Toyota And Lexus Vehicles Are Unsafe

4 01 2010

By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

All Toyota-produced vehicles sold in the U.S. today—including Toyota cars and trucks, and Lexus automobiles—are unsafe.  It will take years before new models roll off the company’s assembly lines that are completely safe.  Also, millions of Toyota vehicles are on American roads already that are unsafe to drive.  Any recent-vintage Toyota product, model years 2002[2] and later, potentially can turn into a runaway vehicle at a moment’s notice.  Driving one or being a passenger is like playing Russian roulette.  Query whether Americans, especially young families with small children, will trust their lives to Toyota?

Tragically and irresponsibly, the company has lied for years and it is lying now.  First, Toyota claimed it was a floor mat problem.  Next, the problems were related to the accelerator pedal[3]; and on and on the company’s lies go.  Toyota has had 10 years to investigate these issues, and determine and implement solutions, but its management has lied repeatedly and it is still doing it.  The runaway vehicle safety problems, which are confronting the giant automaker, are of a magnitude equal to or greater than those that brought down the storied Firestone tire brand, and the same thing may happen to Toyota.  Every American needs to read about runaway Toyota-produced vehicles.  The facts are sobering.

After the sudden-acceleration problems surfaced in Toyota and Lexus vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said “more motorists have died in Toyota vehicles associated with sudden acceleration in the last decade than in cars made by all other manufacturers combined.”[4] Consumer advocate Ralph Nader’s trail-blazing and Herculean efforts helped launch the automobile safety movement.  His speeches and writings on behalf of Americans (see, e.g., “Unsafe at Any Speed”) helped expose and remedy auto safety defects.  Today he believes: “[The NHTSA] is a broken agency that has to be rebuilt.”[5]

The Los Angeles Times’ fine investigative reporters have been shining light into the dark recesses of Toyota—notwithstanding the company’s massive cover-up that has spanned a decade so far.[6] Rather than attempt to distill the wisdom contained in the Times’ articles, the links to the most recent ones are set forth below.  I encourage you to read them carefully now and in the future, especially if you are a current Toyota or Lexus owner, or someone who may be considering the purchase of such vehicles in the future.  The life you save may be your own, or that of a friend or loved one, or even a total stranger who gets killed or injured by these vehicles.

The Times’ brilliant—and hopefully prize-winning—team members deserve enormous public praise and professional recognition by their peers for the courage and talent that they have exhibited consistently in ferreting out the facts and writing about these critical issues.  The newspaper’s editors must be congratulated too, for having the guts to encourage and support the “Times Investigation.”  One can barely imagine the staggering political, financial and other pressures that are being applied by Toyota to its critics in the media, in government, and in the private sector, as the company perpetuates its lies and massive cover-up[7]—despite the risks to Americans each and every day.[8]

  • “Toyota found to keep tight lid on potential safety problems,” by Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian (December 23, 2009)[9]
  • “Study: Toyota received most complaints about sudden acceleration,” by Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian (December 8, 2009)[10]
  • “Toyota’s acceleration issue,” editorial by the Los Angeles Times (December 5, 2009)[11]
  • “Report inconclusive on floor mat’s role in fatal Toyota crash,” by Ralph Vartabedian and Ken Bensinger (December 5, 2009)[12]
  • “Toyota vehicles in another federal safety probe,” by Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian (December 5, 2009)[13]
  • “Data point to Toyota’s throttles, not floor mats,” by Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian (November 29, 2009)[14]
  • “Toyota to fix ‘very dangerous’ gas pedal defects,” by Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian (November 26, 2009)[15]
  • “Recall another blow to Toyota’s reputation,” by Martin Zimmerman (November 26, 2009)[16]
  • “Runaway Toyota cases ignored,” by Ralph Vartabedian and Ken Bensinger (November 8, 2009)[17]
  • “Toyota’s runaway-car worries may not stop at floor mats,” by Ralph Vartabedian and Ken Bensinger (October 18, 2009)[18]

© 2010, Timothy D. Naegele


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass), the first black senator since Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War.  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates (www.naegele.com).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years.  See, e.g., www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles

[2] See, e.g., http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-throttle29-2009nov29,0,1231630,full.story

[3] See, e.g., http://www.latimes.com/business/la-112609-fi-toyota_inside-g,0,6391652.graphic

[4] See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-highway-regulators31-2009dec31,0,3601262,full.story

[5] See id.

[6] See, e.g., http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota24-2009dec24,0,110267.story (“A lawyer who sought to reopen 17 rollover claims says he cannot prove his case after reviewing documents allegedly showing that Toyota had hidden key evidence”); see id. (A former Toyota lawyer, Dimitrios P. Biller—who headed the automaker’s rollover litigation work for four and a half years—filed suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against the automaker last summer, alleging that “it had engaged in a calculated scheme to hide evidence in product liability and personal injury cases,” and that “Toyota hid or destroyed evidence in roughly 300 rollover cases.”); http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-secrecy23-2009dec23,0,557792,full.story

[7] See, e.g., http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-highway-regulators31-2009dec31,0,3601262,full.story (“When attorney Edgar Heiskell went to a Washington law office this month to depose a Toyota Motor Corp. executive, he said he was met by a virtual NHTSA alumni club now working for Toyota.  It included at least two former agency attorneys and former defects investigator Christopher Santucci.”)

[8] See also http://www.leftlanenews.com/nhtsa-reviewing-third-generation-toyota-prius-braking.html; http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2009/12/top-stories-new-toyota-probe-airbus-takes-on-boeing-airport-kiosks-go-high-tech.html

[9] See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-secrecy23-2009dec23,0,557792,full.story

[10] See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-recall8-2009dec08,0,371465.story

[11] See http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-toyota5-2009dec05,0,1844374.story (“To turn off [an engine with a keyless ignition system] while moving, drivers must press the ‘on’ button for three seconds—a task that’s neither intuitive nor easy in a runaway vehicle”)

[12] See http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-fi-toyota-recall6-2009dec06,0,2913588.story

[13] See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-recall5-2009dec05,0,6012156.story

[14] See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-throttle29-2009nov29,0,1231630,full.story (“[A]ccounts from motorists . . . , interviews with auto safety experts and a Times review of thousands of federal traffic safety incident reports all point to another potential cause: the electronic throttles that have replaced mechanical systems in recent years”)

[15] See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-recall26-2009nov26,0,7792141,full.story

[16] See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-cost26-2009nov26,0,6652707,full.story

[17] See http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-fi-toyota-recall8-2009nov08,0,2472257,full.story

[18] See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-recall18-2009oct18,0,2352642,full.story


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201 responses

6 01 2010
naegeleblog

By way of full disclosure, I do not represent any auto manufacturers at this time; I have never represented Toyota; I am not involved in litigation against Toyota; I do not contemplate being involved with such litigation; and I do not handle personal injury litigation. My interests are a matter of sound public policy and auto safety.

When I worked as a young attorney with the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, I remember Ralph Nader testifying before the committee. He was the only person of any stature who was speaking out on behalf of the American consumer.

I was very impressed with his efforts then, and I still am. He accomplished a great deal to make the cars that we drive much safer. I salute his efforts.

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18 01 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota’s lies continue unabated, as well as the staggering risks to any American who drives or is a passenger in, or who is in the path of a runaway Toyota-produced product, model years 2002 and later (e.g., Toyota cars and trucks, Lexus automobiles).

See, e.g., http://www.leftlanenews.com/toyota-avalon-displays-unintended-acceleration-without-floor-mat.html and http://www.safetyresearch.net/toyota-sudden-unintended-acceleration/

Perhaps some day Toyota will stop lying and produce safe vehicles. Until then, no one should drive or be a passenger in one of its cars or trucks. To do so puts one at risk of dying or being severely injured.

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21 01 2010
naegeleblog

Here is another recall by Toyota, as well as the latest article from the Los Angeles Times’ Ken Bensinger: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-nutoyota-recall22-2010jan22,0,5921414,full.story (“This situation is slowly spiraling out of control”)

However, none of Toyota’s recalls address a major potential cause of its runaway vehicle problems: the electronic throttles that have replaced mechanical systems in recent years.

Toyota’s lies and cover-ups continue, while the lives of Americans (e.g., drivers of Toyota-produced vehicles, passengers in those vehicles, innocent third parties who might be struck by those vehicles) are put at risk each and every day.

What Toyota has been doing is criminal!

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23 01 2010
naegeleblog

More from Ralph Vartabedian and Ken Bensinger at the Los Angeles Times: “Safety of cars’ keyless entry and ignition systems questioned.” See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-carkeys24-2010jan24,0,6794000,full.story

However, the principal issue remaining to be addressed—which Toyota is doing nothing about with its new and existing vehicles—is that the electronic throttles have replaced mechanical systems in recent years.

Again, driving a Toyota-produced vehicle or being a passenger in one is like playing Russian roulette. Why would Americans, especially young families with small children, trust their lives to Toyota until ALL of these problems are fixed completely, which may be many years from now?

There is no question that the opening sentence of this article—which might stun some readers, at least initially—is true:

All Toyota-produced vehicles sold in the U.S. today—including Toyota cars and trucks, and Lexus automobiles—are unsafe.

If Toyota’s runaway vehicle issues spiral out of control, and its actions and inactions can be shown to be criminal, query when such issues will reach a critical mass and be beyond the company’s ability to address and resolve them? What happened to the storied Firestone tire brand may be instructive and provide guidance; however, Toyota’s problems may be deeper, more systemic and insoluble. After all, it is Toyota’s reputation for producing safe and reliable vehicles, and not lying about them, which is at stake!

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25 01 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota lies and lies and lies; and its lies just keep getting worse.

After having begun with (1) floor mat problems, and then (2) the size of gas pedals in its vehicles, it is talking now about (3) “sticky-throttle problems.” No mention is made of its management’s decade-old cover-up, or the fact that there are problems with (4) the safety of its vehicles’ keyless entry and ignition systems, or that (5) electronic throttles have replaced mechanical systems in recent years.

See, e.g., http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2010-01-25-toyotalong_st_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

As Toyota’s latest excuses come forth, it is becoming increasingly clear that the company’s runaway vehicle issues are spiraling out of control, and that its actions and inactions are criminal!

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27 01 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota has announced that it was instructing its dealers to suspend sales of eight models because of sticking accelerator pedals. The Los Angeles Times’ Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian write: “Industry experts could not recall any time in recent history when a carmaker had stopped both production and sales of so many models at once.” They add: “[A] Toyota spokesman said [the sales freeze] is its most extensive in more than five decades selling cars in the U.S.”

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-sales27-2010jan27,0,5888108,full.story; see also http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2010-01-26-toyota_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip and http://www.gminsidenews.com/forums/f37/toyota-suspends-sales-several-models-88375/

Also, Bensinger and Vartabedian write:

“What I smell is desperation from a company that is trying to get a situation under control that already is out of control,” said Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, an auto safety consulting firm.

He and other experts believe that while stuck pedals and floor mats may cause some incidents of unintended acceleration, the majority of the cases are linked to the computer-driven electronic throttle systems used on all Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

Those systems, known as drive-by-wire, replace steel cables with electronic relays and computer logic.

“I don’t see this effort addressing the full scope of the problem,” Kane said.

The Times reported Nov. 29 that complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles soared after the automaker began adopting electronic throttle systems starting with 2002 model year cars.

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-sales27-2010jan27,0,5888108,full.story

And Toyota’s massive cover-up continues!

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27 01 2010
Mark

Come on Tim. Don’t you think that with Toyota stopping sales and production of 8 of its’s most popular models they are moving in the right direction? Maybe it’s time to stop calling them a bunch of criminals and give Toyota a little credit. You would never see GM, Chrysler or Ford make such a big move as to suspend sales and production like that. Not sure why you would say “and the cover up continues!” when they make such a bold move as that. I currently own a Tundra that is on the list of vehicles, and I can honestly say I am less worried about my throttle sticking than I am about some idiot trying to text while driving. Anyway, I have enjoyed reading your blog and have a nice day.

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27 01 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks for your fine comments, Mark. First, as stated above (e.g., in the LA Times’ articles), Toyota has known about these issues for about a decade, and done nothing about them. Hence, they are not “boy scouts” by any means. Second, a company that engages in a massive cover-up like this one (e.g., please read my article and its footnotes and the articles mentioned therein carefully) does not deserve any credit, or so I believe. They have consistently put the lives of innocent American men, women and children at risk; and my guess is they have engaged in criminal behavior that might justify and/or result in prosecution of their management. Third, their suspension of sales and production was not done altruistically. We can be certain of that. It was a calculated decision by the company’s management to prevent the runaway vehicle problems from spiraling out of control. Whether it works or not, only the future will tell. Fourth, yes, I have to smile at your texting analogy. I know how you feel. However, any Toyota-produced vehicle, 2002 and later—including those coming off its assembly lines until these issues are resolved completely—is potentially a risk. What are the odds of a deadly accident happening? Perhaps not great. However, it can happen in an instant; and why take any risks whatsoever when there are other automakers, from which to buy your vehicle (e.g., Ford).

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27 01 2010
J. Lewis

I bought a new 2009 Toyota Matrix last year after trading in a 2002 Dodge Dakota pickup truck. After reading the articles about Toyota’s lies concerning this problem, I have become very concerned for not only my safety, but for my passengers and others who may be on the road. What rights exists, if any, do the owners of these vehicles have? I really don’t want to be driving something that can be considered unsafe and life threatening.

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27 01 2010
naegeleblog

You are wise to get rid of it. Again, driving it or being a passenger is equivalent to playing Russian roulette. Sure, it may not become a runaway vehicle; however, if it does, the life you save may be your own or that of a friend or loved one.

Take it back to the dealership and demand your money back in full. Tell them you want to rescind your contract. Raise enough of a stink or ruckus and they may comply without the need for legal action. If it is required, invoke every theory possible, including State “lemon laws” and the like.

Good luck!

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27 01 2010
Frankie Pintado

“Toyota has not yet determined how it will fix the sticking-pedal problem, and in the interim it is asking drivers who experience the issue to halt the car with “firm and steady application of the brakes” and to notify a Toyota dealer immediately.”

I am a student in Automotive technology. I have just passed my test for ASE certification in Automotive brakes, among other things.
If this is what Toyota is telling people to do, they had better brace themselves for more lawsuits. It seems very obvious to me that this did not work for those four dead people in San Diego.
That tactic might work if the vehicle is traveling under 25mph, but at highway speeds it will not work, period. The brakes are not designed to stop a car at highway speeds under “wide open throttle” conditions. The Brakes will overheat very quickly, causing a condition known as “brake fade”. They will be completely ineffective at stopping or even slowing the vehicle

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2 02 2010
Philosopher

Are Toyota and Lexus vehicles powered by Pratt&Whitney turbojet engines? There’s no way that a “run-away” Lexus should reach 120 mph with the brakes applied. No modern car uses the fade-prone drum brakes in the front, and all modern Lexus and Camry models have fade-resistant disk brakes on all four corners. And at what point does the driver recognize there’s a problem with a car that keeps going faster?

Disk brakes on all 4 wheels don’t fade readily and will bring the car to a stop and never allow it to accelerate. 120 mph with the brakes on may apply to the fictional Little Nash Rambler that couldn’t get out of second gear. But a real production sedan doesn’t accelerate to 120 mph with the brakes on. Not even Lexus engines are that insanely powerful.

If the engine is truly running away, the brakes will slow and stop the car and leave the transmission on the ground. Or put the thing in neutral and let the engine rev itself into oblivion, leaving you safe though with a car that is suddenly not worth much.

This sounds like the unintended acceleration with Audi automobiles back in the early 1980s. A fictional technical problem but a real PR problem at Audi. I don’t think Toyota’s response has been particularly bad. And they do have their internal company problems. But this isn’t one of them. I guess with the bad economy, people need a witch hunt to divert them from their misery.

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3 02 2010
Frankie Pintado

The following is quoted directly from Automotive Brake Systems, Fourth Edition, by James Halderman and is NATEF approved. Please be aware that none of this information accounts for the added force of the engine… this is what can happen to a properly functioning car.

“Lining fade affects both drum and disc brakes, and occurs when friction material overheats to a point where its coefficient of friction drops off.”

” The temperature of of a brake drum or rotor may rise more than 100 degrees F in only seconds during a hard stop, but it could take 30 seconds or more for the rotor to cool to the temperature that existed before the stop. If repeated hard stops are performed, the brake system components can overheat and lose effectiveness, or possibly fail altogether. This loss of braking power is called brake fade.”

Of course if that retired cop was alive, I’m sure he could tell you that. In fact, to an effect, his passenger did tell a 911 operator that over his cell phone.

Or we could just look at race cars, which require much larger, slotted, ventilated brakes to compensate for all of the heat produced.

Or if you’ve ever driven a car hard enough on a windy road, then you can experience it yourself, unless you have racing brakes.

So do you work for Toyota?

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2 02 2010
Ralph Blach

I personally do not believe that problem is in the pedal.

We now have cars which are being (flown) like the space shuttle, by a computer.

On the space shuttle there are 5 computers, one designed by an entirely different company, When the computes output matched, bug for bug, then computers were finished.

The computers vote, so that no one computer can bring down the shuttle, There are also multiple sensors, so that no one sensor failure can cause a failure.

As far as I know there are no requirements on car makers for multiple computers, which vote, or multiple sensors so the computers might be able to detect a sensor failure.

These cars will also need extensive black boxes, that track operation of the cars systems, so that a failure can be detected.

Many years ago, I worked on the F-111D ( which is not longer flying). It had a terrain following radar and computer. The plane could fly at 250ft at 500+ knots and full rack of bombs.

One radar computer kept coming back the the repair shop as bad, giving very dangerous commands to the airplane controls.

The computer was not bad, but the coating put on the computer boards to keep moisture out had a microscopic crack, and would let moisture in, and this would short out one board in the computer, thus giving bad commands to the airplane.

It took a lot of debug effort to find that problem.

I also believe that peddle is not the answer.

Chip

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24 02 2011
Medo Moreno

Ralph, I’ve written a lot of Firmware code over the years and I find your suggestion to be the most plausible to date. The moment I heard Toyota fervently denying the possibility that the problem was electronic, a quote came to mind: Toyota “doth protest too much, methinks.” The floor mat explanation doesn’t hold water when applied to the San Diego case. As I’m sure you know, debugging an intermittent problem like what they have is a nightmare: much easier to blame the floor mats!

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24 02 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

So true! Thank you for your comments, Medo.

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3 02 2010
Aaron

Don’t driver’s ed classes teach people what to do? It’s not exactly rocket science. If the brakes aren’t sufficient, you shift to neutral.

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4 02 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks, Aaron. However, it is not as simple as that, certainly in the case of vehicles with push button ignitions, which was true of the loaner Lexus in San Diego that killed four people, including the off-duty California Highway Patrol officer/driver.

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28 01 2010
R. Landry

Thank you for your candor on this issue.

As a coincidence and just prior to the AP announcing Toyota would halt production on several models, I filed a federal “whistle blower” complaint with OSHA against a Lexus dealer that had made a condition of my employment that I forge and falsify CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) surverys. In other words cooking the books. This is a systemic problem with Toyota/Lexus in that they encourage this nefarious behaviour among dealers by providing substantial monetary incentives to maintain unreasonably high customer satisfaction levels. Since the goals are unrealistic the motive to cheat is very high.

What makes my cause particularly disturbing is the dealership involved is a member of a publicly traded automotive group. So this activity effects not only consumers but shareholders as well. In other words any attorney out there that understands “derivitive action” law knows that this is a biggie.

That said your assertions that Toyota/Lexus can not be trusted will be validated by my federal lawsuit. Unfortunately these are not the only brands that are gaming the system. Bottom line being that claims of reliability and customer satisfaction can no longer be relied upon.

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28 01 2010
Jimmy Young

In today’s San Jose Mercury News (Thursday 1-28-2010 front page), Toyota’s sales suspension Tuesday and halt production was NOT entirely voluntarily. US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a radio interview that “the reason Toyota decided to do the recall and to stop manufacturing was because we asked them to”. So much for Toyota tell the whole truth to their consumers.

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28 01 2010
Jimmy Young

Today, Toyota Fremont dealer is telling their customers to shift to Neutral when encounter any uncontrolled acceleration problems. However, when I tested and found I cannot do ANY shifting when the car is in motion. I can ONLY shift when the car is fully stopped and my foot on the brake.

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28 01 2010
naegeleblog

Hearings are going to be held in the House, and they are critical!

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-hearing29-2010jan29,0,1084334.story and http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1882:energy-a-commerce-committee-to-hold-hearing-on-toyota-recall&catid=122:media-advisories&Itemid=55

Rep. Henry Waxman is key (see http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=159&Itemid=87 and http://waxman.house.gov/), although Rep. Bart Stupak (see http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=167&Itemid=68and http://www.house.gov/stupak/) and the Republicans are too (see http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/), along with all of the subcommittee’s members (see http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1573&catid=160&Itemid=61)

Toyota will have its lobbyists and P.R. people working overtime, and arguing that the company is doing everything that it can. However, what Toyota has been doing is criminal, and its management should be removed and prosecuted!

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29 01 2010
gmm

Does anyone know if this affects a manual transmission vehicle? Or is this for automatic transmissions only?

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29 01 2010
naegeleblog

Good question, with respect to which I do not know the answer. You might pose it to the NHTSA; the Los Angeles Times’ Investigative Team mentioned in my article above; the experts cited in their articles; or if you trust them to give you a straight answer, Toyota and/or its dealers.

I wish that I could be more helpful.

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29 01 2010
naegeleblog

Pressures are building in Japan as well. See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fg-japan-toyota29-2010jan29,0,5059133,full.story (“Industry insiders are also speculating on whether Toyota’s latest troubles might spell the end for the company’s president, Akio Toyoda, the publicity-shy grandson of the firm’s founder who assumed the top post in June. . . . [H]eads are rolling as we speak”)

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29 01 2010
naegeleblog

As the following USA Today article states, Toyota is promising that repairs will be done in less than a month.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/Toyotapromisesrepairswillbedoneinlessthanamonth-USATODAY.com.pdf

Given the fact that Toyota has known about at least some of the problems for about 10 years, and has done nothing to address and resolve them completely, this latest P.R. stunt is outrageous. Now, with congressional hearings looming, all of a sudden the company has “magic” solutions and “silver bullets.”

They must think Americans are totally stupid and gullible. However, much more can be expected from the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight if their lives depended on it.” And yes, as indicated in the posting above, Toyota’s “corporate life” and that of its management may depend on it.

See, e.g., http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fg-japan-toyota29-2010jan29,0,5059133,full.story (“Industry insiders are also speculating on whether Toyota’s latest troubles might spell the end for the company’s president, Akio Toyoda, the publicity-shy grandson of the firm’s founder who assumed the top post in June. . . . [H]eads are rolling as we speak”)

This latest P.R. effort merely adds weight to the argument that what Toyota has been doing (e.g., a massive cover-up, spanning about a decade) is criminal, and its management should be removed and prosecuted!

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30 01 2010
naegeleblog

The blame game continues. CTS, which supplies accelerator pedals to Toyota that are blamed for the automaker’s latest massive recall, is blaming Toyota for the problems. See http://www.leftlanenews.com/pedal-supplier-cts-blames-toyota.html

Also, America’s biggest wholesale auto auctions are pulling the automaker’s products until a fix is made:

The decision to pull recalled Toyotas from the auctions follows the footsteps of many major rental car agencies, which are not renting recalled Toyotas until a fix is made. Hertz, Enterprise (which runs Alamo and National), Avis Budget and Dollar Thrifty have all decided to stop renting Toyotas until a fix is made.

Used car retailer CarMax has also decided to temporarily halt selling all new and used Toyotas that would be covered under the recall.

See http://www.leftlanenews.com/auction-houses-carmax-pull-recalled-toyotas-from-sales.html

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30 01 2010
naegeleblog

The latest article by the Los Angeles Times’ brilliant investigative team members, Ralph Vartabedian and Ken Bensinger, may be their best one yet—with insightful comments from Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, a Rehoboth, Mass., auto safety consulting firm: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-pedal30-2010jan30,0,790073,full.story

Perhaps most important in terms of consumers’ safety, and identifying the reasons for the problems, are the following statements by Vartabedian and Bensinger:

A wide group of national automotive experts say there is strong evidence that a hidden electronic problem must account for at least some, if not most, of the Toyota sudden-acceleration events.

. . .

The electronic throttle system uses sensors, microprocessors and electric motors, rather than a traditional link such as a steel cable, to connect the driver’s foot to the engine.

Indeed, in an earlier posting, I cited the following:

Also, Bensinger and Vartabedian write:

“What I smell is desperation from a company that is trying to get a situation under control that already is out of control,” said Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, an auto safety consulting firm.

He and other experts believe that while stuck pedals and floor mats may cause some incidents of unintended acceleration, the majority of the cases are linked to the computer-driven electronic throttle systems used on all Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

Those systems, known as drive-by-wire, replace steel cables with electronic relays and computer logic.

“I don’t see this effort addressing the full scope of the problem,” Kane said.

The Times reported Nov. 29 that complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles soared after the automaker began adopting electronic throttle systems starting with 2002 model year cars.

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-sales27-2010jan27,0,5888108,full.story

I have argued before that (1) its “latest P.R. effort merely adds weight to the argument that what Toyota has been doing (e.g., a massive cover-up, spanning about a decade) is criminal, and its management should be removed and prosecuted”; and that (2) “much more can be expected from the ‘gang that couldn’t shoot straight if their lives depended on it.’”

Toyota seems to be providing that and more!

This scandal may eclipse many times over (1) the Firestone tire problems, (2) Ford’s Pinto problems, and (3) Chevy’s Corvair problems. Just imagine Toyota’s sales coming to a screeching halt when American consumers (and consumers abroad) realize:

1. Toyota does not have solutions to these problems;

2. It will probably take years to develop comprehensive and plenary “fixes” to the problems;

3. These problems affect all Toyota-produced vehicles from 2002 and forward, including all vehicles coming down Toyota’s assembly lines, and which will come down its assembly lines until the problems are solved and solutions are implemented fully;

4. Toyota’s management knew of these problems for about 10 years, but did nothing about them;

5. Toyota’s massive cover-up, which amounts to fraud, is criminal—and its management should be removed and
prosecuted;

6. The civil litigation against Toyota may be staggering and unprecedented; and

7. The resale value of Toyota-produced vehicles (e.g., Toyota cars and trucks, Lexus automobiles) may plummet.

It is not incomprehensible to believe that Toyota might go under or something close, for no other reason than the fact that it has zero solutions to the central problems that have been described so brilliantly by Bensinger, Vartabedian and Kane in the Times’ articles!

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30 01 2010
TMMKemployee

I am a Toyota employee in Georgetown, Ky and I am furious over the actions or inaction of my employer. The public would be stunned by what I see going on within the walls of my employer.
I’m a QC team member and the consensus is that the quality of our vehicles has continued to deteriorate since 1999. That is when Toyota brought in Gary Convis, a former NUMMI manager as President.
One in three jobs are now done by a temporary employee. They make less than half in wages as a regular team member and have no benefits.
In April of 2009, Toyota terminated all the temps (900) with no warning. Then by September, hired or re-hired nearly 1500 temps.
This is one of the most oppressive work environments I have ever seen and the most EVIL corporations on earth.
Our new President is Steve St. Angelo who is an absolute buffoon. But, we all know he is simply a puppet for the big wheels in Japan.
Most of my co-workers have no idea what the extent of the damage will be but, I am extremely concerned about everyone’s future.
As for our customers that put their faith and confidence in us, I am deeply ashamed and sorry for the pain and frustration every single one has had to deal with.

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30 01 2010
Jimmy Young

to TMMKemployee. Thank you for your frankness. It takes guts to tell the truth.
Can you please tell me what is the Toyota insiders say about Toyota management claims the CTS gas pedal is the only cause of all the runaway problems? I guess the floor mats was just to deflect / assign blames? I think the entire America (or even the world) trying to hear Toyota’s clarification and proof that the electronics computer in the drive-by-wire system is NOT the cause? We are not stupid when we hear double talk or non-responses’ response. We shall be extra careful when a Toyota is behind us.

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30 01 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks once again for your comments, Jimmy.

You asked: “Can you please tell me what is the Toyota insiders say about Toyota management claims the CTS gas pedal is the only cause of all the runaway problems?”

They believe the Toyota claims are garbage—my word, not theirs.

It would appear that most of the problems stem from the electronics issues discussed above in previous postings. So-called “drive-by-wire” replaced steel cables with electronic relays and computer logic.

As you may know, Airbus airplanes have had similar problems; and in fact, aside from weather issues, such electronics may have caused the Air France crash in the Atlantic not too long ago, which killed everyone on board. The plane”s “black box” has never been found.

Yes too, I believe the floor mat issue is a ruse being used by Toyota to deflect attention from the more serious issues—with respect to which there are NO solutions, and there may not be any for years to come. Thus, it is arguable that driving or being a passenger in a Toyota-produced vehicle will be like playing Russian roulette for a long time to come.

Lastly, you said:

I think the entire America (or even the world) trying to hear Toyota’s clarification and proof that the electronics computer in the drive-by-wire system is NOT the cause? We are not stupid when we hear double talk or non-responses’ response. We shall be extra careful when a Toyota is behind us.

You are correct—although I had not given thought to being rear-ended by a runaway Toyota-produced vehicle. Beyond that, one might be a pedestrian walking across a street and be hit by one; or the same thing might happen to a loved one or friend.

Toyotas have become scary, I am sorry to say. Lots of Americans and people from other countries—including the Japanese—are realizing this.

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31 01 2010
naegeleblog

Americans should be repulsed and angry about Toyota’s fraudulent and misleading ads—from the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight if their lives depended on it”!

Toyota ads

See, e.g., http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2010/01/toyota-asks-for-patience-in-sorting-out-dual-recalls-in-ads-today/1

It will not be a “temporary pause”—and if Toyota had wanted to put Americans first, it would not have engaged in a massive
cover-up lasting about a decade so far. The company’s ads constitute a diversionary P.R. tactic, and merely a continuation of
the fraud that it has perpetrated on the American people.

No mention is made of the really tough issues facing Toyota, involving its vehicles’ electronics, and the so-called “drive-by-wire” technology that replaced steel cables with electronic relays and computer logic. These are the issues that pervade the Toyota vehicle line-up (e.g., Toyota cars and trucks and Lexus automobiles, model year 2002 and forward), the depth of which the company is hiding because it has no solutions whatsoever.

This situation is spiraling out of control, and not slowly anymore; and Toyota is increasingly desperate!

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31 01 2010
Jimmy Young

CTS, whom Toyota finger pointing at this blamed American supplier of the so called defective gas pedal parts, also supplies gas pedals to Honda, and Nissan among others. If the fault only lies with CTS, then how come Honda and Nissan is not having any quality issues?

If this truly just simply the gas pedal problem (either design or manufacturing), why Toyota toke years belatedly to recall / replace this part? I am an engineer. It obviously will not take one junior engineer few days to come up in CAD with a non-sticking gas pedal immediately. This entire story is playing out in the world stage has no sense at all.

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1 02 2010
Jimmy Young

Toyota owners should now well aware of their liability of driving a known out of control runaway deadly weapon on the road. They should be clear Toyota, for over 10 years, is covering up by blaming incompetent drivers, floor mats, stuck gas pedals, and never address the real dangerous electronics throttles problems.

I do not want me and my family to be victims of crazy kamikaze drivers loyal to Toyota and jeopardize others lives. I await the first court liability precedent on the punitive damages, likely to be in the multi-millions. I want to make sure we can take everything these Toyota drivers have.

If any auto insurer has any brains, they would drop all the Toyota / Lexus auto policy like a hot potato.

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1 02 2010
naegeleblog

Once again, Jimmy, thank you for your comments. The issue you raise in your last sentence is potentially very important. Query why major American auto insurers, as well as auto insurers in other countries, would not be dropping coverage of the affected vehicles like a “hot potato,” as you mention? The effect on Toyota might be devastating!

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2 02 2010
naegeleblog

Forbes’ Jerry Flint Has Become A Believer!

Jerry is a former Forbes Senior Editor, who has covered the automobile industry since 1958; and he is one of the most distinguished writers about the industry in the country. He worked for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times before joining Forbes; and he has dealt with more auto issues than most of us will ever hear about. See, e.g., http://search.forbes.com/search/colArchiveSearch?author=Flint

He won the Gerald Loeb Award in 2003. See, e.g., http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/x5295.xml and http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/x3287.xml

In his latest column entitled, “Toyota’s Pain Is Others’ Gain,” he begins:

Toyota’s accelerator problem is the costliest car safety issue—and corporate disaster—in automotive history. It certainly dwarfs the sudden acceleration issue that hit Audi long ago, or the Firestone tire problem that destroyed the sales of Ford’s Explorer or those long-ago issues that created Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe at Any Speed.

See http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/27/flint-toyota-recall-busiiness-ford.html

He adds: “Ford is likely to replace Toyota as No. 2 this year.”

Also, Jerry writes:

And there will be a great cost: incentives to get customers buying Toyota’s again when the problems have been solved at the factory; money to keep the wounded dealers alive, and money to pay for the recall work. We’re probably talking about a cost in the billions—not millions—counting those incentives. That’s money that won’t go to developing new models, new hybrids, new electric cars. And we’re not talking about the lawsuits, which will go on for years.

It is unlikely that Toyota’s problems will be solved anytime soon. Indeed, it may take years before “problem-free” Toyota-produced vehicles roll off its assembly lines. The company has known about these issues for about 10 years; it has failed to address them, and has engaged in a massive cover-up; and it has no earthly idea how to solve them now.

