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EARLY TESTS PIN TOYOTA ACCIDENTS ON DRIVERS

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
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The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that the throttles were wide open and the brakes weren’t engaged at the time of the crash.
driver error

According to the Wall Street 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. The findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) involve a sample of the reports in which a driver of a Toyota vehicle said the brakes were depressed but failed to stop the car from accelerating and ultimately crashing.

The findings appear to support Toyota’s position that sudden-acceleration reports involving its vehicles weren’t caused by electronic glitches in computer-controlled throttle systems, as some safety advocates and plaintiffs’ attorneys have alleged.

The data recorders analyzed by NHTSA were selected by the agency, not Toyota, based on complaints the drivers had filed with the government. Toyota hasn’t been involved in interpreting the data.

WHY THE TOYOTA RECALL BACKLASH IS OVERBLOWN

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
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By James B. Meigs, Editor-in-Chief, Popular Mechanics

To judge by press accounts and statements from government officials, those innocuous-looking Toyota sedans and SUVs in millions of American driveways are somehow kin to the homicidal ’58 Plymouth Fury in the Stephen King novel “Christine”—haunted by technological poltergeists and prone to fits of mechanical mayhem. In the midst of three major recalls, Toyota has been hammered by daily newspaper and TV pieces suggesting it has been slow to address safety problems. U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood announced that anyone who owns one of the recalled vehicles should “stop driving it.” (He quickly backpedaled on that pronouncement, but warned, “We’re not finished with Toyota.”) Displaying a previously undisclosed concern for the safety of American owners of foreign-badged automobiles, the UAW quickly piled on. And now, Toyota’s North American president Yoshi Inaba must submit to ritual humiliation at the hands of the U.S. Congress in a hearing on Wednesday.

 

Does Toyota—or any car company—deserve this? Well, if they are knowingly selling an unsafe car, yes. But is that what’s going on here? Not so fast. There’s no question that unintended acceleration  is a serious problem that needs to be fixed. But a little perspective is in order. As Popular Mechanics automotive editor Larry Webster has pointed out, every major carmaker receives occasional reports of sudden unintended acceleration (SUA). In the last decade, the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency logged some 24,000 SUA complaints. Less than 50 of these red flags were investigated. Why so few? The main reason is the nebulous nature of SUA. Often the problem occurs once, never to happen again. It’s tough to fix a defect that can’t be replicated. And then there’s the driver variable. As awful as this is to think about, it’s been shown that sometimes drivers simply mix up which pedal they’re pushing. In the late 1980s, the Audi 5000 was the target of a barrage of SUA allegations, lawsuits and press reports (including a notorious “60 Minutes” episode that was later discredited). Then, as now, there were accusations that mysterious electronic gremlins somehow took over the car. In the end, NHTSA concluded that driver error was the only likely explanation for the incidents.

But many safety concerns do have validity, and every carmaker has conducted numerous recalls involving critical safety features of their vehicles—brakes, steering, airbags, seat belts, and more. Still, the fact that some safety problems don’t emerge until cars have been on the road for months or years is not a sign that automakers are criminally cavalier about safety. Quite the opposite. The safety issues that lead to recalls generally occur in very small numbers, often barely rising above statistical noise. Toyota’s unintended acceleration problem, for instance, involved a handful of cases in literally billions of miles of driving.

As those cases come to light, it is necessary for carmakers to take action, and it is natural for consumers to be concerned. But the intensity of the backlash against Toyota is almost unprecedented. Here’s what is being missed in most of the coverage of the issue: All cars are inherently dangerous. They propel their fragile human cargo at high speeds over unpredictable terrain. They combine thousands of parts that need to interact flawlessly—in environments ranging from Death Valley heat to Fairbanks cold—in order to maintain safe operation. Their radiators contain scalding fluids; their batteries are full of toxic acid; and their gas tanks hold explosive power equivalent to more than 100 sticks of TNT. And, by all accounts, Americans drive those cars faster than ever, on increasingly congested roadways.

Nonetheless, driving gets safer every year. Fatalities per mile driven have fallen more than 25 percent since 1994, in part because cars themselves are safer. Compared to those of 20 years ago, the typical vehicle today has better brakes, better steering and more (not to mention smarter) airbags. Electronic stability-control systems have helped prevent countless accidents. Still, even the best cars are far from perfect. And much of the outrage over Toyota’s troubles seems based on the unrealistic expectation that cars should be infallible. That’s an unattainable goal; even well-designed components can wear out and fail in unexpected ways. Recalls are not a sign that carmakers are indifferent to the safety of their customers. On the contrary, recalls are part of the process by which automakers address safety or reliability issues that are often fairly subtle.

