvious question - who leaked the story? There are two parties deeply involved in the NHTSA investigation - the NHTSA and Toyota. The WSJ says their source is "someone familiar with the findings". No one is even considering that a representative of Toyota may be the source and that they have a lot of reasons to present a view of the story that puts them in the best light. Everyone runs with the WSJ's anonymous source like its a direct quote from Moses. If the actual NHTSA report comes out six months later with a lot more ambiguity, who cares?

    If you don't want to know how laws or sausages are made, you damn well don't want to know how news gets reported.

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2010, at 12:12 PM, baldheadeddork wrote:

    Edit: The links were broken because they picked up the bracket. Here are the links to my sources.

    Toyota statement about the cause of the Saylor crash: http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/document/LA_Times_questio...

    SDSD Incident Report on the Saylor crash: http://autos.aol.com/gallery/saylor-crash-report/#

    Picture of the Saylor Lexus ES350: http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/document/LA_Times_questio...

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2010, at 12:13 PM, baldheadeddork wrote:
  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2010, at 12:23 PM, TMFKris wrote:

    I think Toyota had a few choices in responding to the Bloomberg reporter: Tell the truth about its own investigation, lie to make the company look better, lie to pander to customers, refuse to comment and appear to be stonewalling.

    I hope it chose the first one. If its investigations are finding driver error to be the cause of "virtually all" of the accidents, it should say that. Not something wishy-washy like "Well, we've been doing some testing, but we hate to say, you know, anything that might reflect badly on our awesome customers. [or] We want to wait until we can sync it up with what US authorities say."

    Customers and investors can weigh Toyota's testing for what it's worth and weigh the government's when we know more about how many tests were run and what might cause the throttle/brake readings.

    The words the Toyota spokesperson was quoted as saying by Bloomberg were fairly innocuous, I think.

    Kris (TMF copyeditor)

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2010, at 12:50 PM, casinojohn wrote:

    By the way people drive here in Arizona, I would say: Yes, all of the accidents that occurred in these so-called defective Toyotas were due to driver error.

    The propaganda that the media spreads to all the weak-minded masses, aka Television-watchers, is completely justified with GM now being another government entity.

    Baaaah, baaaah....

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2010, at 2:16 PM, wishdom wrote:

    The simple question to be asked is what percentage of accidents among all the car makes are attributable to "sudden acceleration" compared to percent of the Toyota brand. If they are substantially the same, and if the cause in almost all cases in driver error, then Toyota is correct. However, if the Toyota brand percentage is abnormally high compared to the all manufacturer's percentage, then it should be determined what about Toyota cars, or drivers' actions/reactions in Toyota cars is causing the deviation. That is the important question. All the pandering and political posturing is sad circus to watch. Did I mention the Obamania(c) machine and BP?

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2010, at 4:39 PM, investisseuse wrote:

    I drove a hybrid for the first time recently and was startled to hear nothing when I accelerated, or braked. This is counterintuitive and focused me on the idea that you aren't dealing with a mechanical system anymore. I can easily imagine an incident where the gas got stuck-and I don't believe Toyota for a moment!

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2010, at 4:57 PM, zgriner wrote:

    When this whole thing hit, I really couldn't believe that Toyota was that incompetent. There are 2 scenarios that must be dealt with:

    1) Driver error where the driver presses on the accelerator meaning to hit the brakes. This is a phenomenon that is seen in parking lots and driveways, where people are switching back and forth between the accelerator and brake, and twisting their bodies at the same time. It's possible to lose one's spatial orientation and press the wrong the pedal. We've already seen this happen during hysterics.

    2) Mechanical/electronic failure. It seems that standing on the brake pedal does not stop the car, although I've always read that brakes are supposed to be able to do that.

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2010, at 5:10 PM, hctjito wrote:

    Apparently not many Fools are old enough to remember when CBS / 60 Minutes trashed Audi over an unintended acceleration allegation that ultimately turned out to be driver pedal error. True, Audi redesigned its pedal placement to be foolproof (sorry), but that did not prevent the market from trashing Audi for the next decade. What does scare me is that report of the California Highway Patrol Officer, presumably a professional driver of sorts, who in Lexus ES350 was unable to stop the car leading to multiple fatalities.

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2010, at 6:54 PM, mb1043 wrote:

    We should all beware of the Xenophobia that is spreading from DC every day.............