The really tough issues facing Toyota involve the so-called “drive-by-wire” technology that replaced steel cables with electronic relays and computer logic. These are the problems that pervade the Toyota vehicle line-up, the depth of which the company is hiding because it has no solutions whatsoever.

This situation is spiraling out of control, and Toyota is becoming increasingly desperate. However, the real coup de grâce may come when (1) major American auto insurers—as well as auto insurers in other countries—drop their coverage of the affected vehicles like a “hot potato,” and (2) the resale and rental of Toyota-produced vehicles dry up, and their values plummet.

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2 02 2010
naegeleblog

Let me understand this correctly. The NHTSA has just rubber stamped what Toyota wanted; it did nothing to prevent Toyota’s massive cover-up that has spanned about 10 years so far; and President Obama plans to freeze agency’s funding for the third straight year. See http://www.leftlanenews.com/obama-proposes-nhtsa-budget-freeze-for-third-year.html

Something is rotten in Denmark!

Also, the New York Times has an article about the NHTSA that is worth reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/10/business/10safety.html?pagewanted=all

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2 02 2010
Karl Dellinger

Mr. Naegele
It is certainly amazing that any engineer could ignore some basic evidence regarding this issue. Toyota is not the lone ranger in using drive by wire technology, in fact it is also used extensively in modern heavy equipment. It was in construction equipment that I first experienced the problem it seems Toyota has now, that is the way the components are manufactured and the mechanics of how they deteriorate. These controls employ a deposit of carbon, very thin, on a dielectric substrate, mostly ceramic (good) or plastic (bad). The carbon deposit then has a small wiper that moves across, in a rotating fashion, the surface of that carbon. (Think of your old dash light dimmer on the headlight switch of older cars, but MUCH less robust.) The effect is that an electrical resistance is varied that corresponds to the fuel delivery systems output.
All this goes back to construction equipment because these thin film resistors have LITTLE TO NONE tolerance to dirt and moisture, we knew of certain tractors that were known to not accelerate or accelerate on its own for this exact reason. The throttle design did not adequately seal the component, and in short time dust (principally) or moisture would build up in the control and render it unpredictable.
This goes back to something Ford learned long ago regarding their past poor reputation for electric systems, these systems MUST be designed to a multiple factor of overkill if they are going to last, what works in your IPOD is not going to survive in a cars environment. Passenger vehicles often operate in a marginally less abusive environment than heavy equipment, build them that way.
On a side note, it would be interesting to see the correlation of climate to failure results. My bet is the drier and dustier your environment the more likely you have a failure.

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2 02 2010
naegeleblog

Thank you, Karl, for your comments. As you know, the accident that triggered much of what is taking place now—involving the death of Mark Saylor, the off-duty California Highway Patrol officer, and his family—occurred near San Diego in a loaner Lexus. Granted one accident does not make a pattern, and we do not know what conditions the Lexus was subjected to, but San Diego is not Arizona in terms of dry and dusty conditions. Any thoughts, or do we know enough to form any opinions in this regard, at least now?

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3 02 2010
naegeleblog

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about Toyota and the Obama Administration (see http://www.naegele.com/documents/ObamaAdministrationNotFinishedWithToyota.pdf), which is worth reading.

What follows are my comments at the Journal’s Web site, with respect to that article:

Are Americas really going to believe and trust their lives to Toyota, especially young families with small children? After all, this is the company that has engaged in a massive cover-up of its wrongdoing, which has lasted about a decade so far, and put millions of totally-innocent Americans at risk. Are they going to trust the Obama Administration too, which is the moral equivalent and counterpart of Toyota, the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight if their lives depended on it”?

Americans should be repulsed and angry about Toyota’s fraudulent and misleading practices, and the fact that it is continuing to perpetrate that cover-up. Its ads describe why the company stopped production at some of its plants: “A temporary pause. To put you first.” See, e.g., http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2010/01/toyota-asks-for-patience-in-sorting-out-dual-recalls-in-ads-today/1

It will not be a “temporary pause”—and if Toyota had wanted to put Americans first, it would not have engaged in the cover-up. The ads are part of a carefully-calculated diversionary P.R. campaign—hatched by lawyers and other paid hacks—to further deceive the American people. No mention is made of the really tough issues facing Toyota, involving the so-called “drive-by-wire” technology that replaced steel cables with electronic relays and computer logic.

These are the issues that pervade the Toyota vehicle line-up (e.g., Toyota cars and trucks and Lexus automobiles, model year 2002 and forward), the depth of which the company is hiding because it has no solutions whatsoever. Yet, Team Obama has been blessing Toyota’s wrongdoing until lately, when it finally dawned on the White House minions—and their UAW “bosses”—that political hay might be made out of demagoguing the issues, so that is what they are doing.

Professing shock and dismay at what has been happening, and pledging to get straight to the bottom of it, the Community-Organizer-In-Chief’s surrogates have heard the clarion call of the UAW and are up in arms. No mention is made of the facts that (1) the NHTSA did nothing to prevent Toyota’s massive cover-up; and (2) President Obama plans to freeze agency’s funding for the third straight year. See http://www.leftlanenews.com/obama-proposes-nhtsa-budget-freeze-for-third-year.html

This situation is spiraling out of control, and Toyota is increasingly desperate. The stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. The very survival of Toyota is at stake, not to mention the removal and criminal prosecution of its management for their roles in the wrongdoing. Congressional hearings are scheduled; Toyota sales are plummeting; enough civil lawsuits beckon to keep the legal profession happy; and the principal problems are insoluble, which means that American consumers will be at risk of getting killed or seriously injured by Toyota-produced vehicles for a long time to come.

Any sense that the crisis has passed, or that it is near to resolution, is pure hogwash!

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3 02 2010
Frankie Pintado

Here is my biggest problem with the story that Toyota has given us:
I am not an engineer, but I can think of many ways to solve, or at least safe-gaurd a sticking electronic pedal. The simplest solution is to simply add a line of code to the ecm to tell it to shut the throttle when the brake lights are activated. Or a simple, cheap module could be added to accomplish this. …but I’d have to be pretty arrogant to think that Toyota’s extensive engineering department can’t come up with ideas like this in minutes.
So that leaves me not trusting them at all. I wonder if they even know what the problem is, or if they are just stalling for some reason.

CTS claims that not a single pedal assembly that has been returned to them was even sticking?????

And I know that these drive-by-wire systems are the future, but they need a mechanical override or a redundant system. Too much is at stake to have to “ask” a computer to please stop accelerating. And that goes for all manufacturers.

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3 02 2010
Ralph Blach

Your are out of luck, the airbus line of airplanes are all fly by wire, and they have no over rides.

Cars will have them because throttle can be controlled very precisely.

Look at my post below.

And if you are going to look at software and hardware redundantcy you must start with NASA and the shuttle.

Next you have to see how Airbus does it.

Next you have to see how the other car makes do it.

Toyota needs a complete design review, by people who are not in Toyota.

Many yeas ago, I had a Chrylstler, and the air conditioning would not work when the car got hot. The mechanical slide to vent cold air into the car was an electrical servo system.

I had to take the car, on a hot day over to Chrylster, have them let it sit outside, and debug it for them. I found that a connector had a broken tang and would not make good contact all the time.

The techs at dealership were amazed that I could tell them where the problem was located. He ask if I wanted a new wiring harness and I said no, just solder a new connector on the offending pin.

So a broken cable tang, caused a problem.

So it goes with all these very complex systems.

As an engineer, you have to ask the what ifs, at every stage of the design.

Next you have to take the car which you have designed, and do open closed and short to ground and battery voltage and see what happens if every exposed control line.

Does Toyota need a smart pedal, or a strain pedal. ( A strain pedal does not move, simply detects how hard you push on it. All the Airbus’s and fighters have have them now)

They are very reliable because the do not get stuck. But there are a lot of what if’s that need to be ask.

IMHO

Chip

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3 02 2010
Ralph Blach

You have to start with computer systems that are known to be safe and study how they are made safe.

In this case, this means starting with the computers and the software development on the space shuttle.

Now obviously, a car is not a space shuttle, but they are both using computers to control systems who’s bad output can cause a very bad day for someone.

A stuck flap, a stuck throttle, both can end in disaster.

So if you ever get one of these in court, you will need to study, and get you Phd in how you make computer systems safe from a software standpoint.

Then there is the electrical stand point, which is orders of magnitude harder.

Computer chips can have hidden pattern sensitivies, non parity checked ram, cold solder joints, and on and on.

If you are build the chips, with a processor that does not have parity checking, then one could get and alpha ray, form the surronding material that flips a bit, and bingo, error.

No error check, now warning, just bang, bad data.

A particular pattern of bits can cause bad operation also. I have seen this.

So one has to study what all car makers are doing to make there computers safe, and put in minimum standards. These have to be flexible, because they will have to change.

Also the computers have to work in very harsh conditions, from -50 f to over 200 f, I would believe. This in and of itself is a design challenge.

The other piece of the puzzle is the burn in and run in that the manufacture gives the computer systems. A run in is just running the computer for x number of hours at room temperature to verify that the system works with simulated inputs at nominal values,

A burn in requires a huge chamber where the temperature, humidty, an voltage of the computer are all varied. ( I should point out that vibration sudden gforce application could be added) A burn in, done correctly, with the proper mathematics are very effective. These kinds of test have to be designed by engineers and statistions who really understand the how the components fail and their failure rates.

All of these items have to be looked at and investigated.

A runnins cost money, but burn ins, are very expensive.

I am NOT an expert in this but I have been a manufacturing engineer, the less time a piece or car hardware spends in test, the more money one makes.

Chip

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3 02 2010
naegeleblog

You guys are greater experts than I am or will ever be!

Thanks for your comments, as always. :-)

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3 02 2010
naegeleblog

The Wall Street Journal has a fine article today, which is worth reading. See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704259304575043091711640152.html

My comments at the Journal’s Web site are as follows:

This is the best and most all-encompassing article that the Journal has done on this subject to date. Yet, there is even more to the scandal than this.

First, the Obama Administration is clearly getting caught up in Toyota’s lies. As the Journal reports:

“[Transportation Secretary Ray] Lahood . . . advised against driving any cars involved in the Toyota recall until they have been fixed.

“’My advice is, if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it, take it to the Toyota dealer because they believe they have the fix for it,’ he said, in response to a congressman’s question during a House appropriations committee hearing.

“Afterwards he told reporters that wasn’t what he meant to say.

“’What I said in there was obviously a misstatement,’ Mr. LaHood said outside of the hearing. ‘My advice is if you have one of these vehicles, if you are in doubt, take it to the dealership today.’”

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704259304575043091711640152.html; see also http://wcbstv.com/local/stop.driving.toyotas.2.1467177.html

Obviously, the problem is that not all defective Toyotas have been recalled; Toyota does not know how to fix them completely because it does not know what is causing the problems; and the automaker may not have solutions to the problems for years to come. Yet, the Obama Administration is being caught up in Toyota’s lying, which has gone on for about a decade so far, with no end in sight.

No mention is made of the really tough issues facing Toyota, involving the so-called “drive-by-wire” technology that replaced steel cables with electronic relays and computer logic. These are the issues that pervade the Toyota vehicle line-up (e.g., Toyota cars and trucks and Lexus automobiles, model year 2002 and forward), the depth of which the company is hiding because it has no solutions whatsoever.

CBS News has reported:

“LaHood defended his department’s handling of the Toyota investigation and said the Japanese automaker was ‘a little safety deaf’ during its probe of the problem. The company was so resistant, LaHood said, that it took a trip from federal safety officials to Japan to ‘wake them up’ to the seriousness of the pedal problems.

“’They should have taken it seriously from the very beginning when we first started discussing it with them,’ LaHood told AP. ‘Maybe they were a little safety deaf in their North American office until we went to Japan.’”

See http://wcbstv.com/local/stop.driving.toyotas.2.1467177.html

However, according to CBS, LaHood reversed field again:

“LaHood later clarified his remarks, telling AP that Toyota’s North American office took the safety problem seriously but had difficulty convincing their counterparts in Japan about its severity. ‘It wasn’t the case that they weren’t listening. It was the case that Japan wasn’t listening to North America,’ LaHood said.”

The fact is that Toyota has been “safety deaf” for about 10 years, and it did not just begin when NHTSA officials arrived in Japan. A massive and carefully-orchestrated cover-up has been underway, and LaHood and others have been unwittingly sucked into it.

CBS notes as well:

“[Toyota’s] first line of defense is ‘The consumer was wrong, they stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake. It’s their fault,’ [Former NHTSA administrator Joan] Claybrook said.”

See http://wcbstv.com/local/stop.driving.toyotas.2.1467177.html

Last but not least, Forbes’ Jerry Flint—who is one of the most distinguished and conservative writers about the auto industry in the country—has written in his latest column:

“Toyota’s accelerator problem is the costliest car safety issue—and corporate disaster—in automotive history. It certainly dwarfs the sudden acceleration issue that hit Audi long ago, or the Firestone tire problem that destroyed the sales of Ford’s Explorer or those long-ago issues that created Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe at Any Speed.”

See http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/27/flint-toyota-recall-busiiness-ford.html

That speaks volumes. The Los Angeles Times’ fine investigative team began reporting on these critical issues for American consumers last year, and they have been mushrooming ever since, with no end in sight. See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/

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3 02 2010
naegeleblog

I have consistently praised Ken Bensinger and other investigative reporters and editors at the Los Angeles Times for their brilliant work beginning last year, which focused attention on the the Toyota scandal like a laser. I had little doubt that Toyota would try to exact its pound of flesh from critics in the media, in government, and in the private sector (e.g., those who use Toyota-produced vehicles and criticize them and/or the company). However, it is out in the open now.

Please read the following article about what Toyota has done: http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/toyota_no_longer_attacking_the.php?page=all

This is merely one more facet of the massive scandal that is enveloping Toyota, which may give rise to the removal of its management and criminal prosecutions, and the possible demise of the company as we know it today. If you have any doubts, just read (or reread) the quote from the latest article by Forbes’ Jerry Flint, which appears at the end of the posting immediately above this one.

The chickens are coming home to roost at Toyota bigtime!

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4 02 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota’s Fraud And Lawsuits

At the Wall Street Journal’s Web site, I commented:

Based on the information available publicly so far, I have few if any doubts that Toyota has been and is engaged in massive fraud, which may give rise to civil and criminal remedies.

Ten years of fraud, endangering the lives of American men, women and children—such as the San Diego CHP officer and his family—cries out for legal redress. No, I am not an advocate of nonstop litigation generally, but Toyota’s wrongdoing is the exception.

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4 02 2010
naegeleblog

When Did Toyota’s Cover-Up Begin And Who Was Involved?

In an important article entitled, “Denial is a familiar road for Toyota,” Los Angeles Times’ columnist Michael Hiltzik writes about his personal experiences with Toyota in 2002, involving his Sienna minivan and a condition in some Toyota and Lexus models that turned oil to sludge and ruined engines. See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hiltzik4-2010feb04,0,817396.column

Interestingly, 2002 was the model year when Toyota apparently adopted the so-called “drive-by-wire” technology that replaced steel cables with electronic relays and computer logic. Hiltzik describes his experiences and how they relate to Toyota’s problems now:

Toyota . . . evince[d] an approach to customer service that might explain how it managed to turn a new engineering problem—episodes of unintended acceleration by its vehicles, many blamed for causing injuries or fatalities—into a complete reputational train wreck.

Toyota’s handling of the new problem hews closely to its game plan on the sludge issue. Back then it denied there was a problem, implied motorist error and acted as though it hoped the whole thing would go away. Therefore, no one should be surprised to learn that the first complaints of sudden acceleration syndrome arose at least nine years ago.

Significantly, Hiltzik adds:

[S]uspicion persists that the cause isn’t mechanical, but electronic. Acceleration complaints skyrocketed after Toyota switched to electronic throttles in some models—that is, throttles that work not by direct linkage to the fuel system, but by electronic relays, sensors and software. Although Toyota has steadfastly maintained that it hasn’t found a fault in the drive-by-wire system, the company’s credibility is shot. Congress and NHTSA are investigating that issue.

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4 02 2010
Ralph Blach

Here is the down size to this. If you are engineer, or mathematician, the numbers do not support a recall, or a stoppage of production.

A car is mechanical monster, and it is a testament to our abilities as humans that we can design so cars are so reliable.

However humans cannot design perfect machines. there will always be stuck throttles, ( I had one on a car with a mechanical linkage and it nearly caused an accident)

The question is what are the minimum standards and failure rates which we are willing to accept. Computers, and other parts fail.
That is a fact of life.

Perception is everything, and I would, even with the current problems buy a Toyota. As an Engineer, I do not believe the failure rate justifies that kind of exclusion.

However, since we are going have computer throttles, minimum design guidelines should be in effect.

And that means acceptable failure rates.

IMHO

Chip

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4 02 2010
Ralph Blach

So instead of engaging in who covered what up, lets engage in a commentary about how to proceed in the future,

1) design guidelines
2) Testing.
3) Stress testing.
4) Over ride systems
5) Fail to safe condition.
6) Driver Training<————–Very important.

IMHO

Chip

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4 02 2010
naegeleblog

All good points, along with the points you made above.

In the law, there is the doctrine of caveat emptor, or Latin for “Let the buyer beware.” However, in this 365/24/7 news cycle-world in which we live globally, Toyota’s scandal is the center of a worldwide meltdown/maelstrom, with politics overriding everything else.

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4 02 2010
Ralph Blach

One of Apollo astronauts once made the comment that there were riding a Bomb build by the lowest bidder.

In a complex system, attention to detail is key. Every comma has to check, every sentence word smithed, every book tested.

And the book has to be affordable so the consumer can purchase it and the company can make a profit.

I will make this statement, every car that has an computer controlled pedal, should have smart throttle, when the brake is pressed, the throttle is cut to idle. Or a idle switch, that simply commands the car to idle, reguardless of what pedal is saying.

But these also add complexity and the probability of failure.

Take it from an engineer, these are not simple to design, hard to test, and even more difficult to manufacture in volume.

Just remember anybody can make just one.

To design a system that can be built by the millions takes skill, a dash of salt, a splash of pepper.

The last thing one must have is to be open minded that your design will have flaws, and one must have the curisoty to seek them out.

Chip

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7 02 2010
Frankie Pintado

Chip said:

I will make this statement, every car that has an computer controlled pedal, should have smart throttle, when the brake is pressed, the throttle is cut to idle. Or a idle switch, that simply commands the car to idle, regardless of what pedal is saying.

Yes, this is what I’ve been saying. If they can do it all with software, then why aren’t they? Even better if it throws an engine light and puts the vehicle in “safe mode”. I know these cars have way bigger processors than they need, and plenty of extra memory. Plus everything runs through the ecm. It would be as easy as a software re-flash and cost $0 in parts and not much in labor either. They wouldn’t even get their hands greasy.

But even a hobbyist like myself could program a small module (an arduino) to accomplish this for around $50. It just seems so simple, there must be something we don’t know.

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4 02 2010
naegeleblog

There has been speculation for some time that the Obama Administration is finally “coming to life” with respect to the Toyota scandal principally because of UAW prodding AND to enhance the U.S. Government’s stakes in rivals GM and Chrysler. One article asks: “Is US bullying Toyota on recall?” See http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5im7AzPBsRb2Q_qT0FXa8DxrjjLwA

In it, David Champion, Consumer Reports’ director of automobile testing, said the reaction to the recall was overblown.

“When you look at the statistics we are putting an awful lot of effort on a very small risk,” he said.

“There has been something like 2,000 complaints of unintended acceleration in some 20 million Toyota vehicles—it’s almost like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”

For better or worse, the last time I looked, CR wasn’t a trusted authority with respect to anything. Also, as a matter of sound public policy, should Americans—especially young families with small children—trust their lives to Toyota’s management and their vehicles, when the company has engaged in a dramatic cover-up spanning a decade so far?

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7 02 2010
Frankie Pintado

Yes, there is obviously some motive. But let’s be honest, who here remembers the Ford/Firestone saga. I would guess pretty much all of us. Many of us remember the Chevy Corvair being bashed by Nader.
We all expose ourselves and others to a risk of death every time we drive in an automobile. We think about that, and we trust in our own abilities and the abilities of the machine to protect us. This hits home for everybody.

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4 02 2010
Ralph Blach

Maybe there was not a cover up. Maybe the instances of failure are so rare that they cannot be duplicated.

From experience, these kind of errors can be hard to trouble shoot and can take years.

you have to have just the car, just the right conditions, for it to happen. And, to make matters much more complex, the monitoring equipment can cause the car NOT to fail.

What would be very disturbing, if it was found out that Toyota did not have a team of engineers working on diagnosing the problem over the years.

This would be the scandal.

As for safety, I would put myself in a Toyota, and any body else.

Any car can have a stuck pedal, and one only has one chance to stop it.

So again, lets look at the future,

But if they have ignored the problem, and did not take them seriously, and did not have team working on duplication, the shame on them.

And by the way, mythbusters proved it is easy to find a needle in a haystack, given the correct equipment.

Chip

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4 02 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks. You said:

What would be very disturbing, if it was found out that Toyota did not have a team of engineers working on diagnosing the problem over the years.

This would be the scandal.

I agree. Presumably that will come out in congressional hearings and/or litigation.

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4 02 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota, Japan And Honor

The Wall Street Journal has an article entitled, “Toyota’s Influence Looms Over Japan,” which is worth reading. See http://www.naegele.com/documents/ToyotasInfluenceLoomsOverJapan-WSJ.com.pdf

I responded at the Journal’s Web site, with the following comments:

Despite the horrors and cruelty of World War II in the Pacific, visited by Japan on Americans and other nationalities, it has often been said that honor is everything to the Japanese. If so, how can they tolerate a decade of lying by Toyota’s management, which continues today?

Any Toyota-produced product (e.g., Toyota cars and trucks and Lexus automobiles, model year 2002 and later) potentially can turn into a runaway vehicle at a moment’s notice. Driving one or being a passenger in one is like playing Russian roulette. Query whether Americans, Japanese and other nationalities, especially young families with small children, will trust their lives to Toyota?

Toyota has zero solutions to the real problems that apparently began with 2002 model-year vehicles, when Toyota adopted the so-called “drive-by-wire” technology that replaced steel cables with electronic relays and computer logic. These changes seem to be the source of the present problems. It will take years before solutions are found and implemented, and such problems are fixed completely—despite the utterly false and misleading propaganda campaign that Toyota is waging in furtherance of its decade-long cover-up.

Surely if there is honor in Japan, (1) Toyota’s management will be removed and prosecuted—which may happen in the U.S. and other countries too—and (2) efforts will be undertaken to resolve these problems honestly and with complete transparency. No more lying by Toyota’s management can be tolerated. Right now the Toyota scandal is spiraling out of control, in no small part because the company’s officials forgot about truth and honor.

See also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/

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4 02 2010
naegeleblog

Are Ford And Toyota In Our Future?

As the Toyota scandal evolves, with much more to come, the question arises as to whether Toyota represents an essentially-good company that might be bought at a discount or bargain? Mike Leathen suggested this idea at the Wall Street Journal’s Web site.

Ford and Toyota have met recently (see, e.g., http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703410004575029011472577950.html?mod=WSJ_auto_LeadStoryCollection).

Ford has been shedding its ties to Mazda for some time; however, Ford knows Japan. It operates globally where Toyota does; it has a fine management team headed by Bill Ford and Alan Mulally; and if there were to be a “fit,” this one might make some sense.

Also, Ford dealt with the Firestone tire scandal fallout, and the impact on its Explorer vehicles; and Ford’s team is tough. Mulally knows how to work effectively with the unions too, from his days at Boeing; and he has a global perspective.

What a global powerhouse Ford and Toyota might make if they ever joined forces in earnest!

See also http://phoenix.bizjournals.com/extraedge/consultants/winning_at_work/2010/02/15/column176.html?market=phoenix

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10 02 2010
Frankie Pintado

I hate to get off topic here, but my understanding of the Ford/Firestone scandal clearly points the blame at Ford. Firestone built the tire to Ford’s specifications. Ford lowered the tire pressure (a lot) because the explorer wouldn’t pass a roll-over test with properly inflated tires. There were over 150 confirmed tire tread separations, most of which resulted in a roll-over, many in death. To further enforce that Ford knew about the problem, they changed their vehicle design and lowered the engine and trans almost six inches on Explorers following the scandal. The Explorer will now pass a roll-over test on properly inflated tires, and the modification cost Ford somewhere in the ball park of $150 per vehicle.

My point here is that Ford has probably done some things in its past that it isn’t so proud of in pursuit of a few bucks. I can think of several deadly Chrysler issues, like total sudden loss of steering on the Dakota/Durango. I’m sure GM has had some problems, but nothing comes to mind.

This Toyota scandal just comes as such a surprise. We’ve learned to expect more from that company. Even if they aren’t brought up on charges, their reputation will probably never fully recover.

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10 02 2010
naegeleblog

Yes, I agree with your conclusion, Frankie. Well said.

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5 02 2010
naegeleblog

The Real Culprit: Electronics

The Wall Street Journal’s Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., has written an excellent article entitled, “Toyota and the Curse of Software,” with a subtitle: “Other car makers are likely to face similar troubles.” See http://www.naegele.com/documents/ToyotaandtheCurseofSoftware.pdf

This may be the best article that I have read to date with respect to the most important issue of all; namely, the impact of electronics on all of the relevant safety issues. Also, it is written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical terms.

Three points are worth adding:

1. Because the full effect of electronic issues and their ramifications are unknown now, Toyota is unable to implement any real “fixes,” and it will not have a realistic schedule for doing so. This may be deadly in terms of vehicle sales, and for Toyota’s dealers, and for resales, and for insurance companies trying to determine their risks, etc., etc.

2. Because Toyota cannot say anything about its vehicles with certainty, this may subject members of Toyota’s management to almost unlimited and unending litigation. The suits against Toyota almost certainly will be class action complex fraud cases, including RICO counts.

3. With respect to the issue of Toyota management’s possible criminal exposure, it is important to remember that criminal prosecution in the U.S. can come at both the federal and State levels. Thus, it is not inconceivable that Japanese members of Toyota’s management might be prosecuted, convicted, and sent to American State prisons if they set foot on U.S. soil. Israeli politicians have had potential legal exposure if they set foot in the UK.

Also, there is no diplomatic immunity for Toyota’s management. The attorney general of any State can take action, such as California’s Attorney General, Jerry Brown, who probably will be running for governor once again. Indeed, it might be “buoying” for his campaign if he took action against Toyota.

A timely example of State action may be what New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is doing to former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis and former CFO Joseph Price—albeit the lawsuit is a civil case, not a criminal suit. See http://www.naegele.com/documents/FormerBankofAmericaCEOKenLewissuedbyCuomo.pdf

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5 02 2010
Ralph Blach

As an engineer, I cannot emphasize enough the complexity that computers add to any design. I also cannot emphasize enough the advantages of a computer controlled throttle. As an designer, one wants a computer controlled throttle because it is NOT linear, and not proportional.

When one accelerates, the computer can do very strange things under the covers, to optimize gas mileage, and decrease wear on the engine.

However the testing of such system of mission critical situations, is very tough. Nasa, on the shuttle does the best job of computer software design, but only a government can support that kind of software development cycle.

There are many things that go into such a design, such as how does one make a component fail in safe way. How to design the software such that it is maintainable. Proper potting ( coating) of the computers so that they are moisture proof, so forth and so on.

To remind people of the difficutly of finding such problem, let me remind of the 3 boeing 737’s that crashed and killed many people.

It took yeas to finally find the answer, and it was an incorrect design of a mechanical rudder computer. This was determined by process of elimation. The three flight profiles of each flight were studied, and it was determined way the flight profiles could have been produce is if the rudder( the big vertical tail fin) were position was the exact opposite position as what was indicated in the black boxes. ( The black boxes were reporting what the pilot was putting in on the rudder control, not the actual rudder position)

The investigation of this problem took years, many lives, a whole lot of money, and the persistence of one man.

I will say here that Boeing cooperated fully with the NTSB because they wanted the answer as badly as the anyone else.

All Airbus airplanes are fly by wire, so if you fly( sooner or later ) on an fly by wire aircraft.

Computers just have to many advantages over cables rods not to design the throttles this way.

It is the way of the future.

Chip

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5 02 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks, Chip, as always.

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5 02 2010
naegeleblog

Akio Toyoda’s Apology Is A Travesty

Toyota’s Chief Executive Akio Toyoda, grandson of the company’s founder, has offered his apologies that are set forth in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal’s article is included (see http://www.naegele.com/documents/ToyotaPresidentOffersApology.pdf), as well as the Journal’s “Live-Blogging the Toyota Press Conference” (see http://blogs.wsj.com/dispatch/2010/02/05/live-blogging-the-toyota-press-conference).

My responses are as follows:

Akio Toyoda’s apology is too little too late, and empty. It has been fashioned by lawyers and P.R. hacks, and is insincere and an insult to the American people. His role in this decade-long scandal must be investigated thoroughly. Along with other members of Toyota’s management, where wrongdoing is determined, they should be criminally prosecuted here in the U.S. and in other countries where Toyota does business. His “heartfelt apology” rings hollow and is nothing more than political “spin,” which is seen on American TV and in the media every day.

Where were he and other members of Toyota’s “first family” 10 years ago and each year since, when this massive scandal and cover-up were unfolding? Clearly there are reasons to believe that Toyota’s management has engaged in criminal conduct and they should be prosecuted if they set foot on American soil. There is no diplomatic immunity for them. In fact, the attorney general of any State can take action, such as California’s Attorney General, Jerry Brown.

Toyoda, Jim Lentz and other Toyota officials are lying if they say or even suggest that Toyota has plenary solutions to its problems. They don’t exist, and it is unlikely that such solutions will be determined and implemented fully for years to come. In the case of runaway Toyota-produced vehicles (e.g., Toyota cars and trucks and Lexus automobiles, model year 2002 and later), it is likely that the vehicles’ electronics is where the problems truly lie. See, e.g., http://www.naegele.com/documents/ToyotaandtheCurseofSoftware.pdf

Because the full effect of electronic issues and their ramifications are unknown now, Toyota is unable to implement any real “fixes,” and it will not have a realistic schedule for doing so. This may be deadly in terms of vehicle sales, and for Toyota’s dealers, and for resales, and for insurance companies trying to determine their risks, etc., etc. Also, because Toyota cannot say anything about its vehicles with certainty, this may subject members of Toyota’s management to almost unlimited and unending litigation. The suits against Toyota almost certainly will be class action complex fraud cases, including RICO counts.

Enough is enough: no more defective Toyotas here ever again. None. America is not a “dumping ground” for defective products from Japan (or China or anywhere else), which in turn generate profits that are repatriated back to Japan. We have had it up to our ears with the GM and Chrysler bailouts, and now this. If Toyota wants to sell defective vehicles in Japan or other markets, and can find buyers for them, at least it won’t affect innocent Americans.

Barack Obama bailed out GM and Chrysler, even though it is unlikely that George W. Bush would have bailed out either of them. The idea of “bailing out” Toyota by permitting it to sell vehicles in the American market with any defects at all is repulsive. Any politician or government bureaucrat who allows it or participates in such wrongdoing should lose his or her job and be prosecuted too. A message must be sent far and wide, as Ralph Nader did years ago, that Americans will not tolerate shoddy or defective products from Toyota!

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/

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6 02 2010
naegeleblog

More Outrages From Toyota!

Please read these two articles from LeftLane, the auto industry Web site: http://www.leftlanenews.com/feds-excluded-most-severe-cases-of-runaway-toyotas.html
and http://www.leftlanenews.com/documents-in-toyota-conspiracy-case-could-be-made-public-soon.html

It is becoming clearer and clearer that Toyota officials in both the U.S. and Japan must be prosecuted in U.S. courts for their wrongdoing, which has potentially put the lives of millions of Americans at risk. This will be true (1) as long as any Toyota-produced, potentially-defective vehicles are allowed on U.S. roads, and (2) until all defects are corrected completely. Aside from the driver’s life and that of the passengers, innocent third parties in other vehicles and pedestrians are equally at risk.

Query whether Toyota’s Japanese management will dare set foot in certain States (e.g., California, New York) for fear of being arrested and having the American legal system mete out justice?

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6 02 2010
naegeleblog

“Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration” Report

As indicated in postings above, Sean Kane is president of Safety Research & Strategies, a Rehoboth, Massachusetts-based auto safety consulting firm. It has just issued a report entitled, “Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration,” which can be downloaded from the firm’s Web site. See http://www.safetyresearch.net/2010/02/05/toyota-sudden-acceleration-the-full-report-from-safety-research-strategies/

I urge you to do so, and read it. On page 51, where the report’s conclusions are listed, two more bullet points might be added:

1. Toyota does not have complete solutions to its vehicles’ problems; and it is unlikely that such solutions will be determined and implemented fully for years to come.

2. If it is determined that Toyota’s American and/or Japanese management engaged in criminal conduct, they may be prosecuted—with the Japanese officials being arrested if they set foot on American soil. There is no diplomatic immunity for them. In fact, the attorney general of any State can take action, such as California’s Attorney General Jerry Brown, or New York’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who just moved against former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis.

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7 02 2010
naegeleblog

How Sweet It is!

As mentioned in one of the postings above, Forbes’ Jerry Flint believes: “Ford is likely to replace Toyota as No. 2 this year.”

See http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/27/flint-toyota-recall-busiiness-ford.html

Indeed, “The Little Engine That Could” just keeps puffing along: “I think I can, I think I can.” Perhaps if Jerry and others are correct, it will say in the not-too-distant future, and proudly so: “I thought I could, I thought I could.”

Here is the latest from Ford, and it is impressive: http://www.thefordstory.com/our-plan-progress/ford-sales-are-up-up-up/

See also http://phoenix.bizjournals.com/extraedge/consultants/winning_at_work/2010/02/15/column176.html?market=phoenix

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8 02 2010
Ralph Blach

As an engineer, some what skilled in the arts, and as a skydiver with over 800 jumps, I would like to make this comment.