So why did Toyota’s safety issues become front-page news when similar recalls by other automakers barely made the business pages? One is the scary nature of unintended acceleration itself, which taps into our almost instinctual fear that our machines will suddenly turn on us (HAL, anyone?). Another was the horrific 911 call from the passenger of a Lexus that crashed in Santee, Calif., in August of last year. And then there was timing. Toyota responded first to the problem of shifting floor mats (the likely culprit in the Santee crash), and only later to the much more subtle issue of accelerator pedals that are slow to return to idle. Those are two unrelated problems that needed to be addressed separately. Perhaps in a different climate, Toyota could have convinced the public that the accelerator pedal recall was an example of extreme diligence in pursuit of safety. Instead, the second recall struck the public as an admission of culpability—just another shoe dropping in a much larger scandal.

By the time conversation got around to disconcerting glitches in the antilock brake system on Toyota’s high-tech Prius hybrid, there was no containing the outrage. (The fact is, most hybrids exhibit slightly twitchy braking as they try to manage the switchover from the electrical braking that recharges the batteries to the hydraulic braking needed for more aggressive stops. Conditions that engage the antilock braking system only complicate that challenge.) Without the previous incidents, news that Toyota was making a small change in its Prius braking software would have been a non-story. Instead, it completed the trifecta of bad news that has made this Toyota’s annus horribilis.

Crisis managers will no doubt study Toyota’s handling of this issue, looking for lessons in avoiding that company’s predicament. After all, it took years for Audi’s sales to rebound after that company’s trip through the SUA gauntlet. Still, some good did come of Audi’s experience: Today all cars have interlock systems that make it impossible for drivers to move the shift lever out of park unless their foot is on the brake (thus preventing them from shifting into gear while accidentally flooring the accelerator). One likely outcome of the Toyota episode will be a requirement for a similar interlock that automatically disengages the throttle whenever the driver steps on the brake. And that would help make all cars just one, tiny increment safer than before.

TOYOTA IS CONFIDENT AND SAYS RECALL SOLUTIONS GOING WELL

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
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Toyota is Confident in Recall Soutions and reports that the repair campaign is going well at the Dealer level.
 
Toyota’s recall for Prius brakes is in response to some Prius and Lexus HS250 owners experiencing inconsistent brake feel on rough road surfaces such as potholes.
 
This recall will allow dealers to perform a anti-lock brake software update on cars sold prior to the running production change made recently … and Toyota Dealers have already started this process. Toyota will begin mailing notification letters to Prius owners this week and HS250 owners within the next few weeks.
 
Toyota engineers have developed a solution to eliminate the sticking accelerator pedal on affected models.  Toyota states they have complete confidence in the solution.
 
The solution is …
• effective,
• simple,
• and lasts the life of the vehicle. 
 
All Toyota dealers nationwide … have received the parts, tools and training they need … and have begun repairing the vehicles involved.
The repair can be completed at Toyota dealerships in about 30 minutes … depending on the dealers’ work flow.
 
Toyota officials state that the most important thing now … is to fix the cars already on the road.
We’re doing everything we can to make this as trouble-free as possible … and will work day and night with our dealers to make this happen.
 
If a customer experiences any issues with their accelerator pedal … we’re asking them to please contact their dealer immediately, officials say.
 
Toyota Dealers are the best dealers in the country… and they’re proving it by providing extraordinary service and care for the customers.
Dealers nationwide are going the extra mile for Customer Service…Some are staying open 24 hours a day … seven days a week … and a few are even using remote facilities dedicated to repairing vehicles. These efforts are paying off. In only a few days … dealers have reinforced the accelerator pedal on more than 220,000 vehicles …and are now running at a pace of more than 50,000 units a day. 
 
Toyota stands behind Owners and their vehicles. Some customers are very concerned, some customers are upset…both reactions are understandable.
However … what’s been most surprising according to company officials, is the amount of support being received from so many owners.
 
They’ve put their trust and faith in Toyota … and we’re doing everything in our power …to prove to them …that their trust has not been misplaced, Toyota says…

TOYOTA QUALITY…WHAT NOBODY’S SAYING!

