Over the last few years, Toyota USA has had to deal with quite a bit of bad press regarding its vehicles malfunction during operation, particularly in regards to its accelerator. The automotive industry calls this a Sudden Unintended Acceleration or SUA. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration) defines SUA as “the unintended, unexpected, uncontrolled acceleration of a vehicle, often accompanied by an apparent loss of braking effectiveness.” SUA is not limited to mechanical or electrical error, but includes other problems like driver error or a combination of these factors. Historically, there has been a number of reports dating back to the 1980s with such claims of unintended acceleration including cars from other manufacturers like the Honda Accord and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
So, why are there so many reports of Toyota cars with unintended accelerations? Could it be that one of the largest auto manufacturers in the world has continually overlooked this problem in their design and engineering? What I do know is that they have just paid USD 16 Million to Orange County on settlements for the unintended acceleration lawsuits. So what does that say about Toyota?
Here’s a timeline of recalls in relation to unintended acceleration reports (2007-2011):
Sep 26, 2007 – US: 55,000 Camry and ES 350 cars in “all-weather” floor mat recall
Nov 02, 2009 – US: 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles again recalled due to floor mat problem, this time for all driver’s side mats
Nov 26, 2009 – US: floor mat recall amended to include brake override and increased to 4.2 million vehicles
Jan 21, 2010 – US: 2.3 million Toyota vehicles recalled due to faulty accelerator pedals (of those, 2.1 million already involved in floor mat recall)
Jan 27, 2010 – US: 1.1 million Toyotas added to amended floor mat recall
Jan 29, 2010 – Europe, China: 1.8 million Toyotas added to faulty accelerator pedal recall
Feb 08, 2010 – Worldwide: 436,000 hybrid vehicles in brake recall following 200 reports of Prius brake glitches
Feb 08, 2010 – US: 7,300 MY 2010 Camry vehicles recalled over potential brake tube problems
February 8, 2011 – US: NASA and NHTSA inquiry reveals that there were no electronic faults in Toyota cars that would have caused acceleration issues. However, accelerator pedal entrapments remains a problem
February 22, 2011 – US: Toyota recalls an additional 2.17 million vehicles for gas pedals that become trapped on floor hardware
Gas pedal stuck on floor mat
The SUA problems started back in 2007, and most were caused by flooring hardware. There were also problems with brake systems in some hybrid cars, and brake tube problems in 2010 Camrys. Fast forward four years later to 2011, and we are still looking at the same problems. So, I’m kinda siding with the consumers on this one. Toyota is not learning from its mistakes and continues to design faulty products. We’re not even talking about the other safety recalls (not included above), which entail power window and pump problems in 2012 that forced the company to recall over 10 million vehicles worldwide. Even back in 2003, when the idea of hybrid cars was still somewhat new, I recall reading an article about how every dash light on a Prius would light up when it started raining. Did you really forget to install rubber gaskets around electronic components, Toyota?
A few years ago, Toyota started a new ad campaign with the catchphrase “Moving Forward.” After seeing it on TV several times, I wasn’t not sure they’ve thought that one through, given that their cars do move forward, quite literally and unintentionally. Again, bad press. I’ve never personally been in any car that accelerated on its own but I did drive a 2007 Toyota Camry LE last year–a short 15-mile trip back and forth to the airport–and I must say that it’s not a driver’s car. Compared to a similar year Honda Accord (a class-comparable car), The Accord’s accelerator, steering, and braking responses were significantly better than the Camry’s. Travelling at 60-70 mph (100-112 kph) felt like parts of the car were gonna fly off the car at any moment, not to mention the super soft suspensions that made me feel like I was riding on a theme park ride (poor stability). Granted that this Camry I drove was a few years old and it could have been an isolated case, but I came out of that car swearing never to buy a Camry.
Toyota’s SUA adventures did not stop in 2011, but there had never previously been (at least to my knowledge) a recorded video of an SUA incident, until now. A late-model Toyota Highlander crashed into a house, twice, and then spun out of control as the driver attempted to reverse out of the driveway. The alleged SUA incident totaled the Highlander and another car sitting inside the garage, along with major damages to the house and another car. The owner of the house had a security camera that recorded the whole incident. Toyota inspected the car and claimed that all of the Highlander’s components were working to specification. Hit up the video link and see for yourself.
My take on the incident: the driver unintentionally stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal. What’s fishy about the car is how the driver was able to shift between drive and reverse without hitting her brakes. What do you think?
So, what is Toyota’s legacy? Recalls? Problems? Unintended accelerations? What we know is that Toyota has lost the public consumer trust. Toyota needs to work on addressing its most common problem if they want to continue to lead the automotive industry. Most European cars have a gas override when the brake pedal is pressed. I think that’s a good place to start. Having a safety override like that would at least give drivers a chance to save themselves and stop the car in the event of a SUA arising from mechanical or electrical problems. Don’t get me wrong, Toyota has contributed significantly to the automotive industry for decades and we are all thankful for that. But no other car manufacturer has had so many issues and recalls as Toyota. It’s time they shape up. And for those who can’t determine which pedal is gas and which is brake, they should have their driving licenses revoked and be forced to retake the test plus a defensive driving course.
Various Google image files
floor mat stuck – pickupfiles.com
Toyota logo – toyota.com
This article was happily contributed by:
Whether it’s gadgets, cars, politics, or philosophy, Anthony has always had an opinion about everything. Anthony has a problem restraining himself from a good discussion. Fortunately for him, the Internet is a playground for that. When he is not looking up how-tos on Google, he’s either busy tweaking his cars and gadgets or saturating himself in a good TV show. Anthony dreams of going to space one day, if his love for greasy burgers doesn’t kill him first.