I believe, that all cars, buggys, horses, airplanes, toasters, etc, are under certain conditions unsafe.

To use them, we must be willing to accept the risk associated using the device.

I have said that a smart throttle should be included in every car, but I was thinking. Depending on failure modes, a smart throttle might NOT work.

One does not make a skydive, take a walk, drive a car, fly on an airplane without taking that first step.

Also remember that adding safety devices, such as smart throttles add complexity and will have failure modes of their own.

Here is one failure mode of a smart throttle and I would not want it. The cars computer incorrectly detects that the brake as been activated, turns off power to the engine, when you are making an emergency maneuver.

Dont think this will not happen because it will. The machines we build are NOT perfect.

One has think long and hard about safety. Here is another possible solution. Have an emergency position on the shifter, that will turn off power to the fuel pump.

This will absolutely stop the car, but again introduces failure modes and complexity.

Right now, past the Toyota disaster, we have an epidemic of people talking on cell phones and texting while they are driving.

Lets put problems into perspective. Toyota is being punished because they did not cooperate the NHTB.

But, I did not agree with the shut down of manufacture and sale of the cars, because I do not believe the numbers, supported such an action.

IMHO, There are a number of reason for the Accelertions.

1) drivers pressing the wrong pedals ( it happens)
2) floor mats and other debris ( happens)
3) faulty pedals. (has happened to ME)
4) bad wiring
5) bad electronics.

When the problem happen as rarely as they happen, it is hard to find a solutions.

Now, or the report which was posted where the driver pulled into the Toyota dealer ship with car running.

The outcome of this was shocking.

1) When you get a car like this, as an engineer you want it.

Toyota simple should have said, well take you choice of cars on lot, because we want your car.

2) Every detail of the drivers experience should have been written down

Nothing is too small do discard. What he was doing, where he was, everything.( movies need to be taken of the car in the failure mode, along with the computer readouts, and pictures from underneath the hood.)

In this case, the techincans need a number to call the engineers, not just another technician, to get measurement instructions, whilst the car is failing.( note this will be dangerous for the technicial because they will have to put there hands in an hot enviroment with a racing engine.)

3) ship the car, back to engineers, and tell them, this car failed in this conditions.

Make it fail again.

IMHO,

Chip

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9 02 2010
naegeleblog

Finally, Some Good Sense From Congress About Toyota

According to the Wall Street Journal, some congressional hearings into Toyota’s problems have been postponed, in part because of the inclement weather, but also because there is “a growing body of evidence that neither Toyota nor NHTSA have identified all the causes of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.”

Committee staffers wrote in a memorandum to members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee: “Attention is now being focused on the electronic throttle control system (ETC) to determine whether sudden acceleration may be attributable to a software design problem or perhaps to electromagnetic interference.”

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703630404575053701272021006.html?mod=WSJ-hps-LEFTWhatsNews; see also http://oversight.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4781:chairman-towns-issa-reschedule-the-committee-hearing-to-examine-the-toyota-recall&catid=3:press-releases&Itemid=49

Three cheers for the congressional staffers!

Here is the committee’s membership: http://oversight.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2229%3Amembership&catid=37&Itemid=20

Please note the posting above on January 28, 2010, which sets forth the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s membership, etc. Its hearing with respect to Toyota’s problems is scheduled to occur on February 23, 2010. See http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1887:energy-a-commerce-committee-will-hold-hearing-on-toyota-recall&catid=122:media-advisories&Itemid=55

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10 02 2010
naegeleblog

Criminal Fraud At Toyota!

Here is the Wall Street Journal’s latest article entitled, “Secretive Culture Led Toyota Astray,” which is worth reading: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704820904575055733096312238.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEADNewsCollection#articleTabs%3Darticle

Here are my responses at the Journal’s Web site:

Whether or not the authors of this article intended to do so, they just laid bare a massive cover-up—in rather simplistic and basic terms—stretching back to 2002, which constitutes fraud at the very least. This is consistent with what lots of us have known for some time now.

Documents have been destroyed by Toyota; customers’ complaints have been dismissed as frivolous; the company has been in full-damage control mode for years; and the stone-walling continues to this day, because the risks to Toyota and its management are unprecedented, quite literally.

Forbes’ longtime and highly-respected auto “guru” Jerry Flint was correct when he opined:

“Toyota’s accelerator problem is the costliest car safety issue—and corporate disaster—in automotive history. It certainly dwarfs the sudden acceleration issue that hit Audi long ago, or the Firestone tire problem that destroyed the sales of Ford’s Explorer or those long-ago issues that created Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe at Any Speed.”

See http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/27/flint-toyota-recall-busiiness-ford.html; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/

The legal exposure that Toyota faces is criminal, not just civil anymore; and it has exposure in Japan, the United States and virtually every country in which it has sold or is selling defective vehicles.

Toyota’s dealers and other employees are being instructed to allay customers’ concerns, and tell them that “fixes” are here now, or on the way momentarily. This constitutes more lying, and more fraud; and the web of criminal liability is stretching far and wide. It touches Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s CEO and grandson of the company’s founder; Jim Lentz, President and COO of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.; and other key Toyota officials in the U.S. and elsewhere.

There is reason to believe that these individuals and other members of the company’s management have been responsible for Toyota’s wrongdoing, as well as the massive cover-up—or at the very least they did nothing when they learned about it, which is criminal too. All of the company’s key management, from Toyoda on down, would be well advised to hire the best criminal defense lawyers that money can buy in the U.S., Japan and other countries where Toyota does business.

New York’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo just brought an action against former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis; and California’s AG Jerry Brown and others may do the same thing with respect to Toyota’s management. They may be arrested, incarcerated and charged by one or more State attorneys general; and this may happen to Japanese officials when they set foot on American soil, with possible jail time being a disincentive for them to come here at all.

As Forbes’ Flint says bluntly in his latest column entitled, “Toyota’s Troubles Are Just Beginning”: “[I]t’s going to get worse before it gets better—and it won’t get better.” At the very least, Flint adds: “The resale value of old Toyotas will fall because of the safety issues, which means their trade-in value will fall, which mean the actual buying price and the long term cost of owning a Toyota will rise.” See http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/04/flint-toyota-autos-business-tradein.html

While it is difficult if not impossible to calculate the price of this scandal for Toyota in the U.S. and worldwide, clearly it includes: (1) the cost of the recalls now and in the future; (2) the loss of shareholders’ value; (3) the costs of lawsuits, judgments and settlements; (4) lost jobs at Toyota and its dealers and suppliers; (5) damage to the company’s reputation; and (6) criminal prosecution, conviction and incarceration.

Hold on tight: Toyota and its management. You ain’t seen nothing yet. This is a train wreck that is making history!

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10 02 2010
naegeleblog

The Role Of Lawyers In The Toyota Scandal

A legitimate question has been raised at the Wall Street Journal’s Web site about my role and that of other lawyers in the scandal. One person raised the issue this way:

“[A]re you representing claimants in any of the utterly [ridiculous] opportunistic [lawsuits] brought against Toyota? Only in America can people even contemplate suing for loss of value of a used car due to a defect that the car company [has] committed to fixing.”

My response is as follows:

First, your question is a good one. As stated clearly in a disclaimer that appears in the first posting directly beneath a blog article of mine on the subject:

“I do not represent any auto manufacturers at this time; I have never represented Toyota; I am not involved in litigation against Toyota; I do not contemplate being involved with such litigation; and I do not handle personal injury litigation. My interests are a matter of sound public policy and auto safety.”

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe

Second, because Toyota has engaged in a massive cover-up spanning a decade so far, which has put American consumers at risk and continues to do so, I do not believe the company will do anything more than its management is absolutely compelled to do. This is crystal clear from what they have done and failed to do thus far. In short, the notion that Toyota is a corporate “good citizen” is a pipe dream, despite selling the Prius and other “green” vehicles—which have serious problems too.

Third, there is no reason to believe that the regulators or politicians will do anything either. You might wish to read the following recent articles from the New York Times and the Journal: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/10/business/10safety.html?pagewanted=all and http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704820904575055733096312238.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEADNewsCollection#articleTabs%3Darticle

Fourth, while I am often very critical of the legal profession generally, it is necessary; and sometimes one can only obtain redress by using its “tools.” What Toyota has done cries out for legal redress, both of a criminal and civil nature. A decade of stone-walling warrants it in spades.

Finally, I understand your reservations and share your concerns about the legal profession’s role in the Toyota scandal.

See http://online.wsj.com/community/groups/question-day-229/topics/do-you-believe-toyotas-fix?commentid=904143?mod=djemcomnewtrackedcomment

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13 02 2010
naegeleblog

Is Obama Pursuing Toyota To Help GM?

The latest highly-respected Rasmussen polling shows that lots of Americans believe the federal government is pursuing Toyota more aggressively than usual in order to help government-owned General Motors sell more cars. in fact, 23 percent of Americans agree that senior government officials are criticizing Toyota to help “Government Motors,” and 51 percent believe that the government has a conflict-of-interest when it comes to regulating competing automakers.

See http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/business/auto_industry/february_2010/23_say_government_criticizing_toyota_to_help_gm

This is fascinating, because of its potential impact on GM sales, and on the Toyota scandal itself. Congressional investigations into Toyota’s wrongdoing—and the government’s “participation” in that wrongdoing, if any—may shed light on these subjects.

Stay tuned!

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14 02 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota Lies And Lies And Lies Some More!

Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian of the Los Angeles Times’ Investigative Team have another fine article entitled, “For Toyota, the crucial question is the electronics.” See http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fi-toyota-electronics14-2010feb14,0,2814693,full.story

The company denies that its vehicles’ acceleration problems stem from an electronic or software glitch. The Wall Street Journal has an article entitled, “Toyota-Funded Study Finds No Problem With Electronics.”

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704124704575063651031777986.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

Lastly, a class action RICO lawsuit—Viviano v. Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Inc.—has been filed against Toyota, in connection with its wrongdoing. See http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601101&sid=ah.pIHgzlhdA

Here is a copy of the complaint: http://www.naegele.com/documents/VivianoComplaint.pdf

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14 02 2010
naegeleblog

Why Is Toyota Lying?

The reasons are clear, and they have been set forth above, but it is worth repeating them again, so the actions (and inactions) of Toyota’s management are understood clearly:

1. They are hiring “advocates” for their side (e.g., who will distort the safety data, and falsify the accident reports, and deny that they destroyed documents), which they have to do legally. Yes, it sounds nefarious and even “sinister,” but that is how big business or government or other entities operate when the stakes are this high.

2. They are in full “lock-down” mode, and are “hunkered down” to protect themselves legally. This overrides their P.R. people, who are interested in selling cars and restoring the company’s battered image and reputation that are only apt to get much much worse.

3. Having covered up the true facts for about a decade so far, they are not going to start telling the truth now. For openers, they are staring down the barrel of criminal and civil litigation in the countries where they do business, which is apt to cost the company billions of dollars and potentially put some of its management in jail. Hence, they are not likely to get “religion” under these circumstances.

4. As Forbes’ Jerry Flint has written (as cited above):

Toyota’s accelerator problem is the costliest car safety issue—and corporate disaster—in automotive history. It certainly dwarfs the sudden acceleration issue that hit Audi long ago, or the Firestone tire problem that destroyed the sales of Ford’s Explorer or those long-ago issues that created Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe at Any Speed.

See http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/27/flint-toyota-recall-busiiness-ford.html (emphasis added)

5. The advice of their P.R. people is being trumped by the advice of their lawyers, which is not surprising. However, once it is shown that (1) they have lied consistently and are still doing it now AND (2) they have destroyed documents AND (3) they have intimidated employees and others AND (4) they have waged a decade-long “campaign” to keep the lid on these issues—a truly massive and unprecedented cover-up—then their “house of cards” will come tumbling down.

6. As Forbes’ Flint has written bluntly:

[I]t’s going to get worse before it gets better—and it won’t get better.

See http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/04/flint-toyota-autos-business-tradein.html

Stay tuned. There is a whole lot more to come!

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15 02 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota’s Latest Ploy: Plans To Boost Testing And Disclosure

Americans should be repulsed and angry about Toyota’s latest fraudulent and misleading statements—from the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight if their lives depended on it”!

Having engaged in a massive and unprecedented fraudulent cover-up, spanning a decade so far, the company has announced that it has plans to boost testing and disclosure.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/ToyotaPlanstoBoostTestingandDisclosure.pdf

What on earth was Toyota doing during the last decade, when it was churning out vehicles for consumption in America and other global markets, which were unsafe and its management knew it?

Here are my comments concerning the Wall Street Journal’s article at the newspaper’s Web site:

This article is outrageous. The reporter has fallen into the trap of unwittingly becoming part of the massive fraudulent cover-up by Toyota, which has spanned a decade so far. Toyota’s “Plans to Boost Testing And Disclosure” are merely part of a massive P.R. and “disinformation” campaign, hatched by the company’s lawyers and P.R. hacks, to deflect attention and scrutiny from the real issues facing Toyota and its customers.

Also, its dealers are being “sucked” into the cover-up, by conveying a sense of confidence to Toyota’s customers that the company and its dealerships have the problems under control and resolved, when they don’t. They are nowhere close. What the Toyota “family” members (e.g., management and dealers and their employees in the U.S,, Japan and elsewhere) are doing is subjecting themselves to almost unlimited criminal and civil liability.

ALL of them, from Toyota’s CEO Toyoda on down, would be well advised to hire the best criminal defense lawyers that money can buy in the U.S., Japan and other countries where Toyota does business.

The chickens are coming home to roost bigtime!

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/

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17 02 2010
naegeleblog

Finally, Massive U.S. Government Investigations Of Toyota Begin!

As a precursor of what is to come, Ralph Vartabedian, Ken Bensinger and Jerry Hirsch of the Los Angeles Times’ brilliant—and hopefully award-winning—investigative team have a new article entitled, “Toyota gets intense new U.S. scrutiny,” about plans to investigate Toyota.

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota17-2010feb17,0,7207887,full.story

They state:

Now, with congressional investigators and others looking into both Toyota’s and NHTSA’s actions, the federal agency is turning up the heat.

As indicated in my comments at the Wall Street Journal’s Web site (see below), the heat has to be racheted up even more than this. Otherwise, Toyota and its legal and P.R. team will figure out ways to foil NHTSA and congressional investigators. The U.S. government must bring to bear all available resources, which includes federal and State prosecutors and the FBI.

The Journal’s article on this subject is worth reading too.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/USDemandsToyotaDocuments.pdf

My comments at the Journal’s Web site are as follows:

The initial signs are that this is a positive step toward ferreting out what Toyota’s management knew and when, and what they did or did not do about it. The government’s scrutiny should not be limited to Toyota’s American management team, but should reach the highest echelons of its Japanese management—including but not limited to the company’s CEO Akio Toyoda—as well as its management located elsewhere in the world that affects vehicles sold in the United States. Because Toyota does business here and has subjected American drivers, passengers and others to enormous and perhaps unprecedented risks, Toyota cannot dodge the full impact of such scrutiny.

In addition to DOT and NHTSA officials, the American governmental “team” should include federal criminal prosecutors and FBI agents. State prosecutors should be part of the team too, especially where there is a possibility that State prosecution may be warranted in the future. Such joint efforts will lessen duplicative investigative undertakings and encourage the sharing of vital information among federal and State officials. No stone should be left unturned by the government’s team, reaching back to 2002 when Toyota switched to “drive-by-wire.” Joint Senate-House congressional oversight must be established too—with full investigative powers—to monitor the federal investigations and insure that no more cover-ups occur.

The shortcomings of the Journal’s reporting and/or Toyota’s undertakings are evident in the following comments: “About 80% of the vehicles involved in the sales halt are back on sale after Toyota dealers repaired the gas pedals.” See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704804204575069383091461488.html?mod=WSJ_Autos_AutoIndustry3

Clearly, the problems with Toyota’s vehicles are not limited to gas pedals or floor mats. By addressing these issues, even if it is assumed that such issues are “fixed” completely—which is unlikely—there remain other issues such as the vehicles’ electronics, with respect to which neither Toyota nor its dealers have any answers now. Thus, by giving Americans a false sense of security, Toyota’s management and dealers are perpetuating the decade-long cover-up, and increasing their exposure to both criminal and civil liability.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, one must realize why Toyota will never “come clean” completely, even in the face of massive government scrutiny.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/#comment-176

The Los Angeles Times’ article included a quote that probably says it all:

Only Toyota knows what they knew and when they knew it. . . .

Indeed, only governmental investigations with some “real teeth” (e.g., federal and State criminal prosecutors, FBI agents) may uncover the full extent of Toyota’s wrongdoing and cover-ups. Also, civil fines are a pittance, and are like water off a duck’s back!

. . .

The Times’ article adds:

Ford Motor Co. is now expected to replace [Toyota] as the second-biggest seller of autos in the U.S. this year, according to Edmunds.com.

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota17-2010feb17,0,7207887,full.story

Forbes’ Jerry Flint agrees with this prediction.

See http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/27/flint-toyota-recall-busiiness-ford.html

. . .

More bad news for Toyota: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/engineering/article7030090.ece

Toyoda has agreed to testify before Congress: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703983004575073842754600732.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTWhatsNews

Will he and/or other Japanese members of Toyota’s management be arrested when they set foot on American soil, now or in the future?

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21 02 2010
naegeleblog

The First “Smoking Gun” Of Toyota’s Criminal Activity?

It has been reported:

New documents shared with congressional investigators show that Toyota officials boasted saving $100 million by successfully negotiating with the government on a limited recall over complaints of sudden acceleration.

See http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9E0QME00&show_article=1 and http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-docs22-2010feb22,0,5030188.story and http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2010-02-21-toyota-recall-documents_N.htm and http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/engineering/article7035846.ece

Here is a copy of the key Toyota document: http://www.naegele.com/documents/Toyotapresentation.pdf

This is only the tip of an enormous iceberg of Toyota’s wrongdoing, spanning a decade so far.

Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda will be forced to resign. It is just a matter of time. He hasn’t got the stomach for what is to come. New management will be brought in to clean up the mess—but not before things have gotten much much worse than they are now.

. . .

Federal and State criminal prosecutors and the FBI must be brought in now, because it is becoming clearer with each passing day that what Toyota and its Japanese and American management have done is criminal.

. . .

Lastly, it has been reported:

Internal Toyota documents derided the Obama administration and Democratic Congress as “activist” and “not industry friendly,” a revelation that comes days before the giant automaker’s top executives testify on Capitol Hill amid a giant recall.

See http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0210/33248.html#ixzz0gH83zpOC

Clearly, in addition to being criminally culpable in all likelihood, Americans should be repulsed and angry about Toyota’s never-ending arrogance and downright stupidity—from the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight if their lives depended on it.”

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22 02 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota’s Criminal Proceedings Begin!

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Toyota said it has received subpoenas from a U.S. grand jury and the Securities and Exchange Commission, both requesting documents related to unintended acceleration and the braking system of its Prius hybrid.

. . .

Toyota said the subpoena was issued by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York on Feb. 8.

The company said that on Feb. 19 it received a voluntary request and a subpoena from the Los Angeles office of the SEC seeking documents related to the sudden acceleration issue and the company’s disclosure policies and practices.

The disclosure of a grand-jury investigation is the latest blow to Toyota, which has been under intense scrutiny for its safety track record.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/HousePanelSlamsToyota.pdf

This is merely a start, and still only the tip of an enormous iceberg of wrongdoing by Toyota.

The Journal article added:

Toyota said in a statement Sunday: “Our first priority is the safety of our customers and to conclude otherwise on the basis of one internal presentation is wrong.” Toyota has said it is overhauling the company’s corporate culture to ensure that safety is a top priority and to improve communication between its Japanese headquarters and its U.S. operations.

This is pure balderdash, and merely part of Toyota’s massive cover-up that has spanned a decade so far, and its legal and P.R. disinformation campaign that is intended to obfuscate the issues relating to the history-making scandal surrounding Toyota and its management.

As stated previously, Federal and State criminal prosecutors and the FBI must be brought in now, because it is becoming clearer with each passing day that what Toyota and its Japanese and American management have done is criminal.

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23 02 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota’s Rivals Rush To Fill The Void

In another fine article by the Los Angeles Times’ Toyota “Investigative Team” members, Jerry Hirsch writes:

[O]nce-loyal Toyota owners and other car buyers are taking a new view of the automaker’s rivals—especially Ford, Honda and Hyundai—a trend that may reshape the U.S. auto market for years to come.

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-marketshare23-2010feb23,0,7430975.story

The article continues:

In an example of the new head winds Toyota faces, Consumer Reports will announce Tuesday that it will dramatically reduce the number of Toyota models that it recommends as good buys. Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, had long dominated vehicle recommendations of what many view as the car buyer’s bible.

Such developments, and the congressional hearings looking into safety issues with Toyotas that start Tuesday, are just the beginning of the automaker’s marketing nightmare.

Lastly, the article states:

Already, Toyota’s share of the U.S. retail auto market has plunged to 12.1% from 17.5% since its Jan. 21 recall of 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. for a sticky gas pedal, according to auto information company TrueCar.com.

Wow!

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23 02 2010
naegeleblog

Let The Hearings Begin!

Sean Kane, President and founder of Safety Research & Strategies—a research and advocacy firm specializing in automotive and product safety—has provided important testimony to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Energy and Commerce Committee. In it, he states:

We have concluded that neither Toyota nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified all of the causes of SUA in Toyota and Lexus model vehicles, nor has the automaker implemented remedies that address the types of complaints consumers are reporting.

We are extremely concerned about the unintended acceleration circumstances that many drivers and witnesses have reported in their Toyota and Lexus models. They are rooted in the fact that many of these incidents do not relate to the recalls Toyota has initiated and nearly half of the more than 2,263 complaints we have examined involve vehicles outside of any recall campaign.

. . .

[T]his problem is Toyota’s own creation. For years the company has ignored or blamed its consumers. Instead of listening carefully to the safety issues consumer have presented them, Toyota has turned them away, assuring them that nothing is wrong. The company now has a duty to immediately address the unintended acceleration problems and provide its customers vehicles with appropriate failsafe designs.

See http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_111/20100223/Kane.Testimony.pdf

The other testimony is set forth at the committee’s Web site. See, e.g., http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1903:response-by-toyota-and-nhtsa-to-incidents-of-sudden-unintended-acceleration&catid=133:subcommittee-on-oversight-and-investigations&Itemid=73 and http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1887:energy-a-commerce-committee-will-hold-hearing-on-toyota-recall&catid=122:media-advisories&Itemid=55

Jim Lentz, Toyota’s American CEO, made it clear in his testimony that studies will be commenced in late March 2010, about whether electronics (ETCS, or electronic throttle control system) issues are a factor in the Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) incidents involving Toyota vehicles. Lentz stated explicitly that the “software” has not been tested yet.

Thus, it is clear that there are no solutions to the SUA issues now, because Toyota has not addressed them yet. While Lentz was articulate, he made it clear that all safety decisions are made in Japan, not in the U.S., and that his responsibilities only extend to sales.

Lastly, Lentz cited statistics about how many customers had been served by Toyota dealers recently, which is totally meaningless when Toyota does not have complete solutions to the problems. Hence Lentz’s comments, and the assurances being provided by Toyota and its dealers to customers, are in furtherance of the company’s continuing cover-up, spanning a decade so far.

Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-MA) asked: “You don’t know what caused the problems”? Lentz ducked this question and similar ones again and again.

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24 02 2010
Corolla Owner

I am 19 years old and I have a 2010 Corolla and I’m starting to get really pissed off about all of these recalls. First of all, I used to drive a really crappy old car and my friends used to constantly crack jokes about it (even though that is teenager-like behavior, it really made me want to get a new car. So I went out and bought a 2010 Corolla. Now whenever some of my friends see me driving it, they ask me, “Hey you guys having another recall this week”? I thought the issue had only recently come up and had been resolved right away, but now that I did some research about it, I start to realize that it’s just getting started. I went to a Toyota dealership and they were really apologetic and sincere, but when I asked them if they could guarantee that my car is safe to drive they said they couldn’t. I told them I wanted to return my car because when I had bought a brand new Corolla I had been promised that I was getting one of the safest cars out there, they told me that I couldn’t because of the contract that I signed when I bought it. What can I do about this? Please give me some advice!!! Also another question…. Let’s say that I’m driving my Corolla and I hit another car because my gas pedal accelerates and I end up killing someone. Can I get sued for that and get charged with manslaughter or something like that? Please respond! Thank you!!

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24 02 2010
naegeleblog

I am sorry about what has happened to you, but please understand that the same thing is happening to lots of other Toyota and Lexus owners too. What Toyota and/or its dealer should do is rescind the contract and give you back your money right now.

As the postings above this one indicate, the issues have not been resolved completely, and there is no way that Toyota or one of its dealers can tell you that without lying. Yes, you are correct: it is just getting started.

Next, if you are driving and hit another car or pedestrian, or both, you might be subject to one or more civil lawsuits, and it is possible that you might be charged criminally too. Thus, you should seek the advice and help of an attorney where you live.

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24 02 2010
naegeleblog

Will Toyoda’s Nightmares End?

The Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins has written an article about the “Mystery of Sudden Acceleration,” which is worth reading.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/HolmanJenkins-ToyotaandtheMysteryofSuddenAcceleration.pdf

My response at the Journal’s Web site is as follows:

“Oy vey” is right. Jenkins summed up Toyoda’s dilemma nicely. If he wins (e.g., by making a great presentation before Congress), he loses—because Toyota has no “fixes” for the Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) incidents involving its vehicles. Indeed, the company’s American CEO Jim Lentz stated explicitly in his House testimony that the vehicles’ “software” has not even been tested yet.

If Toyoda makes any missteps, he is “toast,” and gone as the parent company’s CEO. Thus, at best, he can make his presentation, accept the expected flack from Congress, get back on his plane for Tokyo, and keep opening wide his company’s piggy bank because the money will continue flowing out like water, with no end in sight.

Aside from (1) the staggering drop in sales already, and (2) the lost revenues, and (3) the costs of the recalls that are only beginning, and (4) the costs of litigation and settlements, imagine how much it will (5) cost to develop and implement a “fix,” assuming one is found. Until then, it is non-stop bloodletting.

Also, what about the company’s Toyota and Lexus dealers who have been assuring customers that all is well when it isn’t, and the liabilities that they may incur as they get sucked farther and farther into the company’s massive cover-up that has spanned a decade so far? And what about possible criminal exposure for Toyota’s management?

What about Toyota and Lexus customers who cannot rescind their vehicle purchase agreements, but might be held liable civilly and criminally if they get into accidents that cause injuries or fatalities? What about the drop in value of their vehicles, and the increase in insurance costs, assuming they can obtain it? And the list goes on and on.

Will Toyoda’s nightmares ever end?

Seehttp://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704506104575083180509210638.html#articleTabs%3Dcomments

Stay tuned!

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24 02 2010
naegeleblog

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur Is Correct About Japan’s Closed Automobile Market

To her credit, on February 24, 2010, in hearings before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Congresswoman Kaptur pursued questioning with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about how Japan has closed its market to U.S. and other automakers for decades, creating an enormous trade imbalance. This, she argued, has created or contributed to a climate or “culture of secrecy,” which may have given rise to Toyota’s disregard for consumer issues and the spurning of consumer complaints.

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24 02 2010
naegeleblog

Testimony By Akio Toyoda And Yoshi Inaba: Where Is The Remorse?

The testimony of both was professional, and clearly they had been well prepared and briefed. Among the most important questioning was that of Congressman Dan Burton when he asked Inaba about the presentation that was prepared for him, which bragged about saving recall monies.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/Toyotapresentation.pdf

Inaba—whose English is quite good, and who is very smart, articulate, savvy and effective—claimed that he did not remember the meeting in which the slide presentation was made, and that it was prepared for him; he did not prepare it. He added that it was part of an “orientation” briefing by Toyota’s Washington office, a few days after he assumed his present leadership position with Toyota. He is President of Toyota North America.

Overall, the testimony of both Toyoda and Inaba was impressive. However, there are no solutions to the “electronics” issues, and that is clear. Thus, no Toyota employee or dealer or anyone representing the company, directly or indirectly, can provide American consumers with assurances that the company’s vehicles are completely safe. To do so would be lying.

Perhaps most importantly, a congresswoman brought up the speeding death of Guadalupe Alberto in a runaway Toyota, and asked Toyoda and Inaba: “Where is the remorse?”

In a hardball effort to “gut” the damaging testimony of Dr. David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University Carbondale about Toyota’s wrongdoing, Inaba claimed that Gilbert’s testing represented “intended manipulation.”

Aside from trying to put a lid on its legal liabilities (see, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/#comment-176), the “missing link” in all of this for Toyota is that the cost of completely fixing all of its vehicles on American roads would be staggering—if Toyota knew how to fix them!

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25 02 2010
naegeleblog

Toyoda’s Weeping

The spectacle of Toyoda “weeping” is too much to take.

See, e.g., http://www.marketwatch.com/story/toyota-shares-outperform-after-toyoda-hearing-2010-02-25?reflink=MW_news_stmp

What Toyota and Toyoda have carefully “staged” is pathetic. It is simply part of Toyota’s decade-long cover-up and disinformation campaign, which is now being fully orchestrated by the company’s lawyers and P.R. “hacks.”

If Toyoda had any real remorse, he and his family would have acted years ago. Even when the lives and well being of drivers, passengers and others were put at risk, Toyota blamed them instead of addressing the problems and solving them.

What is needed now—which is just beginning (e.g., raids by FBI agents)—is a full-scale criminal probe involving federal and State prosecutors and the FBI, and stretching from the U.S. to Japan and other countries where actions have been taken that impact on American consumers. Steps must be taken to preserve, protect and prevent the destruction of sensitive documents and other evidence; and Toyota products should be boycotted.

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26 02 2010
naegeleblog

Forbes’ Jerry Flint And His Sage Advice

Jerry Flint has two new articles that are worth reading.

See http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/23/flint-autos-toyota-business-recall_print.html and http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/25/toyota-ford-gm-business-autos-toyota-recall_print.html

In the first one, he and his son Douglas argue that Toyota and other carmakers should scrap electronic drive-by-wire systems. In the second one, he argues that Congress and trial lawyers will keep the issues “bubbling for a long time, and sales will suffer.”

I agree with both conclusions.

With respect to drive-by-wire systems, the first article states:

What’s frightening [to the entire auto industry] is the ghost, the ghost in the machine. Might something in the electronic computer systems make our cars suddenly speed out of control, into some unintended acceleration?

. . .

[S]ome customers assert, and government safety officials seem to be implying, that a software glitch is causing the throttle to kick wide open when the gas pedal is not being touched. A software glitch, a ghost in the machine, is to blame.

Ghosts can’t be proved or disproved. Same with a software glitch. From this moment Toyota accidents may be blamed on a ghostly software glitch. Lawsuits will produce hundred-million-dollar settlements, enough to hurt even the mighty Toyota. And it’s reasonable to expect that Congress, or the federal safety bureaucracy, will come up with new and expensive testing legislation.

. . .

[T]he drive-by-wire throttle, and the scarier drive-by-wire braking and steering on the drawing boards, should be scrapped. You can imagine that when we get steer-by-wire we’ll hear that drivers ran off the road because of unintentional swerving.

. . .

The auto companies are only a few years removed from mechanical throttles. It’s not too late to go back. Otherwise the fear and the lawsuits can only spread.

In his second article, Jerry adds:

The serious problem is “unintended acceleration.” This is the problem that has been assumed to be caused by driver error in the past. Toyota thinks floor mats caught under the gas pedal may have caused such a problem. But the important issue is whether something is wrong in the electronic controls, a ghost in the system that can’t be found.

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26 02 2010
naegeleblog

The Second “Smoking Gun” Of Toyota’s Criminal Activity?

Seehttp://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-biller27-2010feb27,0,4348450.story(“Toyota Motor Corp. ‘deliberately withheld’ evidence in lawsuits related to vehicle safety, exhibiting a ‘systematic disregard for the law'”) and http://www.naegele.com/documents/LawmakerSaysToyotaWithheldDocuments.pdf

This is simply the tip of enormous iceberg. Anyone who has followed this scandal with any care has suspected that documents would be withheld by Toyota and its management, which might prove its culpability beyond what most people thought to be possible.

The cover-up, as opposed to the safety issues themselves, will be what does in Toyota when all is said and done.

What is far more serious, however, is the destruction of documents. One has to believe that Toyota’s shredders have been working overtime since this scandal first began to unfold. What is needed now—and it is just beginning (e.g., raids by FBI agents)—is a full-scale criminal probe involving federal and State prosecutors and the FBI, and stretching from the U.S. to Japan and other countries where actions have been taken that impact on American consumers.

Steps must be taken to preserve, protect and prevent the destruction of sensitive documents and other evidence.

. . .

Toyota will “hunker down,” as it has been doing, and hope that the storm blows over. Its management, lawyers and P.R. “hacks” are trying to wrap the American flag around the company, by enlisting the help of its U.S. employees, dealers, et al.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/#comment-215

They have too much to lose to “cop a plea,” which wouldn’t happen procedurally for years to come anyway. Federal litigation has a life cycle of its own, which goes on and on—even if they wanted to “cooperate.” However, it is not in their best interests to do so.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/#comment-176

It will get very ugly. However, like most cover-ups in history (e.g., Watergate), this one has a L-O-N-G way to go.

. . .

When the books are written years from now, and all or hopefully most of the facts have come out, I believe it will be shown that Toyota’s culpability far exceeds what other companies have done.