Saturday, February 6th, 2010
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Toyota Quality Is Legendary. Is Toyota Quality slipping? The attached shows how few recalls Toyota has had in the last 20 years compared to the Big 3.  All of this was done while surpassing them in Sales. People Need To See This!…Share This Information!

toyota scoreboard

RUSH LIMBAUGH CALLER STEAMED OVER TOYOTA RECALL COVERAGE

Saturday, January 30th, 2010
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A Caller to Open Line Friday, January 29, 2010 talks with Rush Limbaugh and he is steamed over the recall coverage and discusses the  possible smear factor against Toyota that could be in play…Never Let A Good Crisis Go To Waste!GM AND TOYOTA

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT
 
RUSH: Marion, Illinois, John, you’re next, Open Line Friday.  Hello.CALLER:  Mr. Rush, mega dittos from southern Illinois.RUSH:  Thank you, sir.CALLER:  It’s a pleasure to talk with you.  I don’t know if you’ve talked about the Toyota issue very much, but I read an article in the Wall Street Journal of where the Obama administration had talked with Toyota and they had put the onus on Toyota to do something about this (quote, unquote) “problem” with the gas pedal sticking and all that good stuff that’s going on.  I sold Toyota for the last six years prior.  I’m not selling anymore.  I know several people in the business, including service managers that have worked on them for years.  I’ve never had one customer complain.  I’ve never seen it.  The service manager said that it’s impossible for them to go in and recreate the situation that’s causing the gas pedal to stick.

RUSH:  Well, wait a minute, now.  There is a recall, isn’t there?

CALLER:  Well, Toyota is recalling them to change them, and the only reason they’re doing that is to preempt the government from doing more.  Now, I know I’m not a Toyota executive, but I worked in Toyota and I know how they work, and they want to be aboveboard no matter what’s going on. They want to have the best attitude and look the best they can to their customers by saying, “Okay, we don’t even know if there’s really a major problem but we’re going to recall them.”

RUSH:  Well, I think Obama Motor Company’s also exploiting this.

CALLER:  Very much so.

RUSH:  In the midst of this, they’re offering potential customers a $1,000 rebate if they’d get rid of their Toyota and come buy an Obamamobile.

CALLER:  That’s exactly right.  That goes to my main point: You know, this Government Motors that we own now still can’t sell cars. They’re still losing major money because they’re bending over backwards for the unions.  They’re crying about jobs not being created, yet they’re trying their best to cause Toyota to lose jobs in the United States, and then they just happened to have all these commercials ready to go for national television saying, “Well, you bring your Toyota in to us and we’ll give you an extra thousand dollars for it.”  Don’t tell me that this is not planned out and that Obama didn’t know. He knows exactly what he’s doing, and this is just another nail in the coffin, hopefully, in 2012 when he runs again, and people have enough of this and they’re just sick of it.  It just infuriated me.

RUSH:  I can tell.  I can hear it. I can hear the infuriation in your voice.  I can hear it.  I’m trained that way and I can tell that you’re angry.  I can also see that Honda is going to recall 640,000 cars.  I don’t know what the reason for it is. I’ll find out.  But your theory is it would be to keep Obama off their back.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Here’s the Honda story on the recall of 646,000 cars. It’s the Honda Fit. There are 140,000 of them in the United States. “The Fit is Honda’s best-selling model in Japan. Honda said the recall was to fix a defective master switch, which could cause water to enter the power window switch and in some cases cause a fire. There were three reported cases of fires due to the defect, two in the United States and one in South Africa…”

 

 

 

 
 
END TRANSCRIPT

NEW TOYOTA RECALL WEBSITE AIDS CONSUMERS

Friday, January 29th, 2010
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A new website dedicated to providing update information about the most recent Toyota recall has united Toyota owners from all over the country who are looking for answers to many of their questions. toyota-floor-mat-recall-2-copy

 With millions of Toyota vehicles recently recalled, Toyota owners are turning to this website to find Toyota recall update answers to their questions and express their feelings and opinions with fellow consumers.

The dedicated Toyota recall website, http://www.toyotarecall.org, is an independent, consumer to consumer website that is not affiliated with Toyota or the government. It was launched as a way to collect the massive amount of questions and answers that exist online and bring it all to one simple destination for consumers.

The website provides an outlet for Toyota owners through various forums through which consumers can share their comments, opinions and experiences. Current forums being discussed now include:

One of the most active areas of the Toyota recall update website is the Q&A section where an outpouring of emotions and frustration has been seen.

One consumer wrote in, “Me and my family’s lives are not worth it. In the interest of public safety, none of these cars should even be on the road. The question is whether Toyota is going to do the right thing and allow people out of their contract or is it still going to stonewall everyone and claim that they’re going to work it out.”

Another consumer posed the question, “What is a consumer to do when the dealerships tells me that a letter will be sent out sometime next week/next month to address this problem? Do we keep driving this death trap?”

The website demonstrates visible anger and frustration on the parts of millions of Toyota owners.  Toyota owners who would like to share any information they have received can take part in the online forums by visiting http://www.toyotarecall.org/

Consumers who would like information from Toyota directly can call the official Toyota Customer Care phone number at 1-800-331-4331.