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 6:20 AM, baldheadeddork wrote:

    @htcjito

    I'm definitely (and regrettably) old enough to remember the Audi 5000 problems well.

    The 60 Minutes story used a modified car to demonstrate the problem, but it's dishonest to present that as the problem customers had. There was a design flaw on Audi 5000's equipped with automatic transmissions. The gas pedal and brake pedal were significantly closer than was typical, even compared to other Audi models, and they were at the same height. I test drove one of these in 1982, before the problem made the news, and I noticed how it felt like the accelerator and brake were one pedal unless I picked up my foot and moved it a couple of inches when going from one to the other.

    Long before the 60 Minutes story, the Audi 5000 was hugely overrepresented in reports of SUA and deaths. This was a very low volume car in the US at that time, and it had a proportionally huge number of reported SUA incidents and seven deaths. The only explanations for this is that something about the Audi makes it more vulnerable to SUA. If it was driver error alone, then the people who suffered SUA in the 5000 should have experienced it in other cars. That didn't happen.

    This is something we've seen with Toyota, too. The Camry and other Toyota models have been hugely overrepresented in SUA complaints going back to before 2006. At its peak Toyota had 18% of the US market share, but their cars accounted for over half of all SUA complaints over the last several years, even before the story broke.

    About Audi's reputation, it sucked before this even started. The Audi 100 and Fox from the 70's were two of the worst cars ever sold on the US market. The engines were very fragile and it wasn't much of an exaggeration to say you could feel a Fox rusting while you washed it.

    The 5000 was Audi's attempt to remake itself through class-leading design. It was a stunning sedan for its day. But the reliability problems were still much worse than Mercedes or BMW. Electronics in particular were horrible, and the turbo models had a bad habit of losing their head gaskets.

    Audi's post SUA program of zero-cost maintenance and guaranteeing used models (the first CPO program) was a response to its bad reliability history, too. SUA was just part of it.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 3:24 PM, infopackrat wrote:

    You're forgetting it's not just Toyota blaming the victims. Remember that guy in (I think it was) California? The cop directed to him saw the smoke, smelled the burnt rubber from the brakes, and the powers that be STILL thought it could be "driver error" because technicians couldn't reproduce the behavior under controlled conditions after the incident!

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 3:25 PM, fug57fug wrote:

    Anyone remember the Audi issue 20 years ago? 60 minutes claimed Audi's were supposedly accelerating wildly and uncontrollably for no reason?

    The Department of Transportation report released on this issue cited "user misapplication of gas pedal" as the source of the problem. Of course the report came out AFTER Audi lost $100's millions in market cap.

    Sorry but I find it more compelling that a pro-union administration used this issue to stump for their constituents to the detriment of a non-union company for political gain BEFORE determining exactly what the cause was.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 3:28 PM, FoolSolo wrote:

    Toyota should wait for the final tally before opening their mouths and pointing fingers. However, in the greater context I think we all know that this incident was blown out of proportion. There are dozens of recalls from all makes, and models, and many are quite serious, such as steering wheels coming off in your hands, brake failures, etc. The American mood at the time, along with congressmen looking for a stage to spew their nonsense found the Toyota incident a delightful opportunity to score some votes with their local constituents.

    After all is said and done, the damage has already been done and whether proven or otherwise, Toyota will have a tough time recouping the losses from this incident. Having owned Toyota, Audi, Ford, Chevy, Mazda and Honda, I know for fact that the Toyota was one of the best cars I have ever owned, followed by the Audi. The worst? Ford, followed closely by the Chevy, both of which almost got me killed because of known design flaws (Explorer with their faulty suspension, and Chevy with their locking rear brakes). Despite the accelerator issue, I would have no second thoughts about buying a Toyota right now if I was in the market for a new car. And in a couple of years when I look to get my daughter her first car, I'm sure Toyota will be in the top 2 or 3 on my list. With any luck, this debacle will help keep the price down a little bit to I can get an even better deal.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 3:52 PM, pbealtx wrote:

    i won't buy another lexus/again after being told my lexus corporate that the transmission going out on me ES300 at 75K as "normal wear and tear" and not covered by the warranty! i said i would tell everyone about this and they said, "go ahead!" so that's what i've done ever since. you'd think they'd at least have met me halfway on the repair bills. anyway, it just showed their hubris - the same thing that got cadillac in trouble years ago.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 4:34 PM, mgmlion wrote:

    John,

    You are another misguided idiot that has no concept of what your responsibility is when operating a motor vehicle. Wake up!! Don't you realize it is a dangerous weapon that each driver has the responsibility to educate themselves about how it works before they take it out on the road. Probably 75% of the drivers don't know what the transmission is and what it does (including you). There isn't one instance of unintended acceleration that could not have ended safely if the driver had simply put the gearshift into neutral, thereby disconnecting the engine from the drive train and allowing the driver to use the brakes normally. Even the California highway patrol officer who spent all his remaining minutes on his cell phone talking about his problem should have known what to to. Actually, for many years now, automobile dealers should have been required by law to make each customer view a 5-10 minute video about vehicle safety and what to do in an emergency then sign a release before taking possession of the vehicle from the dealer because a large majority of today's drivers are incompetent to get behind the wheel!!! They don't have the slightest idea what they are supposed to be in control of or haw to handle it. All driver license exams should include a video trainer which exposes the applicant to various hazardous situations and monitors their reactions including skids and run away acceleration among others. Had all these idiot drivers known what to do, all of the accidents could have been avoided no matter what the engine did. Let's get these incompetent idiots off our roads. I hope Toyota raises these points in court and beats the pants off all these idiots of that maybe the Federal Highway Transportation Commission will take action to enact rules to insure only drivers with the necessary abilities are operating vehicles.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 6:22 PM, Gary06 wrote:

    mgmlion,

    I agree. Shift to neutral . . . Or just turn off the ignition key. Duh!

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 6:26 PM, Kakabeka wrote:

    WELL SAID mgmlion!!

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 6:51 PM, esbtdb wrote:

    I THINK YOU ARE MAKING A LARGE ERROR. I DON'T CARE ABOUT ALL THE PR AND ASSOCIATED "MAKING PEOPLE FEEL GOOD STUFF." I CARE ABOUT THE PRODUCT.

    THE PRODUCT IS SUPERIOR. I NEVER THOUGHT I'D SAY SO BUT I HAVE NOW BEEN A TOYOTA OWNER FOR 11 YEARS. NEVER A SINGLE ISSUE. GREAT CAR, GREAT BRAND, WELL BUILT. I CAN'T SAY ENOUGH GOOD ABOUT IT.

    THAT'S WHY IT WAS AND WILL AGAIN BE THE WORLDS BEST SELLING CAR COMPANY.

    ERIC BROIDA

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 7:48 PM, mikempp wrote:

    I think toyota hit the nail on the head; they cater to the lower intelligence people. People easy to fool (or shall I say fools). toyota's are junk, always have been. I would guess all a payouts to consumer reports and car magazines and the American consumer believes anything that is printed. If you follow the reports of how bad the American car companies are on AOL comments, usually you can trace the email address right back to a toyota dealer. I had a toyota, every week a new problem, parts and labor to fix ridiculous. I think toyota hit the nail on the head; they cater to the lower intelligence people, and it shows how smart toyota is to remind its customers they are too smart.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 7:50 PM, mikempp wrote:

    only idoits can defend toyota. junk cars, junk management, junk customers

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 8:04 PM, mikempp wrote:

    you can only get away with telling your customers they are stupid, if they truely are stupid...

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 9:42 PM, Bloefeld wrote:

    This is yet again another BS government scam designed to reinforce the market position of GM.

    Those of you who are too young do not recall the same claims of runaway acceleration that ruined the reputation of Audi. That case like this was a scam. There was never proof that Audi's were subject to runaway acceleration. However a few months after the damage was done to Audi it came out that it was always nothing but driver error.

    What could possibly motivate the owners of GM to slime Toyota?

    Too much government power being misused could be the motivation of this entire scam.

    In reality Toyota has for the past 30 years produced vastly better cars than any other maker, the result is that it is now the number one car maker in the world. Mike 526 sounds like a bit of a goof when he trashes a company that has started with a giant disadvantage and by continually improving the quality of its product has become so large that it should have been the buyer of GM and not the idiot Government.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 9:57 PM, mikempp wrote:

    in reality toyotas are junk, add to the fact that they cheat the american people out of tax money by pricing parts so high they never show a profit in the usa, hence send all the profits back to japan. only people that defend toyota usually make their money off of selling the trash to the american consumer... too bad so many ameicans can't see it...