This will be true for the two reasons: (1) the risks to American consumers and those in other countries, whose safety and well-being have been consciously and systematically ignored and disregarded by Toyota’s management in the U.S. and Japan (e.g., stone-walling of customer complaints; blaming problems on the customers; enlisting dealers to participate unwittingly at first in the cover-up); and (2) the cover-up itself, which may make Watergate seem like child’s play, inter alia, because it has gone on for more than a decade, and is ongoing today.

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27 02 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota And Its Management Will Pay Dearly For Their Criminal Conduct

There is a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal by Paul Ingrassia entitled, “Ford’s Renaissance Man,” about CEO Alan Mulally, which is worth reading.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/FordsRenaissanceMan.pdf

It states:

Ford . . . has begun regaining market share after years of decline. It’s even possible that when auto makers report their February U.S. sales this coming week, Ford might top General Motors for the first time in more than 80 years (except when GM workers were on strike).

“I’ve seen some data saying that it might be so,” says Mr. Mulally. “But we won’t know until we know.”

. . .

Mr. Mulally has passed the word that Ford employees shouldn’t gloat about Toyota’s woes—though after decades of being trounced by Toyota many Ford people are having trouble following that directive. Mr. Mulally’s assessment: “We’re all disappointed to hear more and more about the way this has been handled” by Toyota. “I’m not judging here, but I am saying it hasn’t been efficiently or effectively handled. Hopefully they will learn from this.”

When the Toyota controversy broke, Mr. Mulally says his company re-examined the accelerator pedals on all of its vehicles world-wide. Company engineers found that a Ford commercial van made in China had pedal-linkage design that seemed similar to Toyota’s, and stopped production of the van for a few days until tests showed that the Ford pedals were safe.

. . .

Despite Toyota’s troubles, Mr. Mulally still lists the company at the top of the competitors he respects (and perhaps fears) the most, along with Volkswagen, Honda and Korea’s Hyundai. “I have tremendous respect for those four or five,” he says, before quickly catching himself and adding: “And GM, of course.” It seems like an afterthought, and Chrysler doesn’t even get a mention.

What stands out about Toyota in the article is the following:

Mr. Mulally’s assessment: “We’re all disappointed to hear more and more about the way this has been handled” by Toyota. “I’m not judging here, but I am saying it hasn’t been efficiently or effectively handled. Hopefully they will learn from this.”

This is being kind, generous, gracious and charitable; and above all else, it is politically savvy. Again, there is every reason to believe that what we have seen so far is merely the tip an enormous iceberg of wrongdoing by Toyota and its management.

To repeat, what is needed now—and it is just beginning (e.g., raids by FBI agents)—is a full-scale criminal probe involving federal and State prosecutors and the FBI, and stretching from the U.S. to Japan and other countries where actions have been taken Toyota’s management and other employees that impact on American consumers.

Urgent steps must be taken to preserve, protect and prevent the destruction of sensitive documents and other evidence.

. . .

If anyone has doubts about why all of this is urgent, please review these articles and photos: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-deaths-mainbar28-2010feb28,0,503798,full.story and http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-deaths-list28-2010feb28-pictures,0,131320.photogallery

. . .

What is also disturbing is that Toyota has launched a massive advertising campaign, which includes testimonials by its dealers’ employees, to the effect that they would buy Toyotas—even though the company has not solved the basic safety problems relating to its vehicles. Also, it is launching an incentive program for Americans to buy the vehicles, despite the fact that they are unsafe. Thus, the cover-up and the fraud continue. This cries out for criminal prosecution now!

See, e.g., http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN0111252520100301?type=marketsNews

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2 03 2010
naegeleblog

Wonderful!

Ford outsold Federal Government-owned General Motors in February for the first time in more than a decade, and reported higher sales in the U.S. for every brand and in every product category. Ford sales leaped 43 percent—as Toyota’s dropped 9 percent—to become the largest U.S. automaker.

Ford sold 142,285 vehicles last month. Factoring out the discontinued Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and Saab brands, GM reported U.S. sales of 138,849. Toyota sold 100,027 vehicles, while sales of its Camry, one of the vehicles caught up in the recalls, plunged nearly 20 percent.

Seehttp://www.naegele.com/documents/FordOutsoldGMinU.S.inFebruary.pdf and http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-auto-sales3-2010mar03,0,7226376,full.story and http://www.ford.com/about-ford/news-announcements/press-releases/press-releases-detail/pr-ford26rsquos-us-sales-up-43-32079 and http://media.ford.com/images/10031/February10sales.pdf and http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703807904575097322529129104.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTWhatsNews (“Feeling Heat From Ford, GM Reshuffles Managers“)

. . .

See also http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/engineering/article7049260.ece (“Toyota UK car sales shrink in recall backlash“)

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4 03 2010
naegeleblog

The Saylor Lawsuit In San Diego, And Other Toyota Lawsuits

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/ToyotaSuedOverSanDiegoAccident.pdf (“A harrowing tape of a 911 call from Mr. Saylor’s vehicle in which cries of ‘hold on’ and ‘pray’ are heard has circulated on the Internet, intensifying the negative publicity for Toyota”); see also http://www.naegele.com/documents/LawyersVieforLeadRolesinToyotaLawsuits.pdf

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7 03 2010
naegeleblog

Being Clairvoyant And Predicting Toyota’s Demise

A long-time friend of mine in New York City just sent me the following e-mail message about problems with his son’s car:

It was the first new car we bought [our son] and it was a disaster—Toyota Celica GTS. The check engine light came on at 1000 miles and they could never fix it and they wanted to charge us $2000. I wrote letters to the dealership owner and to Toyota and got nowhere—and [our son] says that I predicted Toyota’s demise 4 years ago.

Still just the tip of the iceberg of Toyota’s decade-long cover-up and wrongdoing!

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8 03 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota-Commissioned Exponent Report Absolves Electronics In Runaway Accelerations, And Toyota Knocks ABC News Report

Toyota is hunkered down, in full damage-control, “take-no-prisoners,” “destroy-the-opposition at all costs” mode. They had no choice; it was to be expected.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/#comment-176

Now their management, lawyers and P.R. hacks are in lock step, firing shots out of all barrels. Leave aside that they have lied through their teeth for a decade so far, and are totally callous when it comes to those who have died, their massive cover-up continues.

Aside from attacking ABC, the Toyota-commissioned Exponent report absolves “electronics” in runaway accelerations.

See http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2010-03-08-toyota08_ST_N.htm and http://www.naegele.com/documents/ToyotaKnocksABCNewsReport.pdf

What would anyone expect from a “made-for-Toyota” report, which simply perpetuates the company’s cover-up and stone-walling?

Exponent was hired to bail out Toyota; and the amount of money paid by the automaker to Exponent should be disclosed fully.

If Toyota had taken actions beginning in 2002 to rectify drive-by-wire technology problems, or to prevent them from happening in the first place, Americans would not have died; and the company’s massive cover-up would not have been necessary.

What Toyota’s management, lawyers and P.R. hacks are doing now is perpetuating that massive cover-up, instead of coming clean about the mistakes that were made.

Offsetting this Herculean smear and disinfomation campaign must be an equally robust boycott of Toyota products, which will serve notice on the company’s management that its wrongdoing will not be tolerated in the United States.

Also, what is needed now more than ever is a full-scale criminal probe involving federal and State prosecutors and the FBI, and stretching from the U.S. to Japan and other countries where actions have been taken by Toyota’s management and other employees that impact on American consumers.

Urgent steps must be taken to preserve, protect and prevent the destruction of sensitive documents and other evidence.

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9 03 2010
Frankie Pintado

This car had just been recalled. It malfunctioned the next day, supporting my theory that toyota does not actually know what is wrong with these cars and is just panicking and throwing money at the problem, rather blindly, so that they can continue to sell cars. Disgraceful. They just dug that hole a lot deeper.

http://news.yahoo.com/video/losangelescbs2-15750780/chp-investigates-runaway-toyota-prius-18522045

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9 03 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks, Frankie, for posting this. It is important!

Here is the Los Angeles Times’ article about it: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-chp9-2010mar09,0,3699926.story

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10 03 2010
Alan Ngo

Just did two hours of research at this website:

http://autocoverup.com/

Under the listings provided by other Lexus Owners about their cars Unintended Acceleration, comes a –pattern– of Cruise Control unintended engagement and inability to brake, de-accelerate, shift into neutral, shift into a lower gear. It seems that the only way to control car is to turn Ignition off (very tricky step in keyless ignition vehicles). Curiously most of the complaints are of 2007 model Lexus ES350’s. There is also a link to great report from Dr. A. Anderson:

http://www.antony-anderson.com/Cruise/8-disc.htm

In this older report, the professor cites that an interesting situation:

“Once it is accepted that mechanisms exist that may cause intermittent failure modes to occur within the cruise control module, then it has to be granted that there is a possibility of a rogue control signal arising that may cause the electronic throttle control to move to the fully open position. This is a potentially dangerous situation because the control system is now in a state where inputs have ceased to determine the output. Switching the cruise control system off will not switch off power to the throttle actuator. Now the only way of closing the throttle is to remove the torque applied by electronic throttle actuator and allow the return spring to close it. This can only happen if the power supply to the electronic throttle actuator is removed or the mechanical link between the actuator and the throttle is disconnected. “

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10 03 2010
blah

Yeah, because this blog is DRIPPING with facts. /sarcasm There’s no real such thing as an “unintended sudden acceleration”, and most of them have to do with driver errors. There have been absolutely NO reported facts or evidence of any defects in Toyota’s cars or their parts. It has to do with science and how the cars are actually built, they don’t just suddenly accelerate without any reason. Toyota’s has been recalling a lot of their cars lately, because they are being asked to fix problems that doesn’t even exist – a simple driver error. So instead of blaming their customers, they are saying “yeah, we’ll fix the problems” and do some cheap “repairs” that cost little – because they know what happened with Audi when they blamed the customers with the same “unintended sudden acceleration” issues that nearly destroyed the company. And as we know, there was no such thing as an “unintended sudden acceleration”, it was a case of driver errors and a hoax made up by the show 60 Minutes. There have been NO reports or evidence that there were any defects within the Audi’s cars. But that didn’t stop the consumers from not buying their vehicles, because of their own ignorance and FUD stories like this.

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11 03 2010
Frankie Pintado

“Yeah, because this blog is DRIPPING with facts. /sarcasm There’s no real such thing as an “unintended sudden acceleration”, and most of them have to do with driver errors.”

Oh, I’m sorry. Is that a fact?/sarcasm

“There have been absolutely NO reported facts or evidence of any defects in Toyota’s cars or their parts. ”

I guess you’re right, if “unintended sudden acceleration” doesn’t exist, then there is no problem at all.

“It has to do with science and how the cars are actually built, they don’t just suddenly accelerate without any reason.”

So it’s not magic? But that doesn’t matter because it never happened.

“Toyota’s has been recalling a lot of their cars lately, because they are being asked to fix problems that doesn’t even exist – a simple driver error.”

…more facts.

“So instead of blaming their customers, they are saying “yeah, we’ll fix the problems” and do some cheap “repairs” that cost little”

…and in doing so admitting that “sudden unintended acceleration” does exist, exposing themselves to untold damages and future liability? Brilliant.
Well folks, you’ll have to decide for yourselves. I know it will be difficult.

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11 03 2010
William Duffy

I am a semiconductor engineer with a MSEE, I previously designed ICs at Motorola and I’ve worked on auto electronic ICs. I do not have a schematic for the circuits in this application and I expect Toyota would not let them out so my hypothesis is based on my professional conjecture. I presume the throttle is controlled by a stepper motor which is powered by a high current device like a bipolar NPN driver. It is possible that this device is contained in an IC which has multiple devices on one chip. It is possible that the layout of the chip was done in such a manner that a parasitic SCR was implemented without knowing about it. This was a too common mistake in the early days of IC design and the knowledge of how to avoid it may not exist at Toyota’s supplier. As such, the device acts as a latch. It can be triggered by a negative voltage spike on the epi (base region) that pulls it below ground. The result would be the device saturates and the output is driven to the collector voltage and it stays there until the power is turned off. That would presumably create the full throttle condition which would not end until the power was shut off.

It is also possible that a layout mistake creates a parasitic MOS device that has the same effect. To analyze this I would need the schematic, device layout, and semiconductor process parameters. Unfortunately, I can see no way to get this information unless Toyota cooperates.

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14 03 2010
naegeleblog

The Cover-Up Continues

See http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-fi-toyota-brake14-2010mar14,0,5340821,full.story (“Federal regulators in 2007 asked Toyota Motor Corp. to consider installing software to prevent sudden acceleration in its vehicles after receiving complaints that vehicles could race out of control, company documents show”)

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15 03 2010
Frankie Pintado

The safety override is a no-brainer. I don’t think that the push-button-start remedy is good enough at all. What difference does it make if you have to hold the button down for three seconds or tap it three times. Neither makes any sense in an emergency situation.

How about an ignition “switch”. Maybe even somewhere you could reach it in a hurry, like say, the steering column? Is that just too “caveman” for everyone?

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15 03 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks, Frankie, for your comments

No, nothing is impossible, as you know. Here are some modifications that Ford is making to its “Interceptor,” to make it more appealing to law enforcement nationwide:

Among special police changes from the civilian Taurus: The shifter is moved to the steering column to leave more room in the console area for electronics gear, and the back doors open 10-degrees wider to more easily guide a handcuffed suspect into the back seat for a trip to the pokey.

See http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2010-03-15-policecars15_CV_N.htm

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20 03 2010
Frankie Pintado

I know, it just drives me crazy when companies all go to push button start suddenly, or all go to retractable hard tops (slowing down), or all have “wings” on the front bumper, or compound tail lights (also ending), or whatever makes people feel like their car is clever right now. What is funny is that many of these ideas have been around for 60 years or more, but come and go like so many things.

Drive-by-wire has awesome potential for handicapped people, and is almost a requirement for hybrids. But it’s not cheaper than a cable, especially if they start making them with all the necessary redundant systems (like an aircraft) and it’s not safer. So why then?

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15 03 2010
naegeleblog

Prius Sales Tank

It is reported that Toyota has suffered an estimated 40 percent fall in sales of its Prius in the U.S.—its most important market—since their peak last October, and that the company is cutting production of the hybrid by 10 percent, with more cuts to follow.

See http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/engineering/article7062251.ece

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18 03 2010
naegeleblog

Can Toyota Do Anything Right? More From The “Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight If Their Lives Depended On It”

See http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2010/03/toyota-warns-of-engine-stalling-in-12-million-corollas/1 (“Toyota warns of engine stalling in 1.2 million Corollas“)

USA Today states:

The stalling can happen at bad times, such as when drivers are trying to merge onto highways.

All of Toyota’s problems would seem like an enormous joke, if they were not so tragic, and if the company was not in the midst of perhaps the greatest cover-up in business history globally, spanning at least a decade so far.

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18 03 2010
naegeleblog

Ford Is Number One!

The Los Angeles Times is reporting:

The data show that Ford Motor Co. is beginning to solidify its position as the top auto seller nationally and it, along with the Buick division of General Motors Co., are edging out luxury brands such as Lexus and Mercedes-Benz in the latest quality rankings.

Ford’s Lincoln brand trailed only Porsche in the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Vehicle Dependability Study to be released Thursday.

. . .

All three Ford brands—Lincoln, Ford and Mercury—outperformed the industry.

. . .

Steady quality improvements are one reason Ford has logged huge gains in market share over the last year, according to a study of march car sales by TrueCar.com, an auto information company. During the first half of March, Ford was the leading auto seller in the United States, with 19.2% of the market. That’s up from 14.6% during the same period last year.

“Everything is aligning just perfectly for Ford. What is propelling them is their product lineup. It is the best they have ever had in their history, and they have improved quality and design, and not needing government help improved their image,” said Jesse Toprak, an analyst at TrueCar.

. . .

GM, now the No. 2 auto seller, is holding steady with a 17.8% market share.

Toyota, which had seen a large drop last month, is back up to 15.5% of the market, the same it held at this time last year.

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-autos18-2010mar18,0,3941220.story; see also http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2010/03/jd-power-says-porsche-and-lincoln-are-most-dependable-/1 and http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e4e829e8-309b-11df-a24b-00144feabdc0.html

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20 03 2010
Frankie Pintado

So I just started “Automotive Electronics” class, and guess what…
My instructor was a Lexus technician.

He talks about how stupid this problem is. He thinks Toyota has known exactly what was wrong the whole time. He says it is both a hardware and a software issue, but has nothing to do with the pedal. It has to do with sensor inputs, and the lack of an override. But more than that, there is a fundamental problem here: an important Driver input (the throttle) is no longer in the hands of the driver. Design all you want, program all you want, that is still the problem.

He also says that the technicians that he worked with all disliked the idea of drive-by-wire, and liked the idea of steering-by-wire even less. He and his co-workers predicted that this would happen years ago. They have made the same prediction regarding steer-by-wire, so don’t buy it. That’s his advice.

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23 03 2010
naegeleblog

Shareholders Sue Toyota—Still Just The Tip Of An Enormous Iceberg

See http://www.leftlanenews.com/toyota-shareholders-file-suit-against-automaker-over-recalls.html

One analyst cited in the article said that if documents proving a cover up are found, it could be disastrous for Toyota:

“I could see this being the end of Toyota,” John Eberhardt, managing partner of investment bank Coutant Capital, told the New York Post. “If there are documents that show a cover up, they are in big trouble.”

As stated in postings above this one, this is why what is needed now more than ever is a full-scale criminal probe involving federal and State prosecutors and the FBI, and stretching from the U.S. to Japan and other countries where actions have been taken by Toyota’s management and other employees that impact on American consumers.

Urgent steps must be taken to preserve, protect and prevent the destruction of sensitive documents and other evidence.

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25 03 2010
naegeleblog

Public Opinion Of Toyota’s Quality Plummets, And Rightfully So!

See http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2010/03/public-opinion-of-toyotas-quality-plummets-in-new-survey/1?loc=interstitialskip

All Toyota products (e.g., Toyota cars and trucks, and Lexus automobiles, model years 2002 and later) should be boycotted, including those on dealers’ lots and those coming down Toyota’s assembly lines!

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25 03 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota And Lawyer-Vultures

The Wall Street Journal has an article about the American lawyers who are massing to strike at Toyota.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/LawyersVieatToyotaHearing.pdf

My thoughts are as follows:

Lawyers are vultures, and generally not nice people. They are bred that way, or the worst are drawn to the profession. Judges are even worse, with few exceptions.

I have two law degrees; and when my son expressed an interest in attending law school, I told him to get an MBA too, in a joint JD-MBA program, which was not available when I went to my first law school. As he was graduating with both degrees, he expressed an interest in practicing law, and I told him never to do it, but to go into business instead. Lawyers are trained to look for problems, and they end up working themselves out of jobs, by addressing their clients’ needs. Businessmen and women look for solutions, and they build things.

Essentially all of my lawyer-hiking partners have told their kids never to practice law as well. In fact, we have joked—somewhat, but not completely tongue-in-cheek—that we should offer seminars to college seniors and first-year law students regarding what the law is really all about, instead of the flowery visions that young students have been given. Unfortunately, most attendees at our talks might never go to law school, or might drop out if they were enrolled already. I have a book partially written entitled, “Never Become A Lawyer,” which deals with these issues.

Fast-forward to Toyota today, and there is little doubt that its management has committed crimes, probably stretching back to 2002, when its “drive-by-wire” technology was being introduced and implemented. Since then, its management has compounded those problems, and its massive cover-up has grown like Topsy—which may be the largest cover-up in history when all is said and done.

If not the lawyers, whom? Who should ferret out Toyota’s problems, and force the company to address them once and for all, instead of lying to the American people? Ideally, Akio Toyoda and his management would do a true “mea culpa” and come clean, but they can’t.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/#comment-176

Next, if Congress had the resources and the will, and the staying power on the issue, it would be the ideal organ to investigate Toyota and bring about far-reaching and much-needed changes. However, its legislators and staff members go from issue-to-issue, from Toyota to ObamaCare and the issues of the day; and their resources are limited. Ideally too, the NHTSA would do its job; however, like most federal agencies, it is underfunded and charged with broad mandates that spread its limited staff thin, which is among the reasons why Toyota has been allowed to engage in a decade-long cover-up to this day.

What about federal and State criminal prosecutors and the FBI? One has to believe that Toyota’s shredders have been working overtime since this scandal first began to unfold. What is needed now—and it is just beginning (e.g., raids by FBI agents)—is a full-scale criminal probe involving federal and State prosecutors and the FBI, and stretching from the U.S. to Japan and other countries where actions have been taken that impact on American consumers.

Steps must be taken to preserve, protect and prevent the destruction of sensitive documents and other evidence.

Lastly, what about lawyers generally, such as those discussed in this article? If they truly helped the victims, and prevented accidents in the future, and caused Toyota to come clean, and uncovered the depths of the company’s cover-up so that similar wrongdoing might be prevented in the future, then they might serve valuable and worthwhile purposes and advance public policy and enhance auto safety like Ralph Nader did, God love him.

Otherwise, they are just a bunch of vultures circling a carcass, which is not a pretty sight.

See also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/

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25 03 2010
naegeleblog

Death Toll Blamed On Toyotas’ Sudden Acceleration Tops 100!

See, e.g., http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-deaths26-2010mar26,0,5790258.story

Also, USA Today is compiling a “List of sudden acceleration complaints involving Toyota vehicles and fatal incidents,” and updating it regularly.

See http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/toyota-sudden-acceleration-complaints.htm

USA Today adds:

The above map will be updated if additional unconfirmed cases are added to the list, and as current unconfirmed cases are confirmed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and verified by USA TODAY.

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26 03 2010
naegeleblog

Ford Is The Most Popular Automaker

According to Bloomberg:

More than four in 10 Americans say they “would definitely not buy a Toyota,” according to the Bloomberg National Poll. The Japanese company is viewed unfavorably by 36 percent of those interviewed, the highest negative rating in the survey, while fewer than half—49 percent—have a favorable impression.

Ford, the only U.S. automaker that didn’t seek a federal rescue, is seen favorably by 77 percent of those surveyed, topping No. 2 Honda Motor Co. by seven percentage points. General Motors Co., eight months after getting U.S. aid to survive, has a positive rating of 57 percent.

See http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-03-25/americans-saying-no-to-toyota-ford-most-popular-update2-.html

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26 03 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota Halts European And American Production

The troubled and scandal-ridden automaker has announced plans to halt production at its factories in France and the UK for “at least 12 days” in late March, due to the weaker demand for its vehicles after a series of global safety recalls.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the production stoppages are similar to those at two Toyota plants in the U.S., for up to two weeks in March and April, aimed at preventing inventory levels from building up in the wake of the recalls.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/ToyotaSuspendsEuropeProduction.pdf

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26 03 2010
William Duffy

This was posted today by another person in the Edmund’s Forum re Unintended Acceleration, find the cause:

Being a survivor of 6 SUA incidents in a 2000 Lexus LS400 I personally know that Toyota has a Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) electronic throttle failure problem. There may be several other causes for SUA’s, but among them has to be the throttle failure. When confronted, Toyota’s response has been that they have never found any evidence of an electronic failure so it must be the drivers fault.

The above SUA experiences prove to me that Toyota has not yet been able to capture the failure event with their diagnostics. Hence, they can’t solve a problem they haven’t seen.

Further, I have compiled a few complaint statistics that substantiates my contention of a throttle failure problem. The first example comes from a Lexus LS400 owned by two individuals. The original owner, Peter Boddaert, had 3 episodes in the car resulting in him trading it in. The second owner, Mark Pinnock, also subsequently experienced 3 incidents, with the same car, resulting in his decision to discontinue driving it. This fact, coupled with my own experience, substantiate that Toyota has an electronic throttle problem.

In a second bizarre example: A driver began to experience an SUA event with his Avalon but was able to reach a dealer where, with the gear in neutral, the engine continued to operate at full throttle. The dealer tech verified that the floor mat was removed but was unable to stop the wide open throttle and was forced to shut the vehicle off. The same car brought in to the dealer, for a previous incident, revealed no problems when diagnostics were run on the computer. The dealer eventually offered to replace the throttle body, accelerator pedal and associated sensors free of charge to the driver after the second incident. An interesting solution for a problem Toyota claims doesn’t exist.

NHTSA never pursued the requests for investigation.

How Toyota can continue to claim they have no problem with the electronic throttle is inexcusable. The above examples clearly show that they, “indeed”, have a problem.

What the Symptoms Tell Us

My 6 SUA incidents with a 2000 Lexus LS400 occurred between 2004 and 2006. The symptoms were: starting from a stop with my foot on the brake, as I removed my foot but before getting to the accelerator, the car jumped to what felt like full-throttle. Since, before releasing the brake, the engine was idling normally, it suggests the accelerator position sensors were delivering the proper signal to the Electronic Control Module (ECM). After releasing the brake, the engine went to full throttle and tried to leap forward causing me to put both feet on the brake. Reviewing the event it was clear to me that the ECM CPU’s were no longer responding to the accelerator which I hadn’t touched after releasing the brake. At that time the position sensors should have been sending an idle message to the CPU. It appears that when I released the brake an unknown signal was sent to the CPU causing it to “latch up” or freeze (in a full-throttle state). With both feet on the brake, pushing as hard as I could, the car leapt forward 3 times, moving about 1 foot each time before I was able to shift to neutral. Luckily, going to neutral apparently unfroze the CPU and stopped the car just before hitting whatever was in front of me. The incidents each took only about 3-4 seconds. Once in neutral the car again came to an idle where I believe the unfrozen CPU again was able to respond to the accelerator sensors that were still in the idle position.

I would speculate that because the EMC CPU was frozen, it could not accept inputs from the sensors and was unable to neither sense nor log the problem even if any sensor messages were trying to be sent. Hence, the diagnostics showed “No trouble found.”

It would seem that the only way this issue could be overcome would be to provide a simple redundant system, immune to the freeze conditions, outside the electronic throttle system that had became disabled when frozen. Its function would be to constantly interrogate the electronic throttle system to sense when it enters a frozen state. When sensed, it should force the electronic throttle system to release control of its function, set the throttle to an idle position, and reinitialize the system. Once it had determined that the system was working properly, it would re-enable the throttle system to again exert control. This, however, may be easier said then done.

When our home computers freeze, we are forced to reboot. When this happens in a fighter plane, I understand that there is an emergency button that can be pressed to allow manual control until the fly-by-wire system can be reengaged. Perhaps the equivalent for this problem is the brake-override solution. But a concern among safety experts is that the brake-override software, which has been described as a final solution to the problem of unintended acceleration (SUA), may cause more problems by adding a new layer of software to the system. “These fixes are not dealing with the root causes of the problem,” said Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies Inc. Besides if the brake override solution relies on the CPU that gets frozen what assurance is there that it will work? There must be a redundancy where the monitoring system is not dependent on the CPU running the electron throttle system

In trying to troubleshoot the electronic throttle it should be possible to cycle the logic inputs for the throttle system through all possible state combinations to see if a frozen open throttle could be invoked at a particular input combination. If that condition could be replicated it would then be possible to work toward a solution. I don’t know if this would work for a potential software bug. Ideally this should be done on the throttle system of a known SUA offender. Since the SUA events have occurred over virtually all of the automobile industry, the heart of the problem appears to be the CPU used by the ECM. Design differences by different manufacturers would make the throttle more or less sensitive to triggering an SUA event. The evidence sits in all of our homes in the form of a home computer. Who hasn’t experienced a frozen system?

A Statistical Problem

The SUA events rarely occur, being maybe only .005% or less of the Toyota population. Because it is so rare, it is equally difficult to make sure that when a SUA happens, you can capture the fact that it did. The above explanation is the only one I can think of that agrees with the SUA symptoms. Even when a car having the problem is evaluated it would be very difficult to find the exact failure mode that causes the runaway full throttle. In a normal production car I don’t think you would have a prayer.

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26 03 2010
William Duffy

If Toyota acquired the LS 400 described in the above post, it would be easy to add an interface to measure and record the sensor inputs, outputs, and the throttle actuator. A simple analysis would lead to the root cause. My hypothesis of a possible semiconductor device failure would be easy to ascertain.

Evidently Toyota does not want to discover the cause, or they know what it is and they don’t want to pay an enormous sum to build and replace expensive components.

Seems to me Toyota is like a politician caught telling a lie and must continue to tell even more lies in order to maintain the charade.

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29 03 2010
Frankie Pintado

Mr. Duffy,
It is apparent that you have a much deeper understanding of the inner workings of computers than I do, so tell me what you think of this idea:

There is a switch on the brake pedal to tell the computer that the brake is being applied, brake lights come on, abs is ready etc. How about adding a second brake pedal switch, and building a circuit from there that is independent of the cars network. There would be a module and actuator that disengages the throttle plate from the stepper motor, every time the brake was applied. The stepper motor would have to return to the (completely) closed position to re-connect to the throttle plate so that the driver could accelerate again.
This would check for proper function before each opening of the throttle, and override it if necessary. If the throttle doesn’t close completely, you’re idling ’till you get it fixed. It seems pretty simple and elegant to me. Now tell me if I’ve overlooked something.

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30 03 2010
William Duffy

Hi Frankie,
What you are describing is called a “redundant system.” And yes, I cannot see why it wouldn’t work. It should have been a part of the original design spec. Perhaps it was not included because it would add a small cost.

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30 03 2010
30 03 2010
William Duffy

The hits keep coming:

The past few days have seen a new rash of stories about Toyotas run amok. First, a 2009 Venza struck a house in Hamilton, Ontario. According to The Hamilton Spectator, the driver said he lost control of the vehicle after experiencing uncontrolled acceleration. While 2009-2010 Venzas were recalled for the infamous floor-mat issue, police have yet to determine whether the Hamilton incident was a result of faulty hardware or driver error. No one was injured.

The Seboygan Press is also reporting that a 2009 Camry accelerated and climbed a small embankment while the driver had her foot on the brake in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. The 76 year-old driver, Myrna Marseille, suffered a broken sternum from the impact. In Marseille’s case, her Camry had already been serviced to correct the floor mat interference issue.

The reports join those of a San Diego man who had to call on the police to help him slow down his Prius after high-speed stint on the interstate and another Prius crash in New York. In the California case, both the NHTSA and Toyota found nothing wrong with the car (though the California Highway Patrol’s view may differ). Likewise, the New York incident was found to be driver error.

http://www.autoblog.com/2010/03/30/more-toyota-accidents-allegedly-caused-by-sudden-acceleration-oc/

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2 04 2010
naegeleblog

More Fraud By Toyota!

Safety of Toyota Vehicles

In its online ads, and on TV and using other media formats, Toyota is perpetuating its massive fraud campaign, which has spanned a decade so far. The company has done nothing to address the sudden acceleration problems that have caused more than 100 deaths already.

See, e.g., http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-deaths26-2010mar26,0,5790258.story; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/#comment-290 and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/#comment-91

Instead, it has enlisted its dealers and their employees, in the process of trying to convince the American people that its vehicles are safe to drive.

The lawsuits against Toyota should target the company’s management in the U.S. and abroad, its lawyers, its P.R. hacks, its dealers and their employees, and anyone else who is involved with perpetrating the fraud, or has been at any time since the company’s model year 2002 and later vehicles were produced. Clearly, all Toyota products on American roads today, as well as those on dealers’ lots and others coming down Toyota’s assembly lines are potentially “death traps.”

. . .

Forbes’ Jerry Flint is reporting: “Toyota’s Sales: Not As Good As They Look

See http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/02/toyota-sales-march-business-autos-flint_print.html

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6 04 2010
William Duffy

Report: NHTSA to seek $16M fine against Toyota for recall scandal

http://www.autoblog.com/2010/04/05/report-nhtsa-to-seek-16m-fine-against-toyota-for-recall-scanda/

After much deliberation, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has decided to issue a $16.4 million penalty to Toyota – the maximum fine allowed – for failing to recall vehicles due to faulty accelerator pedals in a timely fashion. This will be the largest fine ever issued to an automaker by the government.

The U.S. DOT says that Toyota failed to promptly notify the government about the defective gas pedals amongst its model range. According to NHTSA, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that there’s evidence to prove Toyota knew of the gas pedal problem as early as late September, yet the official recall was not issued until the end of January.

For now, Toyota has two weeks to either accept the penalty and pay up, or contest the government’s decision and continue deliberations. Hit the jump to read NHTSA’s official press release.

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6 04 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks, William, for your posting.

As we know, $16.4 million is a pittance for Toyota, and barely a slap on the wrist. Its massive disinformation campaign continues, unabated.

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6 04 2010
William Duffy

I think they will continue to see many more claims because they have not addressed the root cause which I believe is an ASIC defect. I’d be glad to help them find it but I think they don’t really want to know because they have not even taken action to acquire the defective cars. As an engineer I am astounded at their incompetence and arrogance. Let them twist in the wind.

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6 04 2010
naegeleblog

Thank you again, William.

As an lawyer, I am astounded at their incompetence and arrogance too, and might agree with you that they should be allowed to twist in the wind, but for the fact that more Americans are likely to be killed or injured as a result of their wrongdoing. I am appalled at their advertising/disinformation campaign that fraudulently deceives the American people.

For those of our readers who do not know what an “ASIC defect” is, perhaps you might describe it briefly in another posting.

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6 04 2010
William Duffy

…so what is an “ASIC defect?”

An ASIC, or Application Specific Integrated Circuit is an electrical device with many semiconductor junctions on one chip. It could have a million or more such devices on one chip. The simplest semiconductor device is a diode. It allows current to flow only one way. On a chip that contains many transistors, it is essential for them to operate independently. The chip is constructed with many rooms, or tubs that are isolated from each other by reversed biased diodes, i.e. the current is not supposed to flow between the rooms. That allows each transistor to operate independently from the others.

However, under some conditions, the diodes that isolate the tubs can become forward biased, i.e. turned on instead of off. Under certain conditions, the output current from a transistor can find its way to the input of the same circuit. That provides what engineers call “positive feedback.” A device that is intended to operate like that is called a latch. However, it is possible to get an unintended latch on a chip if one is not very careful about the design of that chip. This is what I believe may be causing Toyota’s problem.

In the seventies, at Motorola, we designed one of the first electronic cruise control systems for Ford. On an early test of a prototype, we were driving the car with the cruise control engaged and one of the engineers hit the horn. The car immediately lunged forward at full throttle; he had to turn the engine off to get it to stop. We later discovered that the electrical “noise” from the horn had fed back to the driver chip that engaged the throttle. The electrical noise fed into the chip and pulled an isolation region below ground thus turning on a diode that should have remained off. The result was a latch and an unintended full throttle application.

In a car, any electromechanical device can generate electrical noise. For example, a window lift is driven by an electric motor. When that motor is turned off, its magnetic field collapses and it can generate a very brief, but very large negative voltage. That voltage spike, if not properly decoupled, can feed into the engine control electronics and cause the latch.

Another possibility is that the chip may contain a parasitic MOS (Metal Oxide Semiconductor) device. That is the kind of transistor used in most computer applications. It is possible to mistakenly omit a metal region called a field plate that is supposed to hold the potential, i.e. voltage to a level that keeps the parasitic MOS device turned off. This is the kind of defect that may occur very infrequently because the threshold voltage, i.e. the voltage that turns on the device is highly dependent on the doping profile, i.e. the chip recipe, and just a few units on the extreme ends of the distribution would be impacted.

Toyota or NASA needs to acquire the runaway cars and perform tests to duplicate the fault. By measuring and mapping the voltage profiles to and from the throttle controller, they should be able to quickly zoom in on the problem. I’d love to work with them on this problem but I have no idea how to connect.

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6 04 2010
Frankie Pintado

Their approach to this problem is all wrong. Everything is prone to failure. At the end of the day, who cares why it happened. It shouldn’t be able to happen. The DOT has the right idea.

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7 04 2010
William Duffy

They continue to lie. The LS 400 unintended acceleration incidents described in posts above were not due to a “sticky pedal” or entrapped floor mat. Just wait. You will continue to hear about more incidents as time goes on.

Toyota repeats: Electronics not cause of sudden acceleration

BY GREG GARDNER
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

Toyota executives repeated again today that they believe no case of unintended acceleration in their vehicles was caused by a malfunction in the electronic throttle control system.

“If we exclude any problems related to floor mat entrapment and inadequate control of the friction of accelerator pedals, there has not been any single case of sudden acceleration has been caused by problems with the electronic throttle control,” said Shinichi Sasaki, Toyota executive vice president said today during a conference call with auto analysts.

Neither Sasaki nor President Akio Toyoda said anything about the unprecedented $16.4-million fine the U.S. Department of Transportation levied on the automaker this week for failing to notify safety regulators fast enough that some vehicles were surging to unsafe speeds with no extra foot pressure from drivers. Nor did any analysts ask about the fine. Reporters weren’t allowed to ask questions on the call.

Sasaki’s rejection of any electronic cause comes about a week after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it will ask nine NASA scientists to explore the possibility that electromagnetic radiation, software faults or cosmic rays could disrupt electronic systems in Toyota or other manufacturers vehicles.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood also said last week that the National Academy of Sciences will study possible connections between sudden acceleration and electronic controls.

The moves come as NHTSA has three probes under way into whether the world’s largest automaker withheld safety information from the agency before announcing recalls in January that now cover 13 models and 5.6 million vehicles in the U.S.

So far, Toyota is repairing or replacing gas pedals on 2.3 million vehicles and replacing or removing floor mats in others.

The company successfully boosted its sales by 41% in March by offering interest-free loans, discounted leases and two years of free maintenance to current customers buying or leasing a new Toyota.

Toyota is extending those incentives at least through early May to counteract the negative publicity which contributed to a 13.4% drop in sales over the first two months of the year.

Toyoda and Sasaki declined to say today how long the company will offer those incentives which ran about $700 more per vehicle than a year earlier, according to Edmunds.com.

Contact Greg Gardner: 313-222-8762 or ggardner@freepress.com

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7 04 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks, William, for your comments and for posting the article.

There is no question that Toyota continues to lie, which is tragic and despicable—certainly in terms of American lives that are being put at risk of serious injuries and deaths—but it is totally predictable.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/#comment-176

Sean Kane, President of Safety Research & Strategies, Inc., has some new postings that are worth reading.

See http://www.safetyresearch.net/2010/04/06/16-4-million-reasons-why-it-ain’t-over-yet-for-toyota-sua/ and http://thesafetyrecord.safetyresearch.net/

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8 04 2010
William Duffy

I read through the three SUA incidents described in the above link. The operational dynamics of the three vehicles is consistent with my hypothesis of a potential ASIC defect. The computer would not have stored a fault code because there would have been no feed back path from the uncontrolled throttle output to the computer.

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8 04 2010
naegeleblog

The Case Against Toyota: It Is Time To Come Clean And Stop Lying!

Toyota’s management has lied and engaged in a massive cover-up, spanning a decade so far, and it is time to come clean. This is what a key American executive of the company has recommended:

“The time to hide on this one is over,” [the senior executive begged Japanese management] . . . , “We need to come clean.”

. . .

[T]he email refers directly to company efforts to cover-up mechanical problems with accelerator pedals.

. . .

Irv Miller, who has since retired but was then Toyota’s vice president for public affairs, sent the email. . . .

See http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/engineering/article7091326.ece (emphasis added); see also http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2010/04/cover-up-toyota-exec-said-the-time-to-hideis-over/1?loc=interstitialskip

Also egregious are the latest ads from Toyota entitled, “”Experts disprove critics of Toyota electronics”:

More lies from Toyota, as its massive disinformation campaign seeks to smear its critics.

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8 04 2010
William Duffy

…Another case..this story will not end until Toyota or NASA discovers the root cause.

NHTSA to investigate Toyota crash in Sheboygan Falls

Sheboygan Press staff • April 7, 2010

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be investigating a Sheboygan Falls crash in which the driver says her 2009 Toyota Camry accelerated suddenly into a wall, police said Tuesday.

Chief Steve Riffel of the Sheboygan Falls Police Department said the NHTSA team would arrive sometime next week to examine the car, which has been impounded by police.

The investigation had been on hold as the federal agency decided whether to get involved.

The crash occurred March 29 as Myrna Marseille pulled into a parking stall outside the Sheboygan Falls YMCA. She has said her foot was on the brake when the car surged forward with an “awful roar” and slammed into the YMCA’s south wall.

Marseille, 76, of Kohler, suffered a broken sternum as she slammed into the steering wheel when her airbag failed to deploy. The impact significantly damaged the car but caused almost no damage to the building.

Marseille’s car had already received adjustments to the accelerator pedal, on-board computer and carpet as part of a recall initiated by Toyota in January.

That recall — stemming from concerns over sudden acceleration — covers 5.6 million vehicles, but a Toyota spokesman said just over 100 people have reported sudden acceleration after getting the fixes.

Riffel said witness accounts appear to confirm Marseille’s belief that the car accelerated on its own.

Marseille was told that witnesses saw her brake lights illuminated as the car accelerated.

The NHTSA team will be working with the Wisconsin State Patrol to examine the car, Riffel said.

Toyota has said it does not believe electronics are to blame for the sudden acceleration crashes.

“We’ve never found a problem with the electronic system that’s led to unintended acceleration,” spokesman Bryan Lyons said.

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8 04 2010
William Duffy

,,and another

Federal officials probe Toyota crash in Yarmouth

March 24, 2010

SOUTH YARMOUTH — Investigators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are at the Yarmouth Police Department today examining a Toyota RAV4 that crashed into a building March 9, according to Yarmouth police.

An initial review by Yarmouth police showed both the gas and brake pedals to be working properly when Ann Wilkins crashed her 2010 Toyota RAV4 into the Seaside Medical building at 150 Ansel Hallett Road, police said at the time.

Wilkins’ family, however, claimed she had applied the brake but that instead of stopping, the RAV4 accelerated into the building.

Wilkins was treated at Cape Cod Hospital for minor injuries. Nobody else was hurt in the crash.

In January, Toyota recalled more than 2 million vehicles, including 2009 and 2010 RAV4s, for faulty accelerators.

A representative from the federal agency did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

The recall was the third since August by Toyota, which has now recalled some 8.5 million vehicles worldwide — more than 6 million in the United States — because of acceleration problems in multiple models, as well as braking issues in the Prius.

Regulators have linked 52 deaths to crashes allegedly caused by accelerator problems, and there have been more than 60 reports of sudden acceleration in cars that have been fixed under the recall.

Like

9 04 2010
11 04 2010
Frankie Pintado

It’s so funny how much they miss the point. It simply shouldn’t be possible for this to happen, and it definitely is possible in their design. Everything is prone to failure, it’s just that there is no redundant system, and nothing to keep it from failing with undesired results.. That’s it. That’s the problem. Can we all just stop dancing around and make a product that fails safely?

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11 04 2010
William Duffy

AP IMPACT: In Toyota cases, evasion becomes tactic
AP IMPACT: In Toyota lawsuits, tests and documents vanish in tactic under scrutiny

Toyouta, a truly disgusting company. Never do business with them. I hope they lose big. They deserve it.

Curt Anderson and Danny Robbins, Associated Press Writers, On Sunday April 11, 2010, 2:38 pm

MIAMI (AP) — Toyota has routinely engaged in questionable, evasive and deceptive legal tactics when sued, frequently claiming it does not have information it is required to turn over and sometimes even ignoring court orders to produce key documents, an Associated Press investigation shows.

In a review of lawsuits filed around the country involving a wide range of complaints — not just the sudden acceleration problems that have led to millions of Toyotas being recalled — the automaker has hidden the existence of tests that would be harmful to its legal position and claimed key material was difficult to get at its headquarters in Japan. It has withheld potentially damaging documents and refused to release data stored electronically in its vehicles.

For example, in a Colorado product liability lawsuit filed by a man whose young daughter was killed in a 4Runner rollover crash, Toyota withheld documents about internal roof strength tests despite a federal judge’s order that such information be produced, according to court records. The attorneys for Jon Kurylowicz now say such documents might have changed the outcome of the case, which ended in a 2005 jury verdict for Toyota.

“Mr. Kurylowicz went to trial without having been given all the relevant evidence and all the evidence the court ordered Toyota to produce,” attorney Stuart Ollanik wrote in a new federal lawsuit accusing Toyota of fraud in the earlier case. “The Kurylowicz trial was not a fair trial.”

In another case involving a Texas woman killed when her Toyota Land Cruiser lurched backward and pinned her against a garage wall, the Japanese automaker told lawyers for the woman’s family it was unaware of any similar cases. Yet less than a year earlier, Toyota had settled a nearly identical lawsuit in the same state involving a Baptist minister who was severely injured after he said his Land Cruiser abruptly rolled backward over him. Under court discovery rules, Toyota had an obligation to inform the woman’s attorneys about the case when formally asked.

“Automobile manufacturers, in my practice, have been the toughest to deal with when it comes to sharing information, but Toyota has no peer,” said attorney Ernest Cannon, who represented the family of 35-year-old Lisa Evans, who died in 2002 in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land.

The AP reviewed numerous cases around the country in which Toyota’s actions were evasive, and sometimes even deceptive, in providing answers to questions posed by plaintiffs. Court rules generally allow a person or company who is sued to object to turning over requested information; it’s permitted and even expected that defense attorneys play hardball, but it’s a violation to claim evidence does not exist when it does.

Similar claims have been lodged by Dimitrios Biller, a former Toyota attorney who sued the company in August, contending it withheld evidence in considerably older rollover cases.

Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has subpoenaed some of Biller’s still-undisclosed records, says they show possible violations of discovery orders.

Toyota disputes Towns’ statement and the accusations of deception. In a statement to the AP, Toyota said it plays by the rules when it comes to defending itself.

“Toyota takes its legal obligations seriously and strives to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards, in connection with litigation and otherwise,” the company said. “We are confident we have acted appropriately with respect to product liability litigation.”

How Toyota handled past lawsuits could indicate how it will deal with more than 130 potential class-action lawsuits filed by owners who claim the recent recalls have triggered a sharp loss in their vehicles’ value. Separately, Toyota faces nearly 100 federal wrongful death and injury lawsuits by victims who blame their crashes on sudden acceleration.

A panel of federal judges decided last week to consolidate the sudden acceleration-related cases before U.S. District Judge James V. Selna in Orange County, Calif., near Los Angeles. Selna will handle key pretrial matters in all the cases, including decisions on what material and documents Toyota will be required to produce as evidence.

The dozens of lawsuits reviewed by the AP, spanning the past decade, dealt with allegations of vehicle rollovers, faulty air bag deployments, defective transmissions, bad brakes and crashes blamed on sudden acceleration — the issue at the heart of the company’s current recall of some 8 million vehicles worldwide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has linked 52 deaths to accelerator-related crashes.

Additional related lawsuits examined in the AP review found:

–Toyota hid the existence of its roof strength tests in numerous cases. A new potential class-action lawsuit filed in California on behalf of two women left paralyzed by separate Toyota rollover crashes contends that recently uncovered company documents contradict sworn testimony by Toyota officials that the company had no written standard for how far vehicle roofs could be crushed. The long-hidden documents indicate Toyota did have such a standard: roofs could come no closer than a half-millimeter from test dummies’ heads in a rollover crash.

“This type of conduct by the Toyota defendants is illegal, immoral and unprofessional,” said attorney E. Todd Tracy in a similar recent lawsuit accusing Toyota of fraud in older cases. “The Toyota defendants’ cloak and dagger games must be terminated.”

–Toyota claimed in court documents that a 2000 Camry had “no component” to record its speed at the time of a crash. A Texas woman suing the automaker asserted she was injured when the air bag failed to deploy. The case went to trial last September and ended with a jury ruling in Toyota’s favor.

The attorney, Stephen Van Gaasbeck of San Antonio, later found documents showing the Camry did record such information and that Toyota had the ability to download it from vehicles as early as 1997, circumstances that now cause him to question the company’s honesty.

“If we had the data, and the data said the speed was above what their air bag would have deployed at, then yes, it would have been a different case,” said Van Gaasbeck. He added that an appeal based on the new information is unlikely because Texas appellate courts would likely favor Toyota based on previous rulings.

–The attorney for 76-year-old retiree Robert Elmes — hospitalized for five weeks after a 2006 crash in Pennsylvania in which he says his 2002 Camry surged forward unexpectedly — has sought repeatedly and unsuccessfully in federal court to obtain Toyota documents concerning the car’s electronic throttle control.

Questions surrounding that device are at the center of the government’s investigation into sudden acceleration. Toyota has denied the electronic throttle control is to blame for the crashes. Elmes, of Canonsburg, Pa., said it’s clear Toyota is “dragging it out as long as possible” to avoid making any disclosures in court involving the electronic throttle control. Elmes filed his lawsuit in 2008, well before Toyota’s recalls began.

“Before the accident, I thought that was the nicest car I ever owned. Now I think Toyota’s interest is only in the bottom line, period, and they don’t care about safety,” Elmes said in a telephone interview. “I wouldn’t take another Toyota if they gave it to me.”

Toyota has filed court papers asking that most of these new lawsuits accusing the company of fraud years ago be included in the broader consolidation of sudden acceleration cases.

Attorneys who regularly defend corporate clients say it’s common for plaintiffs’ lawyers to complain they are not receiving the information they need and that Toyota’s tactics do not necessarily indicate nefarious intent.

“It’s always a battle in these big cases between plaintiffs and corporations as to what documents they have and whether or not they produce everything they should have,” said Matthew Cairns, president-elect of the 22,500-member DRI-Voice of the Defense Bar group of civil defense attorneys. “Plaintiffs always try to get more, hoping to find something. It’s for the court to ultimately resolve who is right.”

Still, some attorneys who have fought Toyota in the past say the company’s evasiveness exceeds the normal legal back-and-forth and that Toyota may have benefited from being based in another country.

“They’ve used the Pacific Ocean as a great defense to producing documents,” said Graham Esdale, a lawyer in Montgomery, Ala., who has sued Toyota. “If Ford or General Motors tells you something and you don’t believe that it’s right, you can get a court order to go get access to the documents instead of relying on them. We can just go there and start poring through documents. We don’t have that with the Japanese manufacturers.”

Danny Robbins reported from Dallas.

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11 04 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks, WIlliam, for your comments and posting.

Clearly, Toyota’s massive cover-up—spanning a decade so far—and its disinformation campaign continues unabated. Yes, I agree; no one should buy Toyota vehicles until (1) the company comes “clean,” and (2) develops complete solutions to the problems, and implements them, which may never happen.

Even if it did, what the company has been doing is criminal, and those who are parties to the criminality—who reside in the U.S., Japan or elsewhere—must be indicted, convicted and sent to American jails, where justice will be meted out. Toyota must be made an example, so this massive fraud never occurs again.

Lastly, Toyota vehicles should be boycotted!

Like

11 04 2010
William Duffy

…It sounds like Toyota may have met its nemesis..

Federal Panel Grants Lanier Law Firm Request to Expand and Rename Toyota Litigation

US Judicial Panel Renames Defective Gas Pedal Litigation “Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation”

LOS ANGELES, April 10 /PRNewswire/ — In selecting U.S. District Judge James V. Selna to hear more than 100 federal lawsuits filed around the country against Toyota, a federal judicial panel also granted a formal request by the Lanier Law Firm to rename the litigation and expand its scope.

“We’re thrilled,” says attorney Mark Lanier, who was recently named one of the decade’s most influential lawyers by the National Law Journal. “This is far from merely a mechanical problem. We intend to show that the unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles is almost certainly the result of electronic problems that Toyota failed to disclose for years.”

Friday’s Transfer Order by the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, consolidates all the federal cases to be heard by Judge Selna in the United States District Court, Central District of California.

Judge Selna already has some experience in the Toyota Litigation, as he is currently presiding over Beard, et al. v. Toyota Motor Corp., et al., No. 8:10-cv-00183-JVS-RNB. The lawsuit, filed by Mr. Lanier and Dana Taschner, Managing Attorney of the Lanier Law Firm’s Los Angeles office, covers owners of recalled Toyotas, owners who have experienced unexpected acceleration in non-recalled Toyotas, and those who have suffered financial damages as a result of recent Toyota recalls.

“Ours is the only Toyota case currently being heard by Judge Selna,” says Lanier. “He has already demonstrated that he is uniquely qualified to handle the scope and breadth of the Toyota litigation.”

In the Beard case, the two sides have already stipulated to cooperatively propose a Pretrial Order for scheduling, thereby establishing a protocol for the transferred cases.

Toyota has recalled more than 10 million vehicles covering 17 different models, including recalls based on unexpected acceleration, faulty floor mats, brake problems, drive shaft malfunctions, and other problems. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recorded 34 deaths attributed to unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

The Lanier Law Firm’s Los Angeles office already is representing multiple plaintiffs in claims against Toyota nationwide. The firm, whose Los Angeles office sits only a few miles from Toyota’s U.S. headquarters, expects to file many additional Toyota claims in the coming weeks and months.

The Lanier Law Firm has served as lead counsel in some of the most significant product liability trials in U.S. history, including the national litigation over the painkiller Vioxx. The firm’s work in the nation’s first Vioxx trial resulted in a $254 million verdict, and paved the way for a multi-billion-dollar settlement of all U.S. claims over Vioxx. The Lanier Law Firm began 2010 by winning a $56 million defect verdict against vehicle manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. after a jury finding that defects and lax maintenance led to a construction worker being paralyzed while using a piece of Caterpillar equipment.

For more information, please contact J.D. Cargill at 713-659-5200 or Mike Androvett at 800-559-4630 or mike@androvett.com

SOURCE Lanier Law Firm

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13 04 2010
naegeleblog

More Bad News For Toyota

Consumer Reports has warned consumers not to purchase the Lexus GX 460 SUV because of a rollover risk. The Toyota-produced vehicle failed a key emergency-handling test; and Consumer Reports issued a rare “Don’t Buy” warning.

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lexus14-2010apr14,0,5710692.story; see also http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2010-04-14-toyota14_ST_N.htm (“Toyota drivers report issues after repair of gas pedal“)

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13 04 2010
William Duffy

Seems to me that Toyota is simply hanging itself. We’re seeing at least one negative new story per week exposing their incompetence. I expect to read many more stories about unintended acceleration crashes. The sticky pedal is not the problem.

The deficient stability control on the 2010 Lexus GX-460 should have been discovered during qualification of the design. Have they eliminated that step to cut development expense? What else did they cut?

It makes me believe this company has lost its ability to competently develop products. Let them twist in the wind.

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14 04 2010
naegeleblog

The Fight Within Toyota

The Wall Street Journal has article about the long-simmering internal feud between the founding Toyoda family and a group of professional managers. Included are the following comments:

[President Akio Toyoda, the 53-year-old grandson of the founder,] and his allies have been saying openly that when he took the top job last year after a 15-year hiatus for the Toyoda clan, he inherited a company weakened by nonfamily predecessors who sacrificed quality for faster growth and fatter margins.

. . .

A week earlier, Jim Press—once the top Toyota executive in the U.S. before he jumped to a rival auto maker—issued a statement declaring: “The root cause of their problems is that the company was hijacked, some years ago, by anti-family, financially oriented pirates.”

. . .

[The nonfamily managers] say Toyota’s current troubles are less a quality crisis and more a management and public-relations crisis of Mr. Toyoda’s making, reflecting their longstanding warnings that he wasn’t ready to run a global corporation.

. . .

Hiroshi Okuda, a nonfamily president who ran the company from 1995 through 1999, has told at least two associates since the recalls of cars involved in sudden acceleration incidents earlier this year: “Akio needs to go.” The 77-year-old remains a key company adviser even though he gave up his board seat last year.

. . .

Asked [in a 2000 Wall Street Journal interview] about future prospects for Mr. Toyoda, then a 43-year-old general manager, Mr. Okuda said: “Nepotism just doesn’t belong in our future.” He elaborated: “Akio-class talents are rolling around all over Toyota, like so many potatoes.”

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/ToyotaCrisisAggravatesInternalManagementFeud-WSJ.com.pdf

Whether Toyota was “hijacked” or not, the fact is that Akio Toyoda has authorized a massive disinformation campaign surrounding his testimony before the Congress, and since, which expands on the decade-long cover-up that began before he joined the company as its president. Thus, he is criminally culpable, just like other members of Toyota’s management. They should be arrested when they set foot on American soil again, after first having been indicted by federal and/or state grand juries.

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14 04 2010
William Duffy

..This will continue for a long time. Toyota has yet to fix the real problem.

By Jayne O’Donnell and Rachel Huggins, USA TODAY

http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2010-04-14-toyota14_ST_N.htm

At least 131 Toyota owners report experiencing unintended acceleration after their recalled vehicles were repaired at dealerships, a USA TODAY review of federal records shows. Daily complaints — from three on Monday to 11 on March 5 — to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration come as Toyota continues to contend mechanical, and not electronics, issues are to blame.
NHTSA and Toyota are analyzing data and vehicles to “assess whether the recall remedies are being applied correctly and whether they are able to prevent the problems they were designed to address,” NHTSA said in a statement Tuesday. In two cases, NHTSA says, it appears improper repairs were made, but it is trying to determine whether the problem was human error or the fix itself.

LEXUS WARNING: ‘Consumer Reports’ says don’t buy the GX 460
Critics, including Sean Kane of Safety Research & Strategies, say continuing reports of unintended acceleration after recall fixes suggest electronics are to blame. The research firm’s clients include plaintiff attorneys and auto suppliers.

NHTSA’s complaint data show a few of the consumers took their cars back to dealers to have their gas pedals replaced. Toyota told customers last month that if they aren’t satisfied with the pedal modifications, they can get free replacements.

Toyota says it has repaired about 1.4 million vehicles with pedals that could stick and almost 1 million models with floor mats that could jam the pedals. It is repairing about 200,000 vehicles a week.

“We remain committed to investigating reported incidents of unintended acceleration in our vehicles quickly,” Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight says.

Toyota says it shares results of these probes only with the owner, law enforcement and regulators.

Here’s what two Toyota customers told NHTSA:

•A Toyota Tundra owner from Needham, Mass., had the accelerator pedal repaired in February after the car took off while in reverse. “I just thank God there was not a child behind my car,” the driver told NHTSA. Since then, the driver says, the car accelerates on its own at least five to nine times a week.

•After a Toyota Avalon was repaired under the sticking-pedal recall, the driver from Garden City, N.Y., told NHTSA the brakes began to fade in traffic. In neutral, the engine roared, hitting over 4,000 rpm before returning to a normal speed.

While the percentage of complaints to NHTSA compared with the millions of vehicles repaired is minuscule, safety regulators say they take recall repair problems seriously. NHTSA “considers any fix that doesn’t work for recalls to be a problem, regardless of how many vehicles are involved,” the agency said. NHTSA’s complaint process is voluntary and may not include all post-recall problems.

Software glitches are a growing problem for automakers. NHTSA data show there have been at least 40 recalls in which software was listed as part of the problem; about 75% were in 2005 through 2009. Software errors have led to recalls for stalling, reduced braking power and increased engine rpm.

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15 04 2010
William Duffy

from: http://thesafetyrecord.safetyresearch.net/2010/04/12/toyota-sudden-acceleration-the-story-unfolds/

Into a root-cause vacuum of knowledge the last two months, outside scientists and engineers have floated a variety of theories on the non-mechanical sources of Sudden Unintended Acceleration. They included: electromagnetic interference; the use of tin as the main ingredient in solder material (tin whiskers); single event upsets, electronic “latch up,” and other software problems.

An anonymous individual submitted the single-event upset (SEU) at sea level theory via a letter with accompanying technical papers to RQ10-003. The self-described “Concerned Scientist” raised the possibility of cosmic rays disrupting electronics at sea: “this phenomenon is a ‘soft’ error that is not detectable except through redundant electronic and communication systems.” The e-mail to NHTSA recall investigator Jennifer Timian explained that SEUs had traditionally occurred at high altitudes in aircraft and spacecraft and that the avionics industry has successfully countered these events through highly redundant electronics and software. The automotive industry has yet to truly anticipate SEUs. The reason SEUs are now relevant to the automotive industry is because electronics have gotten smaller and the required voltage levels have dropped significantly, therefore making electronics more susceptible to cosmic radiation even at sea level. SEU is one possible explanation for sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) in Toyotas.

EMI expert Keith Armstrong has staked a position that EMI and/or a series of other factors could cause undetectable short-circuits and faults capable of triggering an SUA event. Armstrong also enumerated the possibilities of malfunctions caused by lead-free soldering that leads to a well-known phenomenon called “tin whiskers.” The elimination of lead for environmental purposes means that solder is now mostly tin:

“All sorts of new possibilities arise for short-circuits and open-circuits, and intermittent shorts and opens, mainly on printed circuit boards (PCBs) and mainly associated with small-footprint integrated circuits (ICs), especially ball-grid arrays (BGAs). These will grow out of soldered joints and can contact other conductors, causing short-circuits between PCB copper traces and the pins of connectors.”

The tin can also exude microscopically thin “whiskers” which can carry enough current to short-out electronics, Armstrong says.

Another possible cause is a malfunction in an integrated circuit called “latch-up.” Latch-up occurs when a path is inadvertently created between two power supply rails, forming a parasitic structure that acts as a short circuit.

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15 04 2010
16 04 2010
William Duffy

The plot thickens:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A House committee said Friday it will hold another hearing on runaway Toyotas and requested more documents from the Japanese automaker on how it reviewed potential electronic problems in its vehicles.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., a subcommittee chairman, said they plan to hold a May 6 hearing to look into potential electronic causes of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Toyota has said it has found no evidence of electronic problems in its vehicles, attributing the problems to sticking gas pedals and accelerators that can become jammed in floor mats. Toyota has recalled more than 6 million vehicles in the U.S., and more than 8 million worldwide, because of acceleration problems in multiple models and braking issues in the Prius hybrid.

Toyota said in a statement Friday it was “more than willing to meet with the committee and discuss the ongoing testing related to our electronic throttle control system, as well as the steps we are taking to improve our quality assurance processes. Nothing is more important to us than the safety and reliability of the vehicles our customers drive.”

The Transportation Department has fined the company $16.4 million for failing to promptly notify the government about defective gas pedals among its vehicles. Toyota has until Monday to agree to the penalty or contest it. The fine is the largest civil penalty ever issued to an automaker by the government.

Waxman and Stupak asked Toyota and outside consulting firm Exponent Inc. to provide documents detailing a review of possible electronic problems in its vehicles. Exponent, which was hired by Toyota, said in an interim report it could find no evidence that electronic malfunctions had caused sudden unintended acceleration.

Committee investigators said in February that the Exponent testing was flawed because it studied only a small number of Toyota vehicles and consumer groups have said electronics could be the cause of the acceleration problems. Reviews of some high-profile crashes in San Diego and suburban New York have failed to find either mechanical or electronic problems.

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20 04 2010
William Duffy

…another story..

Toyota cover up, part III
By PHIL BAKER , Daily Transcript Technology Correspondent
Monday, April 19, 2010

This past week my wife brought our 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid to Toyota of Carlsbad for an unexpected recall. Just a few weeks earlier we were assured that the car was not on the recall list.

Now, we were told, our floor mats needed replacing and the accelerator pedal needed modifying. Toyota couldn’t explain the sudden change, which, by itself, doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence about what it is doing.

I had carefully checked the floor mats when the issue came up last year, and it was impossible for the left mat to interfere with the pedals, even if it was unattached from the hooks on the floor. The corner of the mat that would normally sit under the accelerator pedal was cut way back. Nevertheless Toyota insisted on replacing them, saying it would make our car safer. It seems like the company has taken a page from TSA, trying to make us feel better without attacking the real issues.

In part one of this three-part series, I noted that it seemed to me that Toyota was covering up and not acting in the best interests of their customers by coming forward with what it knew. But, as I noted, that was a gut instinct, knowing what engineers know, and observing Toyota’s strange behavior.

But now there’s irrefutable evidence that Toyota has been covering up. Contradicting earlier testimony about when it learned of the acceleration problem, documents turned over to NHTSA revealed that a group VP, Irving Miller wrote to another staff member in January about accelerator pedal defects, saying “The time to hide on this one is over. We need to come clean.”

NHTSA discovered more evidence that proved Toyota hadn’t notified NHTSA of pedal problems within the five days of learning of them, and asked for the maximum $16.4 million fine. Not only had Toyota missed the 5 days, it was already recalling and fixing pedals for the same problems in Europe before notifying NHTSA.

This past week NHTSA, in an effort to get to the true cause of sudden unintended acceleration, assembled a group of NASA engineers to do their own investigation to determine if the problems could be related to the electronics or software, as some experts believe and as Toyota denies is the cause. That’s a positive step, because NHTSA doesn’t yet have the in-house expertise, and chose not to rely solely on Toyota’s statements.

It’s unfortunate that it has to do this, because within Toyota there’s surely a group of engineers that have the answers. With this problem festering for years, there had to be internal studies, extensive testing and detailed reports; Japanese technology companies and engineers are smart, very thorough and detail-oriented.

So another year will go by, more accidents will occur, and more deaths will result, all because Toyota is unwilling to disclose everything it knows.

This doesn’t surprise those who have dealt with Toyota. An investigation conducted by the Associated Press, appearing in the Los Angeles Times and Japan Times this past week, notes that “Toyota has routinely engaged in questionable, evasive and deceptive legal tactics when sued, frequently claiming it does not have information it is required to turn over and sometimes even ignoring court orders to produce key documents.”

The results of their reviewing lawsuits for a range of complaints show that Toyota has hidden the existence of tests that could undermine its legal position. This included written documents and data stored electronically in the cars.

So should we buy a Toyota? Are all automotive companies the same?

I’ll likely not buy one again, not because it doesn’t make very good cars, but because it still doesn’t consider the safety of their customers as its top priority.

But in all these discussions I’ve never heard what an auto mechanic thinks. So I posed the question to three experienced auto mechanics at Encinitas Foreign & Domestic Auto Repair in Encinitas,: Leo Macaluso, the owner; Ken MacDonald, the manager, and Dean Dunlop, the shop foreman, all three trained mechanics with decades of experience. The facility has 14 bays and 11 technicians, specializing in the repairs of Japanese, German and American automobiles, and equipped with much of the same equipment that dealers use for their service and diagnosis.

They’ve come across one car with unintended acceleration, a 2008 Toyota Rav4, but were unable to get it to reoccur. But all three believe the problems being reported by consumers to be real. From their experience, customers are reluctant to bring in their cars to correct a problem unless it’s real. They believe that among the many that have complained about this issue, most have likely experienced it. But they noted that often these problems are elusive to find.

Macaluso thinks Toyota makes some of the most reliable cars. In fact, he owns several as part of his auto rental business, and plans to replace them with Toyotas. Yet he still felt there are real sudden acceleration problems.

He recommends that Toyota modify the software so that applying the brakes will automatically disable the accelerator. That would provide a failsafe feature that would allow drivers to easily recover if unintended acceleration did occur.

With the exception of the Prius, he is not aware of any Japanese or American model cars that have this feature. He thinks that’s a serious oversight and something that should be on all cars. It is, in fact, a feature found on German cars, including Mercedes, BMW and Audi.

All three mechanics believe there’s a real possibility that there can be a software or electronic glitch that Toyota has either failed to acknowledge or hasn’t discovered. Because it occurs so infrequently, they don’t think it’s likely to be reproduced in the few hours of analyses Toyota has been conducting following some of the recent incidents. The only way it can be reproduced is to take cars that have failed and subject them to hundreds of thousands of miles of testing, including doing it under extreme conditions.