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 10:01 PM, mikempp wrote:

    What’s even funnier is the perceived better quality of Toyotas, fact is most of their engineering is done by General Motors, but talk to the engineers that service them, they always want to get it made cheaper/less quality. But some goofs fall for it

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2010, at 8:23 AM, jwsills wrote:

    I find a great deal of sick humor in many of the above posts, in that presumably smart people don't understand "driver error". A large part of this thought process is our willingness to always blame "the other guy" (Toyota), since "It can't be my fault."

    A large part of both the Government response and Toyotas orginial response is due to our broken legal system. 1-800-LET US SUE.

    To my knowledge, all of the faulty Toyotas were made in the same plant, same employees and same parts. Wouldn't you think that if Toyota was at fault there would have been many times more accidents?

    Anyone who does not know that shifting to netural or turning off the engine would solve the problem, should not be driving. Or in the case of the one driver in CA who thought that "the car would flip over if he put it in netural". Yeah, right!

    The bottom line is simply that these NEWS stories simply point out how many totally ignorant drivers are behind the wheel. But hey, it wasn't my fault!!!

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2010, at 11:48 AM, baldheadeddork wrote:

    @fug57fug, @Bloefield

    You're both flat-out wrong. There was a design fault with the Audi 5000, the pedals were placed substantially closer together than normal and they were on the same plane. This made it possible to depress the gas at the same time you were applying the brakes, and because of the difference in pedal travel you could hit full throttle before bottoming the brake.

    I heard an interview this week with a former drivetrain engineer for VW who worked on the 5000 (@ Autoline After Hours, if you want to listen) and he said the pedals were too close because Audis longitudinal drivertrain layout mandated a much smaller pedal box.

    This was not a hoax. It was a design fault. Audi admitted the problem and they fixed it.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2010, at 12:29 PM, baldheadeddork wrote:

    @jwsills

    Your knowledge that all of the affected Toyotas were made at the same plant is wrong. US Models affected by the accelerator recall alone include the Camry, Corolla, RAV4, and the Highlander. Those are made in plants in the US, Canada, and Mexico. They all use parts of the same design, but the parts themselves are different. And that doesn't include the gas pedal recalls in Japan, Europe and elsewhere.

    You're equally ignorant about transmissions on new cars. Most new cars with automatic transmissions, and all of the affected Toyotas, have electronically controlled transmissions. When you put one of these cars in gear, you're only opening or closing a switch. Some car makers program their controllers to ignore a shift command if it could damage the drivetrain, which would include shifting into neutral when the engine is running WFO under load.

    Turning off the engine is not recommended by anyone because you'll lose brake boost and risk locking the steering. On the Toyota's with push-button start, you have to depress the button for ten seconds straight before the engine will stop. Like the transmission override, this is a feature intended to prevent an accidental bump of the button or shift lever damaging the car or causing a dangerous situation.

    You also make the arrogant mistake of presuming that this happens in a nice, quiet environment where you're expecting something to go wrong. The audiotape of the 911 call of the Saylor crash should be required listening for everyone who thinks they're too smart to have this happen to them. This was someone who had extensive driver training and a job that required being able to keep your cool under stress, yet he got behind the curve in just a couple of seconds and after that he was unable to regain control.

    Think you could do better in heavy, fast-moving traffic? I bet you couldn't.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2010, at 1:16 PM, thatmulk wrote:

    I had an experience with a rented hundai large sedan where the brake went too far down and the

    accelerator was depressed by my wide boot. I managed to stop without crashing. I pumped the brake many times until the brake pedal stopped at higher position and returned the car to the rental agency. They examined the car and said it was OK.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2010, at 3:56 PM, zxdfmlp wrote:

    If they are confident that it is true, then they should defend themselves. Go ahead and say the truth, that their investigations find most of the results to be due to driver mistakes. They should be able to defend their statements as true, naturally. But they should not just sit there and be a punching bag.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2010, at 6:04 PM, LetsBhonest wrote:

    Where is the objectivity here? Quoting a he said she said shows just how realible this article really is. Just like the Congressional hearings, or should I say a witch hunt, that were directed to enhance Government Motors (oops, I mean General Motors) sales there is no substance to prove these accusations. If time would have been taken to really research this issue further, it would have been discovered that Toyota is not releasing its discoveries until all the other agencies have an opportunity to formulate their own findings. I'm shocked after the debacle displayed by Congress, that only allowed one side to make a case even with witness testimony that lacked credibility, more slander is being tossed Toyota's direction. If you are looking for a real story you need to review the sources that track consumer complaints and recalls, then you'll find how Toyota truly outshines the competition. Please also research the sales figures a bit more, the only area keeping Toyota from the top are with (business/government) fleet sales. If only personal consumer sales are recognized, Toyota is #1. Yes, you overreacted in a big way.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2010, at 6:12 PM, LetsBhonest wrote:

    And for the people who cannot get over the fact that Toyota is a Japanese owned company, a little more education won't hurt you either. A recent report in Cars.com shows more Toyota models are "American made" than GM or Ford in the top 10 list. So, tell me which Auto Manufacturer is really investing more in America's economy? I hope the answer is apparent.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2010, at 9:01 PM, wanaki wrote:

    Perhaps Toyota is correct in insinuating that Toyota owners are morons. When you test drive a car , before buying it , there are some basic things you should look for. 1) Is the gas pedal on the right ? 2)Is the brake pedal in the middle ? 3) Are my shoes too wide to push only one pedal at a time ? Does the drivers side floor have a hook near the seat , used to anchor the factory floor mat with the metal grommet ? Does the floor mat also have 3/4" long spikes on the underside to prevent it from sliding around ? If the answer to any of these questions is no , and you still buy the car , then you probably are a moron. Maybe even more off than on.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2010, at 11:40 AM, MNU34 wrote:

    It was clear from the very beginning that this issue was a just a media hype created to protect Ford and GM

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2010, at 6:49 PM, chapramsey wrote:

    Remember the guy in California who went out of control...was on his cell phone with CHP?

    Let's see, according to him he had *simultaneous* failures of 1) the gas pedal, 2) the brake, 3) the emerg brake, 4) the ignition switch. What are the odds?

    He should go to jail....

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2010, at 11:38 AM, packerbacker77 wrote:

    Since the car is not at fault, why is it that the only cars having this acceleration problem are made by Toyota?

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2010, at 10:18 AM, highwatermark wrote:

    All car manufacturers have recalls. Toyota is far from the worst. I'm not sure who is more idiotic - the drivers that can't tell the gas pedal from the brake, or the media that dogpiles on the car company that builds the car that the idiots drive.

    By all means, by your Chrysler or GM car because its more "reliable" or "safer". Hopefully it will drive the price of Toyota's down a little more. And then maybe I can get a Toyota at a Hyundai price. And in 5 years when we both trade in our vehicles for new ones, guess which will be worth more?

    And best of all, this media feeding frenzy has driven the stock back down to 2005 prices...

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2010, at 12:45 PM, Patricia013 wrote:

    I've owned Toyotas since 1978 - the present one is now 15 years old (Lexus ES350) and still going strong. Still wouldn't own anything else. What I don't like about Toyota is their management. They stuck big foot in big mouth this time and are too stupid in downright humanity to realize it! Wake up guys! If there's a problem, find it and fix it! If you don't know what to say or how to speak hire a PR agent to do it for you.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2010, at 5:18 AM, HoratioGonzales wrote:

    Toyota put their topman in the hotseat, held their hands up & admitted liability. The reaction in the media that I see is a lot of high profile figures & newsrooms in the US jumping on the bandwagon & beating down on Toyota while trumpeting the US car brands.

    A lot about these Toyota recall issues smacks of US protectionism doing it's thing on the back of Toyota's admission of liability in my opinion.

    Don't kick a man when he's down, it's just not on.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2010, at 10:04 AM, 401kok wrote:

    Audi 5000. Remember? Almost took Audi completely out of the US market. Reason: claims of unintended acceleration. Verdict: no problem ever found with the cars. Explanation: accelerator pedal and brake pedal closer to one another than on domestic manufacturers cars and a few drivers were pressing on both simultaneously in panic situations.

    I certainly admit todays cars are much more complicated and with no direct connection from accelerator pedal to throttle by cable there is always a greater risk (in my mind at least) of something malfunctioning. I have no problem with Toyota simply stating that at this point it looks like most accidents have been driver error rather than automobile system malfunction. Is fact not fact? May be a PR blunder maybe not. In my opinion, a huge problem in this country/culture is that the great majority of people seem to want to blame somebody else even when they are at fault. So now we jump all over Toyota for even "thinking" some of us Americans could make a mistake in our operation of a motor vehicle during a panic situation. The journalistic community should strive to do better but sadly (at times) they are just a reflection of all of us.