See http://www.sddt.com/Commentary/article.cfm?Commentary_ID=140&SourceCode=20100419tbc

Baker is the author of “From Concept to Consumer” published by Financial Times Press and available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other booksellers. He has developed and marketed consumer and computer products for Polaroid, Apple, Seiko and others, holds 30 patents and is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Phil can be heard on KOGO AM the first Sunday of each month. Send comments to phil.baker@sddt.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor. Phil’s blog is http://blog.philipgbaker.com and his Web site is philipgbaker.com

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21 04 2010
bryan keller

These problems would not affect my lexus though because it is a 1998 model. Am I correct in assuming that?

Bryan

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21 04 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks, Bryan, for your comments.

According to the current information, only Toyota and Lexus vehicles—model years 2002 and newer—are affected. However, keep checking for more information, as the Toyota scandal and misdeeds continue to unfold.

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22 04 2010
naegeleblog

GM’s Whitacre Is Lying, Like Toyota!

General Motors’ Chairman and CEO Edward E. Whitacre Jr. has been appearing in TV ads touting the fact that his company has paid back the federal government and U.S. taxpayers, and has done so before repayment was required. This is a lie, as Forbes’ Jerry Flint and the Wall Street Journal point out:

[D]on’t be fooled: General Motors has not paid its debt back to taxpayers.

The company got $50 billion from our government, and $10 billion more from Canada. They have paid the U.S. back $7 billion plus interest, as I understand it, including the latest payment of nearly $5 billion. So they say they paid us back.

Not quite: That still leaves $43 billion.

See http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/21/general-motors-debt-business-autos-gm_print.html

The Wall Street Journal adds:

GM’s repayment was a fraction of the $50 billion that the company received from the U.S. government last year. The big payback won’t come until GM goes public and the U.S. can begin to sell off its 60% stake in the company.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/CarMakersStabilizeYearAfterBailouts-WSJ.com.pdf

Paul Ingrassia, the Journal’s former Detroit bureau chief, writes:

GM is making progress. But its early loan repayment represents a little more than 10% of the money it got from both [the U.S. and Canadian] governments.

. . .

[T]he U.S. and Canadian governments decided, more or less arbitrarily, to classify some $6.7 billion of its aid as debt and a ballpark estimate of $52 billion in equity. That $52 billion represents nearly 90% of the government money given to General Motors. None of that has been repaid.

. . .

Getting the remaining $52 billion back from GM will require an initial public offering, which means convincing the investing public to buy the 73% of the company’s stock owned by the U.S. and Canadian governments. (The other 27% is owned by the United Auto Workers union and by bondholders in the old company.)

It won’t be easy for an IPO to raise $52 billion for the government shares. That’s more than Ford Motor’s current market capitalization, some $48 billion. And Ford, the only U.S. car company to avoid bankruptcy, already is profitable, which GM isn’t.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/PaulIngrassia-TwoCheersforGM.pdf

However, the lying gets even worse:

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa said that the source of the funds for the $4.7 billion repayment is not GM earnings, but rather a Treasury escrow account. He chided GM and the White House for suggesting in recent statements that the money is from GM earnings.

Mr. Grassley wrote that GM’s early repayment of the federal loan is aimed at diverting attention from another uncomfortable issue—the big break the car company would get on a proposed tax to recoup TARP losses. GM is expected to generate some of the biggest losses in the TARP program, but it won’t have to pay any money under the so-called TARP tax the Obama administration wants to impose on large financial institutions.

Treasury and GM officials don’t dispute that the money to repay the loan is coming from TARP funds. But they said that’s been clearly disclosed.

A GM spokesman said the company is paying back the loan early “because we’re making great progress and we have a great line up of vehicles that are selling very well.”

A Treasury spokesman said, “It’s been public knowledge that GM would use these funds to repay the loan if it did not otherwise need them for expenses.”

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703876404575200832185846038.html?mod=WSJ_hps_SECONDTopStories

Apparently Whitacre has been spending too much time learning how to perpetrate fraud from the true experts—and criminal fraudsters—at Toyota!

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26 04 2010
William Duffy

From the Financial Times of 26-Apr-2010:

GM’s a payback poseur

Anyone looking to model himself on an American corporate hero could do far worse than channeling Lee Iacocca, the man once credited with saving Chrysler. General Motors’ new chief Ed Whitacre has spent the past several days none too subtly recreating Mr Iacocca’s finest moment by touting GM’s repayment of government loans five years ahead of schedule and hinting that an upcoming earnings report will be impressive. In 1983, Mr Iacocca announced repayment of a 1979 rescue loan seven years early after record profits. Mr Whitacre’s bold style and role as commercial pitchman also are reminiscent of Mr Iacocca in his prime. But that is where the similarities end.

In television advertisements and a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed titled “The GM Bail-out: Paid Back in Full”, Mr Whitacre suggests taxpayers have been made whole. Unlike 1983’s Chrysler, though, 2010’s GM remains far from a win-win, much less the profitable bet for Uncle Sam Mr Whitacre also once suggested. Its repayment only covers the $6.7bn in direct loans, not the additional $45bn converted to a 61 per cent US equity stake and preferred shares. Even after wiping out shareholders, decimating creditors and dumping brands and dealers, the new GM could not have sustained $50bn in fresh borrowing. Repaying the entire investment seems a long shot as GM would have to fetch more than $70bn in an initial public offering. More profitable Ford is worth less than $50bn. And GM received plenty of indirect help that Mr Iacocca never enjoyed through the cash-for-clunkers scheme and aid to suppliers and a former financing arm.

GM is making impressive strides in efficiency, quality and product lineup , but all that began well before Mr Whitacre took the helm. By contrast Mr Iacocca championed several game-changing vehicles and ideas over his long career. Let us hope Mr Whitacre can, in time, match these feats and walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

When the CEO tries to mislead the public by misrepresenting the factual financial position of his firm, he sends knowledgeable customers away. The bailout money from the US Government was arbitrarily divided into two buckets of debt and “equity” because if it had been entirely debt, it would have sunk GM a second time. To say the the loans have been prepaid may be technically correct, but to do that without admitting that the Government has not been made whole is an attempt to deliberately mislead naive customers.

Business depends on trust and integrity. Whitacre has demonstrated he has neither. Shame on him!

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26 04 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks, WIlliam, for posting this article.

Among other things, it states:

When the CEO tries to mislead the public by misrepresenting the factual financial position of his firm, he sends knowledgeable customers away.

. . .

Business depends on trust and integrity. Whitacre has demonstrated he has neither.

I agree completely.

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23 04 2010
William Duffy

…More SUA events, now from Brazil. Seems logical that Toyota uses the same defective ASICs in all markets..

http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=355813&CategoryId=14090

Citing Defects, Brazilian State Bars Sales of Toyota Corolla

SAO PAULO – The Attorney General’s Office in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais barred sales of the Toyota Corolla after nine locally produced units of the popular model were found to have problems with unintended acceleration.

“According to the manufacturer, the problem is caused by the floor mat’s lack of adhesion, but that information is not provided to the consumer at the moment of purchase, nor is it visible inside the vehicle,” the head of the AG office’s consumer affairs division, Amauri Artimos da Matta, said in a statement.

He said the sales ban will be lifted once the Japanese auto giant’s Brazilian subsidiary corrects the fault in both new and existing vehicles.

Toyota do Brasil Ltda has not commented on the ban.

Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide over the past few months, most of them for problems with the accelerator pedal.

This week, Toyota agreed to pay a $16.7 million fine imposed by the U.S. government for the company’s months-long delay in advising regulator’s about the issue of unintended acceleration. EFE

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27 04 2010
William Duffy

Another SUA incident? This is from the Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2010/04/27/federal_agency_to_examine_toyota_in_fatal_crash?mode=PF

Note that the Highlander suddenly accelerated….Unfortunately 4 died.

Federal agency to review Toyota crash
4 died in Columbus Day accident on N.H. road

By Erin Ailworth, Globe Staff | April 27, 2010

The Toyota Highlander hung back for miles, rolling north along Route 202 a comfortable distance behind the car in front of it. Suddenly, the Highlander zoomed up into the breakdown lane, then swerved across the road into oncoming traffic, colliding head on with a silver Chevrolet.

“The SUV was going so fast, I don’t think the silver compact car’s driver had time to react,’’ according to a written statement to Peterborough police from Mark Dugas, who was driving nearby.

Four people died in that Columbus Day crash near the Peterborough and Jaffrey town lines in New Hampshire. A nearly 160-page accident report, compiled by local officers, could not pinpoint a cause.

Now, federal officials have their eyes on the case.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has received two consumer complaints about the case, is sending a team to Massachusetts next month to examine the Highlander, which is being kept at a Billerica salvage yard.

A Globe review of the federal traffic agency’s database last month revealed at least seven fatal accidents since 2003 — resulting in 10 deaths — involving New England drivers, Toyota-made cars, and the possibility of unintended acceleration.

Killed in the accident on Columbus Day were the driver, Harvard professor and medical researcher Stephen Lagakos of Wellesley; his wife Regina; and his mother, Helen. Also killed was the driver of the Chevrolet, Stephen Krause of Keene, N.H.

Their families want answers.

“We can confirm that the Lagakos family has asked us to look into whether this accident was caused by a sudden unintended acceleration,’’ said Valerie Yarashus, an attorney for the surviving family members. “We are at an early phase of the investigation, and want to investigate this thoroughly.’’

Stephen Krause’s wife, Colleen, said the government’s examination may provide answers about the death of her husband, a father of four, one mile from his job at DD Bean & Sons, a maker of paper book matches.

“For peace of mind, I wish there were some closure,’’ she said. “I don’t know what to tell my children.’’

In recent months, Toyota Motor Corp. has been plagued by allegations that some of its cars can speed out of control on their own. The Japanese automaker has recalled millions of vehicles, saying their gas pedals might stick or that floor mats could jam pedals, and has repeatedly refuted charges that electronic control systems may be at fault.

The company agreed to a federal fine of $16.4 million for failing to notify regulators of a “dangerous pedal defect’’ for nearly four months, the traffic safety agency said last week.

“Toyota sympathizes with the individuals and families involved in any accident involving our vehicles. We are making an all out effort to ensure our vehicles are safe and we remain committed to investigating reported incidents of unintended acceleration in our vehicles quickly,’’ Toyota said in a statement to the Globe yesterday.

Meanwhile, investigations of accidents continue. But even as officials look at new and old cases, determining whether a crash was caused by a sudden acceleration is difficult, investigators say. Some crashes leave no survivors, badly damaged vehicles, and few witnesses. Often, safety officials must pick through hazy memories, competing accounts, and extenuating factors — like weather, or driver impairment from alcohol or drugs — before they can reconstruct a crash or find its cause.

“It’s very rare that you have a motor vehicle accident that you can say was caused by one thing and one thing only,’’ said Jodi Petrucelli, an attorney at Sugarman & Sugarman, a personal injury law firm in Boston. But it’s also hard to ignore the recent problems that Toyota-brand vehicles have had, she said.

Clouding the issue are the number of people — survivors, or the families of victims — that are now looking back at car accidents in recent years and wondering whether sudden acceleration may have played a part. In cases where alcohol or drugs were blamed, or in which criminal charges were filed — and there are several such cases involving New England drivers — there may be incentive to find out whether the cause actually lay with the vehicle.

“I think, as a family member who had an individual involved in one of these accidents, it must be very difficult,’’ Petrucelli said. “They want answers.’’

Toyota, in its statement yesterday, underscored the challenges of accident investigation, noting that “it is important to remember that many of the complaints in the NHTSA database for any manufacturer lack sufficient detail that could help identify the cause of an accident.’’

The company vowed to “work in close partnership with law enforcement agencies and federal regulators with jurisdiction over accident scenes whenever requested.’’

The Lagakos-Krause accident, the worst among the cases reviewed by the Globe, illustrates how difficult the quest for answers can be.

On Columbus Day last year, a sunny holiday, the Lagakos family was returning from a weekend at their summer home in Rindge, N.H., where they celebrated Helen Lagakos’s 94th birthday.

Meanwhile, Stephen Krause, had left his house in Keene, N.H., to run errands before heading to work. According to recollections gathered by police, Krause first dropped his Chevy Suburban at a dealership for some work, and picked up a loaner Chevy Malibu. He then met with a financial planner, stopped for gas, and was going to work when the Highlander hit him.

“I don’t think he had a second to respond, and then: Pow!’’ Mark Dugas, a witness, told the Globe in a recent interview.

Dona Castle, another witness, told the Globe that she clearly remembers being followed by Stephen Lagakos’s Highlander for miles before the crash.

“When I checked him in my rearview mirror, everything seemed normal . . . and then, zoom!’’ she said. “He was staring forward, holding the steering wheel . . . like he was trying not to hit anybody.’’

Peterborough police Sergeant Michael Chapdelaine said his team was in the “early’’ days of its investigation into the crash when, after learning of Toyota’s brewing troubles, they began to suspect that Stephen Lagakos’s car might have accelerated unexpectedly.

Chapdelaine said his team examined the badly damaged Highlander, but didn’t get a look at the car’s pedals. Nor could they retrieve any electronic data that might have shown if the car malfunctioned, Chapdelaine said, because investigators couldn’t get the proper codes from Toyota.

Chapdelaine said investigators eliminated as many possible causes of the crash as they could, including the question of whether there was a medical emergency, but weren’t able to pinpoint what caused the accident.

“The major one that we were unable to rule out was the fact of sudden acceleration,’’ he said. “That’s still looming in the back of my mind that that could have been a possibility, especially at this stage of the game.’’

Jack Middleton, lawyer for Colleen Krause, whose husband Stephen died in the crash, worries that no one will know for sure why Lagakos’s Highlander crashed, but that Toyota might be blamed even without conclusive evidence.

“It may be a defect [in the Toyota], but whether or not we’re going to be able to prove that by the circumstances, I don’t know,’’ he said.

The uncertainty haunts Colleen Krause. In search of answers, in February she reported her husband’s accident to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Daily, she remembers her husband of nearly 30 years: his ready smile, the days he spent coaching his kids at hockey and baseball when they were young.

“I wish I could tell him now how much he gave me,’’ his adult daughter, Allie, wrote in a message to the Globe. “I am determined to grow into an individual that possesses even some of the wonderful traits that he had.’’

Answers from the traffic safety administration will take time. Federal investigators look at more than 30,000 consumer complaints a year, searching for defects that would “pose a risk to safety,’’ the agency said in a statement to the Globe. Each complaint gets reviewed twice — first by the screener, and later by a specialist with expertise specific to the vehicle component or system being called into question.

“It’s important to note that while there are many complaints of unwanted acceleration in NHTSA’s database concerning Toyota and other vehicles,’’ the agency wrote, “those complaints run a wide gamut in terms of safety risk.’’

Knowing that the safety agency is sending out a team to look at the Highlander, Colleen Krause said she has some hope.

“All I want,’’ she said, “is closure.’’

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29 04 2010
Frankie Pintado

“Nor could they retrieve any electronic data that might have shown if the car malfunctioned, Chapdelaine said, because investigators couldn’t get the proper codes from Toyota.”

Hmmm, anyone surprised by this? Anyone else think Toyota might not be giving them the wrong codes by accident?

This is the part that we need to make a big deal of. Oh and we need to hold onto that car until we get those codes.

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29 04 2010
naegeleblog

GM’s Whitacre Is Lying, Like Toyota!—Update

Whitacre’s failure to mention in his TV ads that GM used escrow funds to repay its US and Canadian bailout loans constitutes false and misleading advertising. However, the Obama Treasury Department—which, after all, gave GM its bailout—is looking the other way and has cleared the automaker of any wrongdoing. How outrageous!

American taxpayers were fleeced once when GM and Chrysler were bailed out. Now they are being lied to, when Whitacre appears in the media touting the fact that GM has paid back the monies provided by the federal government (i.e., U.S. taxpayers), and it has done so early. He fails to tell us that GM repaid the bailout loans with the money in an escrow account, and that GM’s repayment was a fraction of the $50 billion that the company received from the U.S. government last year.

See http://www.leftlanenews.com/treasury-department-oks-gms-use-of-tarp-funds-for-loan-repayments.html; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/#comment-382

. . .

A complaint has been filed by the advocacy group, Competitive Enterprise Institute, with the Federal Trade Commission concerning Whitacre’s lying.

See, e.g., http://www.naegele.com/documents/GMsWhitacreadscalleddeceptiveinFTCcomplaint.pdf and http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=10554206

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8 05 2010
William Duffy

Here is yet another incident. The engine going instantly to full throttle without the driver even touching the gas pedal is consistent with my hypothesis of an ASIC failure.

Toyota Acceleration Crashes Continue, Even In Unrecalled Models

By Jim Motavalli | May 7, 2010

http://industry.bnet.com/auto/10004903/congress-is-holding-safety-hearings-as-toyota-crashes-continue/

Toyota would love to put unintended acceleration behind it, but that’s proving difficult as the crashes continue, some of them in cars that have been “fixed” or were never recalled. A Pennsylvania grandmother tells BNET Auto that she and her daughter’s kids were nearly killed in a Lexus SUV that never made the list. Toyota investigated and said the car was fine, but the victim — and another family that lost a child in the same model — aren’t convinced.

Congress is currently holding hearings on auto safety, clearly inspired by Toyota’s acceleration agonies and other problems that have led to nine million recalled cars since September. Toyota (TM) says it would welcome stronger standards, but when it comes to the electronic throttles that might be at fault — well, the company’s still not going there.

Representative Henry Waxman’s House subcommittee is considering bills that would require new cars to have brake interlock systems to prevent runaway situations, and black box recorders that can tell us what happened right before and during accidents. Toyota has acted proactively to install the interlocks on many models. But it has also been selective about which vehicles to recall for sudden acceleration.

The Lexus RX350 has not been recalled, but perhaps it should be. “I felt very confident about my car, which I loved, because it was not on the recall list,” Jean Cheever told me. She is a 66-year-old suburban Philadelphia grandmother and the owner of a 2008 Lexus RX350. She loved her car right up to March 18, when she says it ran away with her as she was backing up with her one- and three-year-old grandchildren in the back seat.

Cheever says she put the car in reverse and it “just bolted out of the driveway in reverse on its own, engine racing. The car was moving like a missile into the cul-de-sac.” Cheever said she doesn’t think she ever touched the gas pedal. She attempted to put the car into neutral, but instead engaged drive, which sent the car hurtling forward toward her daughter’s house. She swerved into a neighbor’s yard and finally stopped the car (still with the kids strapped in back) by running it sideways into a tree. The Lexus was totaled. “It was very scary,” said Cheever.

In an April 16 letter from Nekii Montgomery of Toyota Motor Sales, the company said it inspected Cheever’s car — including the brakes, accelerator pedal and floormats — in a local salvage yard. “The accelerator operated smoothly and returned to its idle position without binding,” the letter said. “The inspection showed the brake system was in good condition and had no defects. The driver’s side floor mat was properly secured on the left side, but not on the right side…[O]ur inspection determined that this incident was not a result of any type of manufacturer design or defect.”

A call to Montgomery was redirected to Toyota spokesman John Hanson, who did not return a phone call.

Also in March, Nancy and Daniel Murtha of Cortlandt Manor, New York sued Toyota for the wrongful death of their five-year-old son in an unintended acceleration incident, also in a 2008 Lexus RX350, that occurred in July. Nancy Murtha, who was driving, hit a rock wall, which caused severe injuries to son Jake, who died hours later.

Plantiffs’ counsel Robert Nelson chided Toyota for not incorporating a brake override system in the Lexus, and faulted Toyota’s electronic throttle control system — which the company has adamantly defended.

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, testified at Waxman’s hearing Thursday. He told me in an interview that the Lexus RX350 should be recalled. “Yes, we think it should be,” he said. “It is our position that all Toyota and Lexus vehicles with electronic throttle control should be recalled.”

Ditlow said the RX350 has had relatively low sales, and not as many unintended acceleration claims as other models. “It’s not a Camry,” he said. According to data gathered as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Early Warning Reporting System” through the fourth quarter of 2009, there were nine death or injury claims involving “speed controls components” on Lexus RX models between 2003 and 2008.

Rik Paul, auto editor of Consumer Reports, told me, “Toyota and NHTSA should look at these cases and see how they are related to sudden acceleration. It would be premature for the agency to issue a recall based just on these reports.”

Lexus has just been through a bad experience with the larger GX460 SUV, which was rated “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk” by Consumer Reports last month because of an electronic stability control fault. The GX was recalled, the software updated, and CR lifted its warning late this week.

“This is what you want to see happen with an auto safety problem,” Paul said. “The issue was discovered before there were any injuries, and the automaker acted aggressively to fix the problem — all in less than a month.”

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10 05 2010
William Duffy

Another incident. This one a 2006 Tacoma. It sounds like the same profile, the vehicle just takes off on its own..

http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_15051586

Metro-area family files federal lawsuit against Toyota after February crash
By Felisa Cardona
The Denver Post
Posted: 05/10/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT

Michael Noble returns to the intersection of West 104th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard, the site where he rolled his mother’s 2006 Toyota Tacoma pickup in February. ( Reza A. Marvashti, The Denver Post )

When Michael Noble crashed his mother’s 2006 Toyota Tacoma into a Westminster embankment and rolled, some believed the 21-year-old had been horsing around before the crash.

“The light turned green, and I put my foot on the gas and it took off on me,” he said. “I still don’t see how I did it.”

Now the Nobles say the Tacoma accelerated on its own, and they have filed a federal lawsuit asking for compensation for the loss of the truck and for the legal expenses Michael Noble incurred to clear his name.

Toyota issued a recall for the $25,000 pickups for floor mats sticking to the accelerators, but Amanda Noble had replaced her Tacoma’s mats before the recall.

Two months before the Feb. 14 accident, she took the truck to a Toyota dealership for service, and no problems were detected. The only glitch she noticed was the truck sometimes lurched forward when she was idling before going into her garage.

The Tacoma was her second Toyota.

As of last week, there were 342 state and federal lawsuits related to unintentional acceleration pending against the automaker nationwide, including three federal suits filed in Colorado.

All of the federal cases are being consolidated under one Santa Ana, Calif., judge who will decide whether Toyota must provide a remedy for people such as the Nobles.

“All legal aspects are going to take their due course,” said Celeste Migliore, a Toyota spokeswoman. “We will have no comment on pending litigation or speculate on investigations until they are well on their way to being completed.”

Michael Noble was eastbound on West 104th Avenue, and, when the light changed, he turned north onto Sheridan Boulevard. The truck accelerated and began to fishtail, and the rear end of the truck hit a curb and launched him over an embankment.

Noble suffered an injured elbow, and a back-seat passenger suffered whiplash when her seat belt broke.

Amanda Noble arrived at the scene of the crash and said she put her “mom hat” on and asked her son what he did to cause the crash.

The reply was that he didn’t know how it happened, and witnesses backed him up, she said.

So Amanda Noble spent $4,000 in legal fees defending her son from a charge of careless driving resulting in the injuries of himself and a passenger. The charge could have cost him a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

“You should have seen the look on Michael’s face when the judge read the penalty,” Amanda Noble said.

Michael Noble pleaded guilty to driving a defective vehicle after State Farm insurance investigators interviewed witnesses and passengers and determined the truck had unintentionally accelerated.

“Toyota came out and looked at the car, and they still won’t tell us what they think happened,” said the Nobles’ attorney, Frank Porada.

There could be as many as 8 million defective Toyotas, and the lawsuits could cost the company billions to resolve, Porada said.

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12 05 2010
Frankie Pintado

“Noble suffered an injured elbow, and a back-seat passenger suffered whiplash when her seat belt broke.”

So they fishtailed into a curb, and the seatbelt BROKE?????????

Oh man. The lawyers are gonna have fun with that.

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15 05 2010
William Duffy

Are these guys any good? This will be a memorable case…

Beasley Allen’s Miles Appointed by the Court to Lead Toyota SUA Litigation

W. Daniel “Dee” Miles, III, will serve as a leader in multi-district litigation against Toyota involving claims of sudden unintended acceleration

MONTGOMERY, Ala., May 14 /PRNewswire/ — United States District Judge James V. Selna today appointed W. Daniel “Dee” Miles, III, head of the Consumer Fraud section for Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis and Miles, P.C., to the Liaison Committee for personal injury/wrongful death cases in litigation against Toyota. April 9, 2010, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation selected the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to hear litigation surrounding Toyota sudden unintended acceleration (SUA). Lawsuits include both individual personal injury claims and consumer class actions filed on behalf of Toyota owners who claim the value of their vehicles has been negatively affected by Toyota’s SUA problems.

Miles was selected from a pool of more than 100 lawyers and law firms to help lead the Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration litigation for the entire world. Those appointed to the committee will be in charge of directing this litigation for the entire country, as well as some foreign countries that may be involved in the suit. Lawyers appointed to this litigation will have the job of gathering documents, questioning witnesses, arguing the legal issues and preparing the case for trial and possibly settlement. This is a very important appointment and one that will direct how this enormous litigation is handled.

“It is a great honor to have been selected and appointed by the court to lead this litigation, but it is also a tremendous challenge and responsibility for any lawyer and law firm,” Miles said. “We asked the court for this challenge and we accept our appointment with full appreciation of its importance to the families of the deceased victims, consumers and businesses who have suffered as a result of these alleged automotive defects in Toyota products.”

Appointment to the Toyota MDL (case 8:10-ml-02151-JVS-FMO) puts Beasley Allen in a leadership role in this important litigation. Nearly 200 lawsuits related to Toyota sudden unintended acceleration have been filed in federal and state courts throughout the country. The court structured the plaintiffs’ counsel for the litigation to include a liaison committee for personal injury/wrongful death cases; a lead counsel committee for the economic loss cases; a core discovery committee consisting of the co-lead liaison counsel for the personal injury/wrongful death cases and the co-lead counsel for the economic loss plaintiffs; three liaison counsel to the state cases on other types of federal cases; and one or more counsel who shall have specific duties limited to a particular factual or legal area. Despite the committee breakdown for trial purposes, the litigation is a united effort, with all liaison and lead counsel working jointly to obtain discovery for all cases.

Beasley Allen has taken an active role in investigating Toyota SUA. Miles has filed a total of six consumer class actions in four states to date – Alabama, California, Florida and Georgia. Beasley Allen attorney Graham Esdale also has filed two wrongful death cases involving Toyota SUA, in state courts in Alabama and Oklahoma. Beasley Allen attorneys attended Congressional hearings on Capitol Hill in February as government leaders examined the automaker’s response to the safety threat posed by its vehicles.

Toyota’s U.S. Headquarters is located in Torrance, Calif. More than 8 million Toyota vehicles have been recalled worldwide for sudden unintended acceleration problems. Toyota has blamed the problems both on defective or improperly installed floor mats, and sticky accelerator pedals. Toyota also has recalled vehicles for problems with the anti-lock brakes.

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20 05 2010
William Duffy

Another SUA event reported today: “car went berserk” is not what a sticky pedal would do.

http://mankatofreepress.com/local/x2023213111/Local-Toyota-driver-reports-unintended-acceleration

The Free Press, Mankato, MN
May 19, 2010
Local Toyota driver reports unintended acceleration
Vehicle to be examined

By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer

— A minor crash that wasn’t even serious enough to warrant an accident report by police has Charles Anton giving up the keys to his 2007 Toyota Camry.

The car is actually owned by his girlfriend, Linda Chory. But he and Chory both say it’s a good thing she wasn’t driving the car at about 12:30 p.m. Monday, which is when Anton says the car accelerated unexpectedly.

“I wouldn’t have known what to do,” Chory said.

Anton had been driving east on Highway 14 and took the Riverfront Drive exit. He was able to stop behind a car in front of him, then again at the stop sign. The car took off as he attempted to turn south, he said.

“I accelerated normally, then the car went berserk,” said Anton of North Mankato. “I kept trying to stop and stepping on the brakes. I hit them again and again, but I couldn’t stop hitting the guy in front of me.

“My car was literally trying to climb over his car. Finally, as hard as I could, I slammed the car into park. If it wasn’t for the guy in front of me, I’d still be going down Riverfront Drive.”

The guy in front of him was Hank McCarthy of Le Center. He thought he’d made someone mad on the highway and had become the victim of a road rage attack. He said Anton hit him the first time while he was still at the stop sign.

“I was just about to pull away when he hit me,” McCarthy said. “Then he hit me a couple more times while I was trying to get away.”

The crash didn’t result in any injuries, which all involved were thankful for, and the total damage was around a few thousand dollars. So the police officer who responded gave the drivers packets to fill out and pass on to their insurance providers.

“Then she said, ‘You’ve got to move your car,” Anton said. “I told her, ‘No I don’t. I’m not driving that thing again.’ I had them tow it up to the dealership.”

Heintz Toyota, which is where the car is, has given Anton and Chory a car to use while they wait for an investigation. That’s also the dealership where Anton brought the Camry for recall repairs, related to the unexpected acceleration concerns, several months ago.

Employees at Heintz declined to comment and referred questions to Brian Lyons, Toyota’s safety and quality communications manager in California. Lyons said this incident is one of many throughout the country being investigated. The car will be checked by a team of investigators and evaluated. The results will then be provided to Anton and Chory, he said.

Claims of unexpected acceleration have resulted in class-action lawsuits. Many of the attorneys working on those suits are focusing on crashes that resulted in serious injuries.

A Toyota news release issued last week asked the public to wait to see what happens in court before coming to any conclusions about its products.

“Recently we have seen instances where the facts did not support the initial claims and sensational reports,” the release said. “In the best interests of all those involved, it’s important to keep this in mind as the case proceeds and the facts are presented.”

When Anton contacted a Mankato attorney, he was referred to a law firm in Minneapolis. A representative from that law firm had not returned his call as of Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m not looking to gain anything out of this,” Anton said. “I just want to make sure I don’t lose anything.”

Anton and Chory paid cash for the car when they bought it new in 2007. The car now has about 35,000 miles on it, making it worth well over $10,000. The estimated damage is less than $1,000, but Anton and Chory said they still don’t want the car back. They’re considering trading it in for a used car.

The situation has caused an unexpected headache for McCarthy, too. Anton’s insurance company initially told McCarthy it wouldn’t cover repairs for his car, a 2003 Audi, until it’s determined whether there is a defect in the Camry.

“What they’re saying is, if there is a defect with the car, then the liability falls on Toyota,” McCarthy said.

When he pushed the issue, an insurance company representative said he would look into the situation and get back to McCarthy within 10 days. He doesn’t plan to repair the car before then because he’s not sure he’ll be reimbursed.

“I’m in the middle of putting a new roof on my house,” he said. “Putting a couple thousand dollars into the car isn’t in the cards right now.”

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21 05 2010
naegeleblog

Toyota Continues To Lie, And Engage In Its Massive Cover-Up!

The Wall Street Journal is reporting on congressional criticism of Toyota’s actions and inactions.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/CongressCriticizesToyotaonGlitches.pdf

Most telling are the following comments in the article:

“Toyota has repeatedly told the public that it has conducted extensive testing of its vehicles for electronic defects. We can find no basis for these assertions,” [House committee chairman Henry Waxman] said.

. . .

[Jim Lentz, president of Toyota's U.S. sales arm] said it would be too difficult and time-consuming to add the [brake override technology] system to all of its vehicles in customers’ hands since “it takes an incredible amount of time and engineering resources.”

Put succinctly, Toyota has no basis for its assertions and those of its dealers that Toyota-produced products, model years 2002 and later (e.g., Toyota cars and trucks, Lexus automobiles), are safe. When it asserts categorically that they are, its management and other representatives are lying to the American people. Also, Lentz makes clear that Toyota will not be installing the brake override technology on all Toyota-produced vehicles, 2002 and later.

Because the company has been engaged in a massive cover-up that has spanned a decade so far, and because it is clear that the Obama Administration will do nothing to remedy these problems, it will be up to state and local prosecutors and private litigators to bring Toyota to its knees. Enough is enough!

What is crystal clear is that Toyota cars and trucks and Lexus automobiles (model years 2002 and newer, including those on dealers’ lots and others coming off the company’s assembly lines) can turn into runaway vehicles at a moment’s notice, without warning. Hopefully neither you nor a family member or friend encounters such a vehicle—as a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or in another vehicle that is struck.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-
unsafe/

Lastly, the article states:

[David Strickland, director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] noted the Department of Justice had been asked to help the regulator look through volumes of Toyota documents related to what company executives knew about the problem and when they knew it.

Toyota recently paid a $16.4 million fine to NHTSA in connection with its recalls.

The fine is a pittance, and means nothing to Toyota. It is equally clear that there are reasons to believe that members of Toyota’s Japanese management have engaged in criminal conduct, and they should be prosecuted if they set foot on American soil. There is no diplomatic immunity for them. In fact, the attorney general of any state can take action, such as New York’s Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, and California’s Attorney General, Jerry Brown.

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23 05 2010
William Duffy

Toyota: The quality is designed out before the name is slapped on….

latimes.com/business/la-fi-lexus-20100523,0,3565181.story
latimes.com
Toyota took cost-cutting approach on lurching Lexus models, records show
The automaker struggled to diagnose performance problems with the 2002-06 ES models and limited the scope of repairs, company records show.

By Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times

May 23, 2010

Five months before the new 2002 Lexus ES hit showroom floors, the company’s U.S. engineers sent a test report to Toyota City in Japan: The luxury sedan shifted gears so roughly that it was “not acceptable for production.”

The warning was sent to Toyota Executive Vice President Katsuaki Watanabe on May 16, 2001. Days later, another Japanese executive sent an e-mail to top managers saying that despite misgivings among U.S. officials, the 2002 Lexus was “marginally acceptable for production.” The new ES went on sale across the nation on Oct. 1, 2001.

In years to come, thousands of Lexus buyers would discover firsthand that the vehicle’s transmission problems, which caused it to hesitate when motorists hit the gas, or lurch forward unintentionally, were far from fixed.

The 2002-2006 ES models would become the target of lawsuits, federal safety investigations and hundreds of consumer complaints, including claims of 49 injuries.

Internal Toyota records reviewed by The Times provide an inside look at how the world’s largest automaker struggled for years to identify the causes of nagging performance issues in one of its top-selling luxury vehicles. They also show that the automaker sought to cut costs by limiting the scope of repairs.

“The objective will be to limit the number of vehicles to be serviced to those owners who complain, and to limit the per-vehicle cost,” a Toyota staff attorney wrote in an Aug. 15, 2005, memo explaining the automaker’s legal defense strategy.

Toyota was fined a record $16.4 million last month for delays in notifying federal safety officials about defects that could lead to sudden acceleration. Though the 2002-2006 ES models were not included in Toyota’s recall of nearly 10 million vehicles worldwide for unintended acceleration, the car’s history has nonetheless caught the attention of congressional investigators.

A House committee has subpoenaed thousands of internal documents from Toyota, including nearly 250 dealing explicitly with that generation of the ES, which were collected or produced by the automaker to defend itself against a 2005 lawsuit.

In statements to The Times, Toyota Motor Corp. officials said they followed industry practice for notifying customers about repairs.

“Given the concerns raised by some customers about this drivability issue, we did not meet the very high customer satisfaction standards we set for ourselves,” Toyota said. “However, we fully stand behind the engineering and production quality of the vehicle, as well as our after-sale customer service and technical support.”

The documents show that Toyota repeatedly tried to solve the lurching problem by modifying the car’s computer software. But Toyota told The Times that the Lexus ES issues concerned “drivability” and were not related to the sudden-acceleration problems experienced in other vehicles.

Hattie Lesure, however, said the Lexus ES 300 she bought for $35,000 in August 2002 had an alarming tendency to jump forward without warning. “My fear was that it could surge into another car,” the Moreno Valley retiree said.

After her Lexus dealer and Toyota’s U.S. sales unit disputed Lesure’s claim, she filed a lawsuit against the automaker, which was settled for about $3,000.

When Lesure bought the ES, Toyota was quietly rolling out a new version of the software used to control the car’s drivetrain in an attempt to remedy the car’s performance woes. But the automaker decided to fix only a fraction of the vehicles, the documents show.

The repair “should only be utilized for critical customer complaints,” wrote Gary Heine, quality-assurance powertrain manager for Toyota’s U.S. sales division, in an e-mail to customer service managers on Aug. 27, 2002, according to a chronology Toyota lawyers prepared for litigation in late 2005.

Other customers — presumably those who did not complain loudly enough — were not included in the software upgrade until late 2003, when Toyota instructed dealers on how to reprogram the onboard computer and advised more than 100,000 ES owners to bring their cars in for a “product enhancement.”

But many customers complained that the fix didn’t work, internal memos prepared for Toyota executives in Japan show, leading some officials to question the wisdom of sending notices in the first place.

In an Aug. 3, 2005, e-mail to a superior, then-Toyota staff attorney Dimitrios Biller described a meeting he had with the then-head of Lexus in the U.S., Bob Carter, on whether to notify ES owners about a new software update. Carter now heads the Toyota brand here.

“Bob is opposed to the idea of sending such a letter out to all owners of all 2002 to 2005 ES 300 and ES 330 vehicles because a substantial majority of these people are satisfied with their vehicles,” Biller wrote. “Once they become sensitized to the hesitation and/or lurching, they will become ‘dissatisfied’ Lexus owners.”

Two weeks later, Biller wrote a memo indicating that Toyota’s “objective will be to limit the number of vehicles to be serviced to those owners who complain, and to limit the per-vehicle cost.” (Biller has since left the automaker and is involved in several lawsuits with the company. Toyota has called Biller “a disgruntled former employee.”)

Toyota sent the letter to the 3,000 customers “who have actually complained about the performance of the transmission” in their cars, the documents show.

In its statement, Toyota said that issuing a technical service bulletin “versus direct notification to customers” is “commonplace for addressing issues such as this” and is a practice used by other manufacturers. Toyota did not respond to a request to interview officials who wrote or received documents cited in this article.

Vexing problems

The ES had for many years been the top-selling model in the Lexus lineup, known for its smooth ride and graceful handling.

A month after the 2002 ES went on sale, car critics panned what one called “jerky gears.” In the coming months, Toyota officials noted growing numbers of complaints on Internet forums and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website and, according to the legal chronology, were able to replicate the surge problem in a test vehicle.

In August 2002, J.D. Power & Associates reported to Toyota that complaints about the ES’ transmission had quadrupled. That drove the vehicle’s ranking in that category to 18th place, the chronology said.

In its statement, however, Toyota noted that the Lexus ES had consistently received high marks overall from J.D. Power.

Also in 2002, two ES owners prepared a lawsuit alleging defects and seeking class-action status. Before it was filed, Toyota settled, according to a letter sent by Toyota to its outside counsel in June 2005.

One of the plaintiffs, Micky Palach of Monroe Township, N.J., recalls receiving a $900 check.

“The car had a serious transmission problem,” said Palach, who bought the Lexus as a Christmas present for his wife. He still owns the car, which he said continues to surge unexpectedly.

Toyota engineers had been trying to solve the performance problems on the ES since at least 1999, documents show. But by 2004, some at the company thought that no amount of software tinkering would remedy the problem.

In a July 21, 2004, internal report, Toyota’s vehicle engineering division suggested that the performance woes were the result of the car using only three motor mounts to secure the engine, one fewer than in previous ES models.

In an interview with company lawyers in November 2005, two Toyota engineers indicated that “the performance characteristics of the vehicles are NOT related to the software, but to hardware issues,” according to an e-mail sent by Biller.

But company officials ruled out solving the problem “due to the complications as well as costs associated with a change from three to four engine mounts,” according to a memo written by Toyota’s outside counsel regarding the same meeting.

The redesigned 2007 ES, released less than a year later, had four engine mounts.

Safety questions

Carol Mathews said she was parking her 2002 ES when it suddenly jumped forward, smashing into a tree. The repair bill came to $14,000.

“I always swore on a stack of Bibles that there was something wrong with that car,” said Mathews, former director of healthcare for the Montgomery County, Md., public school district.

After Toyota rejected her claims that the car was defective, Mathews filed a petition in 2004 with NHTSA. Acting on that complaint, NHTSA opened the first of three defect investigations into that generation of ES for unintended acceleration problems.

All three were dismissed, but a review of NHTSA’s database shows that 49 injuries have been blamed on acceleration problems in that version of the ES. A September 2008 complaint alleged that a speed control problem in a 2006 ES led to a pedestrian’s death.

In early 2005, Los Angeles attorney David Greenberg filed a class-action suit against Toyota in federal court, alleging that defects in the ES caused it to “hesitate,” “lurch” and, in certain circumstances, suffer “dangerous, unanticipated acceleration.”

In preparation for trial, Toyota approved a $1.6-million budget for its outside counsel, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. The judge dismissed the case in May 2006, saying it did not belong in federal court.

State court remained an option. Toyota, which had collected the nearly 250 documents in preparation for its defense in the case, notified its auditor that a state lawsuit could pose a material liability that would force it to notify shareholders.

But Greenberg, an employment and personal injury lawyer, decided not to pursue the case.

“I felt like we had a good case. It was just a bit premature,” said Greenberg, who still owns the same Lexus. “If I had the case today, I can tell you we wouldn’t have given up so easily.”

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23 05 2010
naegeleblog

The Latest Scandal With Respect To Toyota’s Lexus

In an article that has been posted in its entirety above by WIlliam Duffy, the Los Angeles Times’ Pulitzer prize-nominated reporting team of Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian conclude that the automaker struggled to diagnose performance problems with the 2002-06 ES models and limited the scope of repairs, the company’s records show.

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lexus-20100523,0,278161,full.story; see also http://www.pulitzer.org/citation/2010-National-Reporting

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25 05 2010
naegeleblog

The Toyota Scandal And Criminal Cover-Up Continue

The Washington Post is reporting:

The government says unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles may have been involved in the deaths of 89 people over the past decade.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that from 2000 to mid-May, it had received more than 6,200 complaints involving sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

The reports involve 89 deaths and 57 injuries over the same period. Previously, 52 deaths were blamed on the problem.

See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/25/AR2010052504369.html

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28 05 2010
naegeleblog

Federal Judge Gives Toyota 30 Days To Produce Documents

Reuters is reporting:

A U.S. federal judge gave Toyota 30 days to turn over the bulk of documents sought by class-action lawyers from previous investigations of complaints about its cars racing out of control.

This could be significant but for the fact that “roughly 125,000 pages of internal documents [were] already submitted to congressional panels and auto safety regulators.” If there was anything truly significant in these documents, presumably they would have been leaked to the media by now.

Assuming key documents are requested in criminal grand jury proceedings too, the heat might be on Toyota bigtime. It is not beyond the pale to foresee that members of the company’s management, including those in Japan, may spend time in American prisons before this scandal has run its course.

See http://www.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idUSTRE64Q0BV20100528

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8 09 2010
naegeleblog

The Latest Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) Numbers!

Sean Kane’s Safety Research & Strategies, has completed its review of Toyota unintended acceleration complaint data, and the results are staggering:

Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) Numbers

See http://www.safetyresearch.net/2010/07/20/toyota-sudden-unintended-acceleration-the-new-numbers-are-in/

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19 09 2010
naegeleblog

The Saylor Litigation Has Been Settled . . . Partially

Toyota has reached a settlement with the relatives of the California Highway patrolman, Mark Saylor, who was killed along with his wife, daughter and brother-in-law in a 2009 car accident that opened the wrongdoing of Toyota for the world to see.

There is no question that Toyota and Lexus vehicles are unsafe; and that Toyota and its dealers have engaged in a massive disinformation campaign, which was designed to convince Americans that all is well and that no problems exist. This is fraud, pure and simple.

As critical documents and other information is uncovered, Toyota may pay massive damages in the U.S. and abroad; and it is not beyond the pale to believe that its officials will be fired and some may spend time in jail. Indeed, the Toyota cover-up began in about 2002, and continues to this day.

There are no solutions yet to its vehicles’ tragic “Sudden Unintended Acceleration” (SUA) problems, the sheer magnitude of which is described in the posting immediately above this one. Also, as the Los Angeles Times’ Pulitzer prize-nominated reporter Ken Bensinger has written:

[The Saylor] settlement has left out co-defendant Bob Baker Lexus, a move by the automaker that could set the stage for a potentially bloody fight with its own dealers over who is to blame for sudden acceleration incidents.

“Toyota has sought to protect only its own interests. They decided to cut out their own dealer,” said Larry Willis, attorney for Bob Baker Lexus, which lent the ill-fated Lexus ES to California Highway Patrol officer Mark Saylor in August 2009.

. . .

Willis argues that the floor mat was not the problem. He said the accident could have been caused by an inherent defect in the car’s electronics.

The suit, filed by Saylor’s parents along with the parents of his wife and brother-in-law, was considered by far the strongest among the hundreds of sudden acceleration cases brought against Toyota in the last year.

“Until they got rid of this case, it was going to be something everyone pointed at Toyota for,” said Don Slavik, an attorney representing plaintiffs in sudden acceleration cases filed against the automaker in both federal and state court. “Now they’re going to argue this was the dealer’s fault alone and their cars aren’t defective.”

Bolstered by a 911 recording of the victims screaming “there’s no brakes!” moments before a fiery death, the accident set off a chain of events leading to congressional hearings, multiple federal investigations and record fines against the automaker.

. . .

Willis said that because the terms of the Saylor settlement could have a material effect on the outcome of his client’s defense, he will oppose the request for confidentiality.

“Our concern is that the dealership’s interests have not been protected by Toyota,” he said.

An individual involved in the mediation and who asked for anonymity said the plaintiffs had requested a $10-million settlement.

The automaker still faces dozens of other personal injury suits in that courtroom, as well as federal personal injury suits and claims for economic damage that have been consolidated in a U.S District Court in Santa Ana. Many of the other suits name Toyota dealers as co-defendants.

. . .

According to Willis, the plaintiffs’ claim of negligence against Bob Baker Lexus has not been dropped.

Aaron Jacoby, a Los Angeles attorney specializing in representing dealerships, said it was rare for dealers and automakers to break ranks in litigation in which both are defendants.

“There is usually a standard of cooperation, but Toyota is not fighting just one case. There is a lot of money at stake,” Jacoby said. “It absolutely means that other dealers should be very careful going forward.”

Toyota has roughly 1,200 dealers nationwide.

Although hundreds of sudden acceleration complaints and multiple federal investigations of the phenomenon had been logged before Aug. 28, 2009, it wasn’t until the Saylor crash that the issue took on national significance.

. . .

[T]he Saylor accident had become the focal point of a growing outcry over Toyota’s sudden acceleration problems.

The furor reached a peak in late February, when Fe Lastrella, mother of victims Cleofe and Chris, broke down in tears during a congressional hearing just hours after Toyota President Akio Toyoda testified that he was “deeply sorry” for accidents in Toyota vehicles.

The next week, the Saylor and Lastrella families filed suit against Toyota in California Superior Court, seeking compensation from Toyota and the dealership for their loss. In the spring, the dealership filed a cross-complaint against Toyota, arguing that the automaker should be liable for any defects inherent in the vehicle.

By excluding Bob Baker Lexus from the settlement, Toyota appears to be taking the position that the fault in the accident lies entirely with the dealership for putting in the wrong floor mat.

Last fall, Toyota argued that there is no problem with its cars so long as the mats are correctly installed, a posture that has been criticized by Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That agency took the unusual step last November of rebuking Toyota for alleging that “no defect exists” in its vehicles.

Willis argues that the floor mat could not have caused the accident because the incident was of such long duration, nearly two minutes, that Saylor would have been able to free the mat. Allying himself, surprisingly, with many of Toyota’s critics, he instead argues that the problem was electronic in nature.

What’s more, he said, the vehicle lacked a brake override, a safety feature that Toyota had discussed implementing a full two years before the Saylor crash, but decided against. This year, Toyota said it would install brake override on all its vehicles in the future.

“We view this as 100% a problem of the design of the vehicle,” Willis said.

Jacoby, the attorney for dealers, said he was worried that Toyota’s decision to leave Bob Baker Lexus out in the cold could have ramifications beyond the courtroom.

“The bigger problem for Toyota is an image problem,” he said.

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-lawsuit-20100918,0,4902752,full.story; see also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703556604575501693805105922.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTWhatsNews#articleTabs%3Darticle and http://www.pulitzer.org/citation/2010-National-Reporting and http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-0915-toyota-blackbox-20100915,0,93137.story (“Toyota acknowledges software bug in ‘black box’ reader“) and http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-0910-toyota-case-20100910,0,3956185.story (“Arbitrator rules that former Toyota attorney Dimitrios Biller may use internal company documents to support his claim that the automaker hid evidence in lawsuits“) and http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-0831-toyota-20100831,0,2172796.story (“Texas Supreme Court rules against Toyota in rollover case“)

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21 09 2010
Frankie Pintado

“This year, Toyota said it would install brake override on all its vehicles in the future.”

Wow. Thanks. It took how many engineers how long to come to the conclusion that this was a good idea? How many to screw in a light bulb?

Does this not support the theory that there was nothing to keep this from happening on previous vehicles?

“Umm, lets see, we’re allowing the computer to control the engine now. Computers fail in unpredictable ways, you think we should let the driver stop the car if this happens? Maybe even let them turn the car off?”

See, that’s where the story really starts to unravel. It is realistic to assume that Toyota’s engineers had considered this, being at the top of their field and building cars for quite some time. In my mind it is simply impossible for them to have ‘carelessly overlooked’ something like that. Which means that it was a DECISION, and probably not one made by an engineer.

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28 10 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Toyota Techs Have Replicated Sudden Unintended Acceleration (or SUA)!

Toyota has quietly bought back vehicles after its own service techs experienced an SUA event during a test drive. One vehicle reached speeds of 95 mph with no pedal contact.

See http://www.safetyresearch.net/2010/10/28/toyotas-quiet-buybacks-speak-up/

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23 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Toyota Settles For $10 million in Saylor SUA Case!

The Los Angeles Times’ 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist—for reporting on national affairs, in print or online or both—Ken Bensinger, has written:

Toyota Motor Corp. agreed to pay $10 million to settle a lawsuit over a fiery San Diego crash last year that claimed four lives and drew national attention to the issue of sudden acceleration in its vehicles.

The automaker’s settlement with relatives of California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor and three of his family members was disclosed in September but the amount it paid was not released then.

Toyota and the families had moved to keep the amount secret, but that request was denied by a Superior Court judge Monday. The amount was confirmed Thursday by Larry Willis, an attorney for a Lexus dealership that also is a defendant in the case.

The effort to keep the terms secret was opposed by the Lexus dealer that loaned the ill-fated car to Saylor, as well as by The Times, other media and the Orange County district attorney.

. . .

The moments leading up to the crash were captured in a chilling 911 recording that led to the first of a series of safety and quality recalls by Toyota in the past 14 months.

Since then, the automaker has faced a series of federal investigations, recalled millions of vehicles worldwide and been hit with scores of lawsuits in state and federal courts.

The Saylor-Lastrella suit was widely considered the strongest against Toyota, so settling it eliminates the risk of a huge jury verdict. Though a large amount, the terms are well below other personal-injury settlements recorded in California that have reached more than $30 million.

. . .

“This case contains allegations against one of the world’s largest automakers, and there are a lot of people that drive its cars,” [Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr, who unsealed the settlement] said. “What about their right to know?”

. . .

The Times, other media and Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas joined Baker Lexus in arguing that the settlement should be disclosed, especially since the case was public and the deal was brought before a public court for approval.

“The court’s review of the settlement of a public-safety case that has drawn international attention should not be shrouded in secrecy,” argued attorney J.P. Jassy, representing the Times, Bloomberg News, Associated Press and the San Diego Union Tribune. “Public confidence demands openness.”

. . .

Separately, Toyota agreed this week to pay $32.4 million in fines to the U.S. Transportation Department for delaying notifications and recalls related to sudden acceleration and a separate steering issue. Earlier this year, Toyota paid a $16.4 million fine for delaying a recall involving sticking accelerator pedals.

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-settlement-20101224,0,5017649.story; see also http://www.pulitzer.org/citation/2010-National-Reporting

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31 12 2010
Frankie Pintado

As far as the whole floor mat argument, it’s ludicrous. Any car that becomes a killing machine with the wrong floor mat has bigger problems than that. This is Toyota’s fault 100%.

Imagine you’re a Lexus mechanic. You get a recall bulletin saying that there is a runaway vehicle issue and people are dying. There are hundreds of thousands, probably millions of dollars worth of service related equipment, parts and information, and master technicians at the disposal of the dealership. You read on, alarmed, imagining what is in store for your department only to find out that the solution, the ENTIRE solution, is to REMOVE THE FLOOR MAT. I’m laughing just thinking about it. How seriously do you think a master tech is taking this?

It goes from lethal weapon to totally safe just like that. Toyota, how stupid do you think your customers (or your employees) are?

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31 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Frankie, for your thoughtful comments as always.

Well said. Of course you are correct.

Since the Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) incidents involving Toyota vehicles became known publicly, the company has engaged in a massive disinformation campaign, trying to convince American consumers that its vehicles are safe, when they are not. Ads on TV, the Web and elsewhere have projected a false image of Toyota being a responsible, safety-conscious company, when it is not. What Toyota has been doing is a travesty. The money should be spent fixing Toyota vehicles, not lying to us about them anymore!

See, e.g., http://www.toyota.com/safety/

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4 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Plaintiffs’ Latest Approach In Suing Toyota

In an article entitled, “Toyota sudden-acceleration lawsuits focus on lack of brake override,” the Los Angeles Times’ 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalists—for reporting on national affairs, in print or online or both—Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian, have written:

In a tactical shift, lawyers suing Toyota Motor Corp. over sudden acceleration are building their cases around the automaker’s resistance to installing a brake system that they claim would have prevented deaths and injuries.

The emerging legal strategy is centered on Toyota’s slow adoption of so-called brake override systems, which attorneys say is the automaker’s single biggest vulnerability as it defends itself against more than 100 lawsuits in state and federal courts.

Toyota discussed adopting brake overrides with federal safety regulators as early as 2007, documents show. But the automaker did not begin installing them until last year, after issuing massive recalls linked to the sudden-acceleration problem.

“We’re in a good position, from a litigation point of view, that there was a reasonable safety alternative and Toyota elected not to include it,” said Donald Slavik, a Milwaukee attorney who is handling four suits against the automaker and is on the steering committee for personal-injury cases in federal court and California state court.

Slavik and other plaintiffs’ attorneys previously focused on potential flaws in electronic throttle control systems. Slavik said that although lawyers still think the vehicles have electronic defects that can cause sudden acceleration, “our whole case doesn’t rest on it.

. . .

That position got a boost last month from U.S. District Judge James Selna, who is handling most of the federal cases against Toyota. In denying efforts by Toyota to dismiss most of the allegations against it, Selna noted “the absence of a brake override system.”

. . .

A comprehensive report by NASA on the causes of sudden acceleration is expected early this year.

In addition to personal-injury and wrongful-death suits, Toyota faces claims from car owners alleging that the value of their vehicles has been diminished by defects. In the last 15 months, the automaker has issued more than 11 million recall notices worldwide, the bulk of which were related to sudden acceleration.

. . .

Still, many lawyers and safety experts involved in the Toyota cases say they’re not willing to give up on tracking down an electronic defect. In the legal discovery process, attorneys are seeking access to the source code used by Toyota to program the onboard computer that contains vehicles’ black box data recorders, as well as access to the diagnostic tool used to read such devices.

They hope that access to the code could help them challenge contentions from Toyota that human error was involved and reveal any software errors or hardware defects that could cause sudden acceleration.

See http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-legal-20110104,0,867993.story

The bottom line remains the same: Toyota and Lexus vehicles are unsafe; and the company continues with its massive disinformation campaign—on TV, the Web and elsewhere—which tries to convince American consumers that its vehicles are safe, when they are not.

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20 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) Numbers Keep Increasing

Sean Kane’s Safety Research & Strategies, has updated its review of Toyota unintended acceleration complaint data (i.e., “Total Incidents,” “Crashes,” “Injuries,” “Deaths”), and the results are worth noting:

See http://www.safetyresearch.net/2011/01/19/toyota-sudden-unintended-acceleration-we%E2%80%99ve-got-the-numbers/; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/#comment-733

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20 01 2011
Frankie Pintado

I saw a Nissan commercial recently that said something like:

“The NHTSA is considering requiring brake overrides on all vehicles with electronic throttles. We think this is a good idea, which is why we’ve been doing it for six years.”

Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz have been doing it even longer than that.

Clearly a shot at Toyota. It still amazes me how few people are aware of the scope of this scandal.

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20 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Frankie, for your comments.

Yes, I saw the same commercial, and I agree with you—in all respects.

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24 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Toyotas—Erratic By Design And The Case Of The Duplicated Condition

The latest from Sean Kane and his Safety Research & Strategies, Inc.

See http://www.safetyresearch.net/2011/01/24/toyotas-erratic-by-design-and-the-case-of-the-duplicated-condition/

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8 02 2011
John

I wonder why this blog has no mention of today’s report from NHTSA and NASA indicating there is no electronic reason why a Toyota and Lexus vehicle would accelerate out of control.

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8 02 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

DOT Toyota Probe Report Released

Thank you, John, for your comment.

First, do you or any family member work for Toyota or any Toyota-related entity, directly or indirectly, or do you or any family member receive any monies whatsoever from Toyota or such entity, directly or indirectly?

Second, you posted your comment quickly, which means that presumably you have been interested in and/or monitoring this blog.

Third, as you know, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) report has just been issued, and it must be analyzed carefully and dissected. Having worked in and with government for essentially all of my professional career, I do not take any government report at face value nor accept its conclusions without any analysis or input from “impartial” experts. Additional comments will be provided at this blog when they are warranted.

Fourth, there have been enormous political pressures brought to bear against the DOT and its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to conclude that electronics were not an issue, inter alia, because a contrary result might send the “fear of God” through drivers and passengers of Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

If anyone dismisses the notion that politics rules Washington, and that Toyota’s highly-paid lawyers and lobbyists have been working these issues hard since Day One, they are totally naïve. Lawyers and lobbyists—and they are often one and the same—run Washington. This is a fact of life, which is indisputable.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/washington-is-sick-and-the-american-people-know-it/

Fifth, here is a copy of the DOT’s press release, as well as links to the report and other documents: http://www.dot.gov/affairs/2011/dot1611.html

Sixth, the Wall Street Journal has commented on DOT’s report, in an article that is worth reading. As this article states correctly:

[A]uto makers have feared that a government report finding fault with electronics could open them up to product-liability lawsuits and more government regulation.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/U.S.ToyotaProbeRulesOutElectronicsDefect.pdf

There is no question whatsoever that Toyota began “spinning” its safety record, and its contributions to safety issues overall, soon after the “Sudden Unintended Acceleration” (SUA) issues broke; and that the company has been doing so ever since, involving its dealers and their employees in the company’s P.R. campaign as well.

The Journal’s article cites Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of Public Citizen and former head of the NHTSA, as stating:

I think it’s a failure of evaluation because there are so many cases where there was no problem with the floormat and it was clear the vehicle had runaway on its own. . . . It has to be some vehicle related malfunction. The failure to find that is a failure of analysis.

Lastly, preliminary comments about the DOT’s report have been issued by Sean Kane—who testified about these issues before Congress, and is mentioned in comments above these—and his Safety Research & Strategies, Inc.:

We don’t think the story’s over—not by a long shot. First, we might argue that engaging engineers whose expertise is not automotive engine controls does not constitute “the best and brightest” minds in this particular instance. Second, no scientist worth his or her boots would make such a claim. In fact, NASA didn’t. That agency said:

“Due to system complexity which will be described and the many possible electronic software and hardware systems interactions it is not realistic to prove that the ETCSi cannot cause UAs. Today’s vehicles are sufficiently complex that no reasonable amount of analysis or testing can prove electronics and software have no errors. Therefore, absence of proof that the ETCSi caused a UA does not vindicate the system.”

We will be providing more analysis of the NHTSA-NASA report after we’ve had a chance to digest its findings. Stay tuned.

See http://www.safetyresearch.net/2011/02/08/nhtsa-shuts-the-door-on-toyota-electronics-in-high-speed-sua-–-nasa-not-so-much/

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9 02 2011
Frankie Pintado

I haven’t read it yet. I work/ go to school. But I’d like to make a couple points here.

First, whether it was mechanical, a floor mat, or electrical, there was (has now been remedied) nothing in the system to recognize this phenomena and override the engine. It was assumed by Toyota that their system would not fail, even though failure could have catastrophic and deadly results. Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, and Nissan NEVER made an electronic throttle without a safety override and that is why they are not in this situation. Those are the companies that I’m aware of, but I would guess that BMW and the Korean companies probably included the override as well.

Second, since there was no failsafe, and sticking throttles, pedals, and linkages have always been a concern on every vehicle, the fact that there is no way to quickly turn off the engine presents a major problem.

If the study proves that it wasn’t the computer, then that’s good. It could have been a number of other things. These cars were beautifully engineered to the point where Toyota never considered a failure. That is arrogance, and that is why people have died.

I will certainly read about the findings when I have a minute and likely have some response. In the meantime, realize that this does not mean Toyota didn’t do anything wrong. The PCM in the car has been found innocent though :)

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9 02 2011
Frankie Pintado

Just to clarify, the PCM is the Powertrain Control Module, or the computer that controls the engine. I understand that NASA was examining this part of the car because the NHTSA simply didn’t have the resources to examine such a complex piece of electronics. And also, I am not completely sure that it is innocent. That’s just the impression I’m getting. I’ll read the report and then I’ll have a more informed opinion.

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22 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Toyota Fights To Limit Access To Software In Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) Lawsuits

The Wall Street Journal has reported:

A legal battle involving security measures typically reserved for classified government secrets has been brewing in an unlikely spot: the sprawling consumer litigation over Toyota Motor Corp.’s sudden acceleration incidents.

The fight centers on access to Toyota’s source code, the software that controls sophisticated engine management and other electronics in its vehicles. Plaintiffs’ attorneys believe the code might contain evidence that could bolster their cases.

The Japanese auto maker has been fighting to restrict access to the software, saying it needs to protect what it calls the “crown jewel” of its global enterprise.

. . .

The attorneys who have filed hundreds of suits against Toyota want their own engineers to view the auto maker’s vehicle source code—hundreds of lines of software—because they think it might reveal electronic flaws that caused some Toyota vehicles to hurtle out of control. The incidents led the company to recall millions of vehicles across the globe beginning in 2009.

Plaintiffs could see a bigger payday in court if attorneys can prove there was a mystery defect that Toyota has yet to identify and correct, according to legal experts and lawyers tied to the case.

The source code demands are part of the pretrial maneuvering to federal suits seeking payments for injuries and deaths caused in sudden acceleration-related accidents as well as economic losses endured by Toyota vehicle owners as fear spread in the wake of the incidents.

Toyota has blamed some of the acceleration incidents on faulty floor mats and sticking pedals.

A government study recently said electronics were not to blame and instead pointed to driver error as the likely culprit in most incidents.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys said the government study didn’t analyze enough of the source code and is biased because it was produced in cooperation with Toyota.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/ToyotaLawyersBattleOverSoftware.pdf

Once again, Americans should be repulsed and angry about Toyota’s alleged wrongdoing and massive disinformation campaign. Because Toyota and Lexus products can turn into runaway vehicles at a moment’s notice, without warning, hopefully neither you nor a family member or friend encounters such a vehicle—as a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or in another vehicle that is struck.

You and other drivers—and yes, passengers and pedestrians too—might be well advised not to jump to the conclusion that Toyota and Lexus vehicles are safe. The life you save might be your own, or that of a loved one or friend.

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25 03 2011
Frankie Pintado

That’s such a load. Their code isn’t making their cars perform any better than any other company’s cars. It’s not as if Mercedes Benz is out to steal programs from Lexus. And it’s not as if any mechanic with a nice scan tool and a graphing multimeter can’t see all the input from each sensor, and see the output to the various systems in the car like ABS, traction control, throttle control etc. If someone wanted to make a car that drove just like a Toyota, they could do so without ever reading the source code.

They’ve got something to hide.

I’m amazed that NASA claims to have come to a conclusion about the electronics without viewing the source code. That’s like a computer repairman telling someone they’re computer is fixed without ever turning it on. That’s just ridiculous.

I am now more convinced than ever that nobody really knows if the electronics are to blame.

I’d also like to point out that if driver error is the problem, why aren’t other manufacturers having this problem? Are Toyota drivers just statistically much worse drivers than the rest? Doubtful.

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25 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Frankie, for your comments.

All of them are excellent, and I agree completely.

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25 03 2011
Frankie Pintado

In 2008, 41% of unintended acceleration complaints were related to Toyota vehicles.

http://articles.cnn.com/2010-02-05/us/sudden.acceleration.fact.check_1_sudden-unintended-acceleration-toyota-motor-corp-nhtsa?_s=PM:US

That’s not adding up, considering that they only held 18.4% of the market share for that year.

http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/flowchart/2008/06/09/how-toyota-could-become-the-us-sales-champ

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23 05 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The NHTSA-NASA Toyota Unintended Acceleration Reports Show Exactly How Malfunctions In Toyota’s Electronics Can Cause Unintended Acceleration

Sean Kane’s Safety Research & Strategies, an auto safety consulting firm, has published a new report—entitled, “NHTSA-NASA Reports Show That Toyota Electronics are Deficient—Can Lead to Unintended Acceleration: Toyota’s Involvement Exposed in New Documents”—which is worth reading. It states in pertinent part:

The two reports, [Department of Transportation Secretary Ray] LaHood said, exonerated Toyota’s electronics as the alleged cause of unintended acceleration complaints: “The verdict is in,” LaHood said. “There is no electronic-based cause for unintended, high-speed acceleration in Toyotas.”

. . .

The NESC and NHTSA teams did not engage independent engineers with expertise in vehicle engine management design, validation and testing to assist them in evaluating Toyota’s system. Rather, they allowed Toyota to guide this research. In addition, NHTSA relied on Exponent, a science-defense firm specifically retained by Toyota’s counsel for the purpose of defending the company against a class-action lawsuit, to perform an analysis of warranty claims without identifying Exponent as the source of this information.

. . .

“These studies were far from independent. They are the products of Toyota’s involvement and that of the company’s litigation defense experts who provided the statistical analysis that the agencies used to dismiss the physical evidence that showed flaws in Toyota’s electronics,” says SRS President Sean Kane. “Contrary to Secretary Ray LaHood’s pronouncements, the investigations actually showed numerous ways that Toyotas can experience unintended acceleration without alerting the fault detection system. They were simply dismissed as unlikely.”

See http://www.safetyresearch.net/2011/05/23/nhtsa-nasa-reports-show-that-toyota-electronics-are-deficient/; see also http://www.safetyresearch.net/2011/06/03/hindsight%E2%80%99s-still-20-20-the-toyota-quality-report/

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25 07 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Judge Finds Ford Fraudulently Concealed Electronic Causes of Unintended Acceleration

The following is a summary of where things stand in the case today:

In his withering decision, Senior Judge William T. Swigert of the Fifth Judicial Circuit in Sumter County, Florida ordered a new trial in which the jury would only consider compensatory and punitive damages in Stimpson v. Ford.