    On a lighter note, years ago as a broke, newly married, early twenty-something, I was able to purchase a 1985 Audi 5000 with the window sticker of 30K+ in the glove box. I paid just over $2000.00. That was an awesome car, inline 5 cylinder w/turbo. I still miss it.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2010, at 1:51 PM, frank3773 wrote:

    Thank you baldheadeddork for rational, rant-free, name-calling-free discussion. Problem as I see it is so many who immediately form opinion and spout off same before knowing enough facts - as a retired driving instructor my first reaction, when the Toyota sudden-unintended-acceleration (SUA) was publicized, was 'just shift to neutral, drive to side of road and stop normally. Never turn ignition key off until stopped (you lose power steering and power brake.)' I wasn't aware that some cars are programmed to not allow shifting to neutral - btw, Baldheaded, what is "WFO"? (There are lots of acronyms in use on these comment posts, most of which I can decipher...as former autoshop teacher I know "WOT" but "WFO" has me stumped - slow learner here, most lessons learned the hard way, in fact the 'shift-to neutral' lesson I only learned 30 years into my driving instructon career when my boss pointed out that I could have prevented my student driver hitting that sign pole by keeping one hand on gearshift lever at all times (my instructor's-side brake couldn't stop us when my student didn't straighten out after a right turn,) But, - lesson learned, even if 'the hard way...'

    So, doesn't surprise me there's so much misinformation out there - for example, '...turn off ignition key, duh'... For my part, I concluded long ago, there'e no such thing as "common sense" - most stuff has to be taught/told/learned... - just try backing out a screw that has a left-hand thread you didn't know about...(just one example/life's lessons).

    What does surprise me: am I the only one who's thought of the following suggestion?: "The act of 'shifting to neutral while in motion' could/should be practiced by every driver occasionally, in fact could be part of regular driving instruction, and in fact, could be part of every DMV driving test." It would take only a few seconds to point out the procedure to a student driver - a real 'panic situation' is not the time to be trying to figure out what to do in any emergency. Granted most dirvers will never experience "SUA", but then most will never experience life being saved by seat belts or air bags...

    BTW, Bald, you're right, as you and I both have said, a 'real' emergency is not the time to be dealing with any 'new' unknown - why don't we ALL take a few seconds to try a 'shift to neutral' practice lesson the next time we're driving down a quiet street with no traffic - If your car can't be shifted to neutral, now would be the best time to find out, no? And if 'shift to neutral' could be a simple 'life saver' wouldn't it be worth practicing a few times, just in case?

    Anyway just a couple suggestions - with all the ranting in the past few months it's hard to believe no one else has mentioned any 'training requirement' solution. (mgmlion above came close)

    BTW#2: Don't know why Toyota rolled over so easily ($16 million fine) - We bought new(2008) Camry, Sept 07; Toyota sent us recall info (floor mat problem) within 10 weeks (we don't have the special floor mat, so ignored the recall). Then earlier this year, in shop for unrelated work, they did the accellerator recall anyway - including cutting gas pedal shorter (not sure about what else). Have never had anything but excellent treatment. Do have a couple other complaints about the car, but nothing regarding unintended accelleration. Am not a Toyota cheerleader (actually Ford/Chevy kind of guy but my son's best friend is Toyota dealer, sooo....) This our first Toyota, and it's excellent & fun to drive. Next car?? - who knows...

    o.k. 'nuff ... oh, wait, there's more!! poster 401KOK: journalistic community?? - don't forget we all have an agenda - theirs is 'selling their product', actual truth/reality comes second.

    BTW#3 I have experienced my size 12 pressing both pedals simultaneously too. Proves what?? Accept responsibility instead of pointing finger (reminds me of '1 finger pointing equals 3 fingers pointing back at the pointer...)

    o.k. 'nuff - too many cans of worms opened above - some worthwhile, some just... never mind, now i'm just ranting..........

    Frank

  • Report this Comment On August 11, 2010, at 4:35 PM, MNU34 wrote:

    Now there is another study out that basically says that the dirvers were at fault in the vast majority of the cases. At least in all ases where the reason could be clearly identified.

    All in all a great campaign by US auto, white house and US media.

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