See http://www.safetyresearch.net/2011/07/25/judge-finds-ford-fraudulently-concealed-electronic-causes-of-unintended-acceleration/

Will something similar happen to Toyota, with respect to the mountain of Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) litigation that is pending against it?

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25 07 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Toyota’s Safety Issues Persist

Toyota logo

Before the American public is lulled into believing that Toyota and Lexus vehicles are safe, one needs to read the following article, which argues otherwise.

See http://www.safetyresearch.net/2012/07/25/toyota-the-other-numbers/

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29 10 2012
Helen

My problem is not an acceleration one, but a restraint issue. I was involved in a t-bone accident last month, completely destroying the front end of my 2007 Lexus GX470. A teenager ran a stop sign and was suddenly directly in front of me. I slammed on my brakes but was unable to stop, smashing into her car. The insurance company totaled my car. My airbag DID NOT DEPLOY. I called Lexus and was told they would have it inspected. The inspector came out when it was at the auction yard and read the data recorder. I just received a letter today from Nekii Montgomery of Toyota telling me that the car responded exactly as it should, and that “Due to the angulations of the impact and the crushing of the softer more yielding portions of the vehicle, there was insufficient abrupt forward deceleration of the vehicle to deploy the airbag.” I would be happy to post pictures of the car if I could figure out how.

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29 10 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Helen, for your comments. I am very sorry to learn about your accident, and hope that no injuries occurred.

First, the car should be viewed and evaluated by an independent investigator, who represents you, before it is auctioned off or repaired.

Second, based on what is described above—in my article and the comments beneath it—I would never trust Toyota again, with respect to any vehicle that it produces, nor do I believe anyone should buy one.

Third, two of your photos appear below. Thank you, and lots of good luck!

Helen's accident photo(2)

Helen's accident photo

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30 10 2012
John

Wow! No one has an accident in a Toyota, Lexus or Scion vehicle that is their fault since this whole sudden acceleration scam got coverage in the media. I can’t believe there are still people grasping at straws and trying to get money out of Toyota. Yes, some tragic accidents took place and lives were lost, but that happens each day in vehicles made by every manufacturer in the world, not just Toyota. The circumstances for each Toyota incident has been investigated and not one person has produced any evidence or duplicated any credible situation to support a sudden acceleration claim. I’ve been paying close attention and even ABC news and that Sean Kane guy together couldn’t prove their claim legitimately. I laughed out loud when their report was dissected and torn apart by the unbiased media and Toyota. Most of the country has moved on. The remaining people need to move on too. Toyota, Lexus & Scion had the three top spots in a Consumer Reports reliability survey released this week. Despite the media coverage of the acceleration claims, their sales domestically and worldwide continue to grow. Leave them alone.

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30 10 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, John, for your comments.

First, do you work for Toyota or benefit directly or indirectly from it?

Second, you wrote:

I laughed out loud when their report was dissected and torn apart by the unbiased media and Toyota.

Since when is either the media or Toyota “unbiased”?

Third, Toyota hired an extensive team of high-paid lobbyists and went into complete disinformation and “damage control,” which was successful.

Fourth, the litigation against Toyota continues.

Fifth, as stated in my last comments:

[B]ased on what is described above—in my article and the comments beneath it—I would never trust Toyota again, with respect to any vehicle that it produces, nor do I believe anyone should buy one.

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27 12 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Toyota Settles For More Than $1 Billion, Which Is An Admission Of Guilt

Toyota with horns

No large corporation settles for big bucks unless it is guilty. This is the way that the American legal system works. If the settlement had been for a “pittance,” then Toyota might have been able to assert that it was blameless.

While the automaker maintains that the settlement includes no admission of fault or unlawful conduct by Toyota, and allows the company to avoid the risks associated with battling a lengthy trial, this is pure folderol and boilerplate language in any settlement agreement. The fact is that Toyota has “caved,” and more than $1 billion is far from “chicken feed.”

No auto buyers should ever trust Toyota again!

As the Wall Street Journal reported:

Toyota’s costs related to the recalls and probes are likely to exceed $3.1 billion. Toyota estimated in 2010 that the costs of recalls and lost sales world-wide would be around $2 billion, a figure that didn’t include the latest settlement, its legal fees, fines from the U.S. government and additional floor-mat recalls that came afterward. Toyota declined to disclose a total cost

. . .

Toyota continues to face two separate lawsuits related to the 2009-10 recalls, a consumer-protection and fraud suit in Orange County, Calif., and an unfair-business-practice case brought by the attorneys general of 28 states, a person familiar with the matter said.

The class-action lawsuit alleges that a flaw in Toyota’s electronic throttle-control system—and not ill-fitting floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals—were causing Toyota drivers to accelerate out of control and crash.

. . .

For months, lawyers and some safety advocates argued that Toyota’s unintended acceleration problems were caused by defects with its electronic throttle control system.

Initially supporting their claims were data collected by government agencies that showed unintended acceleration events occurred more frequently in Toyotas than any other brand. . . .

. . .

[A lawyer representing the plaintiffs said:] “We have not resolved the issue of is there a bug” in the system. . . .

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324669104578203440990704994.html

Also, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Toyota Motor Co. has announced an agreement worth more than $1 billion to settle a lawsuit involving unintended acceleration in some of its vehicles.

Under terms of the settlement, filed Wednesday in federal court in Santa Ana, Toyota will install a brake-override system in an estimated 3.25 million vehicles and compensate car owners for the alleged reduced value of the vehicles, among other terms.

According to attorneys for the plaintiffs, the estimated value of the settlement makes it the largest of its kind, although there have been larger non-auto industry class settlements in recent years. They said the settlement provides that 16 million current Toyota owners will be eligible for a customer care plan that provide a warranty for certain parts alleged to be tied to unintended acceleration claims.

After a fiery crash of a Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, took four lives near San Diego in August 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that floor mats could entrap pedals in Toyota vehicles, leading the Japanese automaker to issue its largest recall ever. That, in turn, led to a series of subsequent investigations and recalls stretching over several years.

. . .

The total value of the settlement is estimated to be between $1.2 and $1.4 billion, according to . . . the lawyer in charge of directing the class litigation and leading settlement discussions.

. . .

Details of the settlement, along with a copy of the settlement proposal, are available online or by calling (877) 283-0507. More information will be available once the court gives preliminary approval to the settlement.

See http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-toyota-to-pay-at-least-12-billion-to-settle-suddenacceleration-lawsuit-20121226,0,7432292.story (“Toyota settlement in sudden-acceleration case will top $1 billion”); see also http://www.toyotaelsettlement.com/ (“Toyota Economic Loss Settlement Website”) and http://www.toyotaelsettlement.com/pdf/SETTLEMENT%20AGREEMENT%20%20EXHIBITS.pdf (“settlement proposal”)

. . .

To those at Toyota (and its defenders) who would argue that the automaker made “a business decision based on economics,” this simply means that the lawyers on both sides have extracted as much in the way of legal fees as they are likely to get before they “roll the dice” and risk everything on the vagaries of a trial.

Indeed, in a related Wall Street Journal article, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs stated that Toyota has agreed to pay estimated legal fees of $200 million as part of the settlement, or about 18 percent of the total settlement.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324669104578203790486658144.html

Toyota has fought to limit access to its software in the “Sudden Unintended Acceleration” (SUA) lawsuits, including but not limited to access to the automaker’s source code, the software that controls sophisticated engine management and other electronics in its vehicles. Based on having followed the Toyota “cover-up” since before I wrote the article above, it is likely that the software (or an electronic glitch) is the culprit and not driver error, ill-fitting floor mats, or accelerator pedals that could stick.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/toyota-and-lexus-vehicles-are-unsafe/#comment-1524

As I have stated repeatedly, no American auto buyers—or auto buyers elsewhere in the world—should ever trust Toyota again. From “day one,” the automaker went into damage control, instead of trying to ferret out the real reasons for the SUA problems. It hired lawyers galore, high-paid lobbyists, and so-called “experts.”

Also, a study by the National Academy of Sciences found that federal regulators lacked the expertise to monitor electronic controls in automobiles.

See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/business/toyota-settles-lawsuit-over-accelerator-recalls-impact.html

The government’s oversight of Toyota, and the SUA issues, has been tainted and/or incompetent since day one. If one has spent any serious time in Washington, one realizes that government agencies are “bought and sold” every day of the week. It is called “lobbying,” which comes in all forms—on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

Also, as one lawyer has stated about this class action lawsuit: “The class is very large, so each plaintiff will not receive very much.”

One’s heart goes out to those Toyota victims and their family members who have suffered greatly. They can never be compensated for their losses. The cruel hard fact is that Toyota’s cover-up continues to this day, which is a travesty of unfathomable proportions.

See, e.g., http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2012/12/28/toyota-settlement-hollow-victory-for-victims-families/b5wLYObpz7mnlCPC15Bu9K/story.html (“New England victims’ families fault Toyota settlement”)

. . .

The settlement—which is tantamount to an admission of guilt by Toyota—is a total vindication of my article above, as well as my comments beneath it; and the brilliant Pulitzer prize-nominated reporting team of Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian at the Los Angeles Times.

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27 12 2012
G.W. Kimball

As long as the US continues to support massive transfers of money to and by lawyers based on utter nonsense, we are going to continue losing our way both ethically and economically. Multiple billions were wasted here on utter crap – while the lawyers preen in moral splendor (please) and the builders get laid off. It is utterly sickening.

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27 12 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you for your comments.

I have been as critical of the legal profession as any other lawyer, so I understand your feelings.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/the-american-legal-system-is-broken-can-it-be-fixed/ (“The American Legal System Is Broken: Can It Be Fixed?”)

As indicated above, I do not believe the root causes of the SUA problems have been addressed yet, albeit you are correct that “the lawyers preen in moral splendor.” This happens far too often in class action lawsuits.

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27 12 2012
William Duffy

Hi Tim,

I’ve been waiting for the settlement and it ends exactly as I thought.

Toyota is obviously guilty and they know it. No way would they agree to pay the cost of the settlement if they could prove they were innocent.

I think that they knew the root cause of the problem years ago but covered it up because of the cost of replacing millions of engine controllers was more than the cost of paying off the law suits.

I will never buy a Toyota. I do not trust them.

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27 12 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you for your comments, William.

I agree with everything that you have written.

It needs to be emphasized:

No consumers, in America and globally, should buy a Toyota or Lexus product ever again—or trust the company, its management and dealers.

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14 03 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

The Toyota Scandal Continues: Toyota Was Not Telling The Truth

In a fine article by its Executive Editor, David Hechler, the Corporate Counsel Web site has reported:

On the day he died, Mark Saylor was doing what he did for a living: driving on a California highway. Only he wasn’t driving his state-issued highway patrol car that day in late August 2009. Nor was he driving his own Lexus 250, which was at the dealer for servicing. He was driving a loaner with his wife, daughter, and brother-in-law on a leisurely family outing northeast of San Diego—until suddenly the car inexplicably took off. And no amount of braking could slow it down. As Saylor frantically tried to gain control, his brother-in-law called 911. “Our accelerator is stuck!” he told the dispatcher. “We’re going 120!”

It wasn’t just the speed that made this so dangerous. He read the sign they were passing: “End freeway one-half mile.” The car was barreling toward a T-shaped intersection. When it got there, it hit another car, flew through a fence, rolled into a field, and burst into flames. The last word before the screams was, “Pray!”

This wasn’t the first time that someone driving a Toyota had experienced sudden unintended acceleration. And it’s not a problem that’s unique to Toyota. But this was the event that Toyota cites as the beginning of its ongoing crisis.

How has it responded? The company has moved aggressively to contain the damage. Shifting floor mats were identified as a primary cause of many of these episodes. The company found that the loaner that the 45-year-old Mark Saylor was driving was equipped with mats that had never been intended for that car. Later, the company fingered accelerator pedals manufactured by a third party as prone to sticking. And Toyota says that many accidents are caused by drivers who inadvertently step on the gas instead of the brake.

As the crisis mounted, the company seemed overmatched. Critics charged that Toyota had sacrificed quality—its traditional strong suit—in a rush to rack up sales. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which had been criticized for years for its willingness to pin sudden acceleration on driver error, suddenly got tough. Toyota recalled more than 8 million cars and paid fines totaling more than $50 million. Litigation, which had slowed down before the Saylor crash, roared back to life, fueled by the recalls and new complaints. And the political pressure, coupled with a Democratic Congress, led to hearings in Washington that drew global attention. Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda flew in from Japan to personally face the politicians’ angry questions.

But then everything seemed to calm down. As the company battled two large multidistrict litigation class actions (MDLs) in California, it quietly settled some of the smaller lawsuits, including the one brought by the Saylors’ survivors. The results of several investigations trickled in. Some had been commissioned by Toyota, and tended to include lots of technical data and to focus on floor mats and gas pedals. Then, in 2011, NHTSA concluded its own probe, which purported to be comprehensive, and Ray LaHood, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (the parent agency of NHTSA), pronounced himself satisfied that Toyota’s cars were safe.

Not only had the public uproar subsided, sales rebounded. Following a slump that was probably attributable as much to the economic downturn as the bad publicity, last year the company regained its status as the world leader in car sales. For Toyota, the long ordeal seemed over.

But some leading automotive experts aren’t buying it. Last December, Toyota agreed to pay $1.3 billion to settle the MDL brought by car owners who claim that they suffered economic damages as a result of these events. Critics point out that it’s a pretty big number for plaintiffs who weren’t even directly affected. Beyond that, more than 200 personal injury cases remain to be resolved in the other MDL. The first bellwether trial had been scheduled for March, but it settled in January on confidential terms. At this writing, it’s unclear how the matter will play out; some lawyers expect another large settlement.

But putting aside the politics and litigation, these automotive experts simply don’t believe that the controversy has been put to rest. They acknowledge that some accidents are caused by drivers stomping on the gas instead of the brake, and some from defective floor mats and gas pedals. But the experts don’t believe that these explain the surge in complaints. Instead, they believe precisely what Toyota has for many years steadfastly denied: that the problem is rooted in electronics.

These experts have found some surprising support from insiders at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration who were close to the investigation NASA conducted into Toyota’s acceleration problems a couple of years ago (and which LaHood cited when he discounted problems with its electronics). And now the experts say they’ve found additional corroboration in the communications of Toyota’s own people. Corporate Counsel obtained scores of internal documents written by employees who were struggling to understand why cars were suddenly accelerating, and where the company could have gone wrong. Among the writers were executives, managers, lawyers, public relations specialists, and engineers.

What this demonstrates, in the age of YouTube and Wikileaks, is how hard it is for multinationals and their in-house counsel to keep a lid on their companies’ internal data.

Many of the documents are marked “secret” and “confidential.” They were provided by Betsy Benjaminson, a translator who has worked for several agencies that translate Toyota documents from the Japanese (and who translated several of those quoted in this article). She says that these shops work for law firms hired to assist the company in litigation.

Benjaminson provided these and many more documents last year to Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, who then wrote a letter to NHTSA expressing his concern that questions about electronics have not been resolved. Corporate Counsel showed Toyota the complete documents from which quotes were excerpted for this article. . . .

Benjaminson is revealing her identity for the first time here. She decided to go public because lives are at stake, she says. “Up to now,” she adds, “the corporate PR megaphone has completely drowned out the victims.”

Four experts agreed to review the documents independently and share their impressions. Keith Armstrong, Antony Anderson, and Brian Kirk are based in the United Kingdom; Neil Hannemann lives in California. All of them have decades of experience. The documents they reviewed date from as early as 2000; the most recent were written a few months after the congressional hearings in February and March 2010. They include many emails along with spreadsheets, flow charts, and diagrams.

On one important point the experts agree: There is no smoking gun that shows that Toyota identified and concealed an electronic defect that was responsible for crashes. But numerous documents, they say, undermine the corporation’s repeated attempts to reassure the public, as exemplified by the testimony of Jim Lentz, the CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. In February 2010 Lentz told a House subcommittee: “We are confident that no problems exist in our electronic throttle systems in our vehicles.” He went on to testify, “We have done extensive testing on this system, and we have never found a malfunction that caused unintended acceleration.”

The documents seem to tell a different story. An email written by Hiroshi Hagiwara, a Toyota vice president in Washington, D.C., and sent to executives in Japan a month before the hearings hints at the turmoil beneath the surface. Hagiwara and Chris Tinto, a V.P. for technical and regulatory affairs and safety, had been talking about the U.S. investigation and an earlier one in Europe that also involved unintended acceleration (UA).

“Tinto is extremely pessimistic,” Hagiwara wrote, “and is saying (public hearings, someone will go to jail, I can’t completely take care of the pedal problem, etc.).” Tinto’s primary concerns (according to Hagiwara): “For NHTSA, we said that our investigations in Europe found that the pedal return is a little slow at a slightly open position, and that there were no accidents, but this is not true. Last year’s situation in Europe (many reports of sticking pedals and accidents, and a TI TS9-161 was filed on October 1, 2009) was not reported to NHTSA.” That failure, Tinto said, “may be a violation of the TREAD Act”—the federal law that requires car manufacturers that conduct recalls in foreign countries to report these to U.S. regulators.

Still speaking of Tinto, who worked for NHTSA in the 1990s before he was hired away by Toyota, Hagiwara continued: “He appears to question how Toyota has grasped and handled the overall UA problem (mat, accelerator pedal, ECU [electronic control unit], and electronic throttle systems, etc.).”

Hagiwara reminded the executives to be careful what they put in writing. He asked them to fax any investigative reports related to Europe. “It is OK to write various things to me in emails written in Japanese,” he advised, “but as much as possible only send materials that would not be controversial if disclosed (namely, things that have been reviewed), and it is best, I think, to discuss things orally.”

The documents make it clear that in-house lawyers and public relations personnel worked together to craft a strategy. Christopher Reynolds, the U.S. general counsel, advocated defending the electronic throttle control by seeking “validation” by a panel of experts. Using the Japanese word for building consensus to act, he wrote in December 2009 that he hoped “we can finalize a nemawashi plan this week and begin to implement it.”

One of the weaknesses in Toyota’s defense was flagged in an email sent by assistant GC Webster Burns the following April. Commenting on a demand letter from NHTSA that the company pay a $16.375 million fine for delaying its sticky pedal report, Burns wrote: “We need to keep in mind that we continue to find significant differences within Toyota about the significance of the sticky-pedal phenomenon which will be exploited by NHTSA in any litigation.”

Some documents require translation by specialists. An undated spreadsheet showed test results of an engine’s electronic throttle control system, including numerous faults that the document said cause sudden acceleration. “My guess is they were fixed in development,” says Hannemann, who has been hired by plaintiffs suing Toyota, and also by the defense in a suit against a Toyota dealer. “But this shows you have to find issues during testing. And how do you know you catch them all?”

Several documents illustrated what the experts describe as a propensity of Toyota employees to define problems as they wish them to be, regardless of the facts. One is Toyota’s analysis—performed three days after Saylor’s death—of car owners’ complaints received by NHTSA. Some drivers described their own harrowing experiences. Several were adamant that theirs had nothing to do with floor mats, yet that didn’t always matter to Toyota’s reviewer.

One woman riding in a 2006 Toyota Tacoma said that it was the third such experience she’d had with the car. “Two times previously Toyota has replaced the cruise control,” she reported. “This is not a cruise control problem. This is a gas pedal issue. I was told previously the mat was under the gas pedal. This is hardly the problem.” In the column provided for the cause, the reviewer wrote: “The mat catches (specifics unknown).” It was the most common cause listed on the chart, regardless of what the drivers had to say. Antony Anderson, an independent electrical consultant who specializes in electrical machine and control system failure investigations (and has provided independent expert testimony for plaintiffs who sued Toyota), says the document shows how Toyota’s “poor analysis” makes it appear that the incidence of stuck floor mats “is very much higher than it really is.”

Another example of preemptive answers appeared in an undated email written by an engineer. He asked if acceleration can be caused by radio wave interference. Then he recounted his earlier experience with interference: “Previously, when I was in charge of Hilux [a truck model] in the Japan domestic service division, I experienced an engine stall malfunction due to radio wave interference from a nearby U.S. naval base in Yokohama. At that time I was told that it could absolutely never occur.” Keith Armstrong, an expert in electronic circuit design as well as electromagnetic interference (EMI), says the idea that radio waves can’t cause electronic malfunctions is absurd: “I know of no expert in this field who doesn’t work for the auto industry (and some who do) who would ever make such a ridiculous claim.” Armstrong has advised electronic suppliers on EMI safety issues, and he has also twice advised NHTSA, at its request. (He has not been involved in Toyota litigation.)

Anderson and Hannemann are even more troubled by an email exchange between Michiteru Kato, a general manager based in Japan, and Tinto in D.C. In messages dated October 11, 2007, the two were discussing television coverage of sudden acceleration in the Tacoma. Tinto wondered whether the mothership was looking into the situation. Actually, Kato replied, headquarters had not received any technical field reports from dealers or regional offices “because as you know, the sudden acceleration or surge issue usually can’t be duplicated by the dealer and they can’t find any abnormality on the vehicle. In those cases the dealer does not make the field report.” Consequently, he added, “Toyota does not know what’s happening on the Tacoma vehicles and just started the investigation.”

Hannemann found it more than odd that Toyota was, as the email makes plain, getting information about its own problem cars from NHTSA, the media, and Internet forums. “You should be telling NHTSA things, not the other way around,” says Hannemann, who has worked as a product development engineer at Chrysler Corporation and as a chief engineer at the Ford Motor Company. (Toyota says that in April 2010 it established a new program to investigate all reports of unintended acceleration. It attempts to contact individuals within 24 hours to arrange a full analysis of their vehicles.)

The documents also revealed introspective moments during which executives considered where their company went wrong. One Japanese exec, identified only as Takimoto, wrote in March 2010: “All of the current problems were caused by the low level of completeness of vehicle development during the time period when I was in charge. I am really very sorry.” Another executive ruefully admitted in February 2010 that quality was hurt by the fact that “the numbers of prototype vehicles, production vehicles, and quality assurance test vehicles were dramatically reduced,” as were “test vehicles for evaluation and quality verification.”

The experts who reviewed the documents offered their own assessments. Brian Kirk, the founding director of Robinson Systems Engineering Ltd, which specializes in safety critical software and systems for the transportation industry (and is not involved in Toyota litigation), says that the engineers “seem to be genuinely trying to understand the problems and provide practical solutions within the constraints of legacy and time pressure. However, there is no apparent safety engineering process forming a rigorous basis for understanding and solving the issues.” Hannemann also finds a general lack of rigor. When technicians investigate complaints, they don’t seem to press to find the root cause. “It seems that their problem solving is focused on something that’s predetermined,” he notes. And if they’re not going to rigorously test cars prior to production, then they need to listen carefully to complaints from consumers, who are essentially doing the testing for them. But the company wasn’t doing that either, he says.

The problem of sudden acceler­ation emerged after electronic controls were introduced into cars in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Before then the issues were driver error and mechanical problems—like a throttle return spring failing. Diagnosing electronic failures, on the other hand, is much more challenging. As Keith Armstrong puts it: “Electronics in its very nature is weak, unreliable, sensitive.” And when a component fails, it doesn’t necessarily leave evidence. “Think of your PC,” he says. “Sometimes it will crash and you’ll reboot it. And if someone then asked, ‘Where is the evidence?’ you may not be able to show them.”

Sudden acceleration is still a very rare event, but unlike operating a computer, a malfunction in a car can cause serious injury or death.

Toyota isn’t alone in struggling with this problem. Ford has had its own sudden acceleration problems over the years. They were the centerpiece of the 2003 book Sudden Acceleration: The Myth of Driver Error, which was partly funded by a product liability award in an SUA case paid by the company.

For Ford and some of the other manufacturers, the big problems began with the introduction of cruise control. That was the function that was linked to early incidents, and some groundbreaking lawsuits, though causation wasn’t easy to prove. The companies preferred to blame the drivers, asserts Clarence Ditlow, the longtime director of the Center for Auto Safety and one of the authors of the book. The book estimated that only about 1 percent of SUA episodes actually result from “pedal misapplication,” as the companies call it.

Ditlow reserves some of his harshest criticism for NHTSA. “NHTSA has been controversial from the beginning,” he observed in the book. “It was criticized by the auto industry for being too aggressive in its regulation, and by consumer advocates for being too weak and responsive to the industry.”

On one level Ditlow can commiserate with the agency, which is notoriously underfunded, he notes. But he can’t excuse its handling of SUA complaints. It has adopted the same attitude, Ditlow says, as the car manufacturers: If you can’t find a failure, it must be driver error. “I think that’s wrong,” he says in an interview. He also sees the same posture in NHTSA’s 1989 report on sudden acceleration that has been cited many times by the defense in product liability lawsuits.

The main battleground has been the courts, where plaintiffs have made slow progress convincing juries and judges that electronic malfunctions are real. But translating the evidence into a winning formula hasn’t been easy. Proving a circumstantial case rarely is. “We have the burden of proof, and we should,” says Molly O’Neill, who works with the dean of SUA trial lawyers, Thomas Murray of Sandusky, Ohio. “But you cannot open up the car and show what went wrong. That’s the nature of electronics.”

Before one of Murray and O’Neill’s biggest wins, a trial judge ruled that their expert couldn’t mention EMI, which was an important part of their explanation of how the accident happened. In the Daubert hearing, the judge said she was concerned that the expert’s findings couldn’t be replicated in tests. They later won Jarvis v. Ford on appeal in 2002, in a decision written by Sonia Sotomayor before she was elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Murray says it was one of the first successful challenges to the electronics in a car’s cruise or throttle control. Yet, for EMI, it was another argument lost in translation.

Asked to respond to criticism of its company, Ford offered a full-throated defense of its regulator: “NHTSA has investigated alleged unintended accelerations many times over many years and has concluded that driver error is the predominant cause of these events. NHTSA’s work is far more scientific and trustworthy than work done by personal injury lawyers and their paid experts.” The emailed statement concluded: “Ford has reviewed its own data and determined that its vehicles are not affected by the problems experienced by Toyota owners.”

In an emailed statement, NHTSA also defended its enforcement, citing Toyota’s recalls and fines. And in this case, it said, “we went above and beyond our regular review process” and chose NASA to investigate. The results “made clear there was no evidence of any electronic cause of sudden, high-speed unintended acceleration in the Toyota vehicle models that were the subject of the study.”

By 2009 the SUA front was quiet. Three years earlier, a Missouri appeals court had overturned an $80 million SUA verdict won by attorney Mark Evans against General Motors Company—the largest by far. Some of Murray and O’Neill’s best cases had settled, and NHTSA had closed its SUA investigations. Then came the Saylor crash—and suddenly everything changed.

It was the 911 tape that did it. Posted on YouTube, it seemed to make the danger real for a larger audience—maybe because no translation was required. And it also seemed to give people who had experienced similar sudden acceleration permission to talk about it—and the social media means to do so. “Without that crash that was caught on a 911 tape,” says Ditlow, “no one would have paid any attention to [sudden acceleration]. And there would have been no controversy.”

As the tempest grew, the pressure mounted on Congress, NHTSA, and Toyota. The company shifted into crisis mode, and the Japanese executives slowly began to listen to the American managers who understood the U.S. legal landscape. Reynolds, the U.S. general counsel, began calling the shots along with the public relations people. But it wasn’t always easy for them to convince the bigwigs in the motherland. When Congress began planning hearings, for example, the initial word from Japan was that Toyota’s president would sit them out. It took some time to bring him around.

The biggest challenge during the hearings came from a surprising source. David Gilbert was an automotive technology professor at the University of Southern Illinois in Carbondale, which, it so happens, receives resources and funding from Toyota. But he came to the hearing to talk about an experiment he’d cooked up that challenged claims Toyota made about its electronics. Toyota insisted that any electrical fault in its cars would trip an error code, which would immediately reduce power and send the car into “limp home mode.” Gilbert decided to test this assertion by rewiring Toyota’s throttle in a way that would mimic a short circuit and send the rpms surging. Then he’d check for an error code.

At the hearing he revealed what he’d found (previewed the night before on ABC News). The cars he tested hadn’t produced the code, suggesting a vulnerability in the system. The politicians seemed deeply impressed, and Toyota was caught off guard.

Toyota arranged a multipronged “rebuttal.” It had hired Exponent, a scientific and engineering consultancy, to work on technical issues in connection with the inquiry. It was now tapped to respond to Gilbert. Toyota also asked Chris Gerdes, who directs the center for automotive research at Stanford University, to review Gilbert’s experiment. In March the company uploaded a video.

The centerpiece was a replication of Gilbert’s experiment using cars manufactured by a half-dozen of Toyota’s competitors. And they all performed exactly as Toyota’s: The engines raced, and no error codes were detected. Mike Michels, a vice president of communications, asked the experts the significance of what they’d seen. Gerdes and two Exponent consultants suggested that the demonstration bore no relation to what happens in the real world. In essence it meant nothing, they argued.

Behind the scenes, Toyota played hardball with critics. A public relations manager named Masami Doi had spelled out the approach in a December email. “There are at most around 10 people who are the sources of negative tone communications. If they can be suppressed, I think we will be able to manage it somehow. Like you said, let’s go with an intention of destroying each individual person’s ability to oppose us, one by one. (To do or not to do is a separate question.)”

The individual who undoubtedly felt the most pressure was Gilbert. He did not respond to requests for an interview. But he did talk to The Huffington Post several months after these events, and the website reported the pressure Toyota applied in an apparent attempt to force him to recant. Toyota’s outside lawyers met with Gilbert and university officials “to discuss Gilbert’s use of donated Toyota vehicles.” Gilbert was also pressured to fly to California to watch demonstrations prepared by Exponent. He returned unswayed. An alum who works for Toyota wrote an email to a university official suggesting that Gilbert be fired. But he survived—and claims that he has no regrets. It was the right thing to do, he says, “because that could be someone’s life that I could be saving.”

In a statement, Toyota denied that it cut its support of the university. The employee who suggested that the school fire Gilbert sent a personal email “and in no way represents Toyota’s position on the matter.”

All the attention put NHTSA in the hot seat. When Ditlow testified before a Senate committee after Gilbert had addressed one in the House, he called for a “fully public” investigation of Toyota’s electronic controls with “independent scientists and engineers with no ties to the auto industry.”

Joan Claybrook had also been pressing NHTSA to seek outside help. Claybrook, who was NHTSA’s leader during the Carter administration, often works closely with Ditlow, and they both met with LaHood and NHTSA’s current administrator, David Strickland, as the investigation was gearing up. “We urged that they go outside of the agency” in choosing investigators, she says, “because the agency didn’t have a lot of expertise in this area.”

Claybrook, a frequent NHTSA critic, was pleased when the agency chose NASA to investigate. “They were totally independent, and they have a lot of skill,” she says. “Unfortunately, they don’t have a lot of experience with automobiles.”

The worst thing that came out of the whole investigation, Claybrook and many others say, was the widely repeated sound bite from Transportation’s LaHood: “The jury is back. The verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas. Period.” That was not what NASA’s investigation concluded, Claybrook says. It was another one of those bad translations.

Some NASA insiders who were close to the investigation were equally dismayed by LaHood’s pronouncement. One NASA scientist who requests anonymity because he isn’t authorized to speak to the press puts it this way: ” ‘We didn’t find anything’ and ‘there isn’t anything to find’ are not the same.” In the relatively short time they had to investigate, he says, the NASA team didn’t see anything conclusive—that’s what the results said. The scientist continues: “I’m not clear on why the devil we got the job in the first place.”

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the task, from what this man could tell, was working with people from the Transportation Department (including at least one from NHTSA). His colleagues complained to him: “Every time we find something, we’re told it’s not what we’re looking for.” It had to be unintended acceleration, not erratic acceleration. And it had to involve brake failure. If they ran across data that involved UA but no brake failure, they were told to ignore it. This struck him as a strange kind of “independent” investigation.

What else would you not know from NASA’s report? They were expected to explain why certain cars had failed, but they were given no access to those that actually had, he says. The failure analysis team was given little more than a month to work on one accelerator pedal from one car that “misbehaved”—the only such part they ever saw—and it wasn’t even from a runaway. Some of the scientists on this team wouldn’t sign NASA’s final report. And other individuals balked, too, he adds. (A NASA spokesman referred requests for comment to the Transportation Department, which did not respond to detailed questions about the investigation—nor did NHTSA or LaHood.)

Like the NASA scientist, translator Betsy Benjaminson came to her work without preconceptions. Born in Cleveland and now living in Sderot, Israel, Benjaminson is a freelancer who works for translating agencies based in the United States. She’s translated all kinds of documents, including many for companies with legal cases. But the SUA litigation was different, she says.

The biggest difference: The story isn’t over. “I felt that I am not just translating past events, but that I actually saw that these things continue to happen,” she says. “And lives of real people were potentially still at risk.”

The feelings that led her to share the documents had nothing to do with a grudge against Toyota. As someone who had lived in Japan for four years and had long admired Japanese culture, she was favorably inclined toward the company. She also had fond memories of her first car, a “cute red Toyota Corolla.” And during her earlier work for Toyota, she had enjoyed a bond with the U.S. project management team. “We were a tight-knit team that related to one another as friends,” she says. But eventually she had to set that aside.

The change came slowly. She began working on Toyota litigation in 2010. Before then, she’d been “oblivious” to the events in the U.S., she says. Slowly she began to notice “odd things” in documents she saw in connection with her role as translator. Revised press releases sometimes obscured important details, she says. Emails among engineers “revealed facts that directly contradicted” Toyota’s public statements.

Then it got worse. She read reports about runaway cars, including survivors’ accounts of crashes that killed their companions. She was deeply affected. A “tipping point” came when she read a document the company had prepared based on complaints filed with NHTSA. “A summary of the injuries and deaths was attached,” she recalls, “and it was cynically titled ‘Souvenirs from NHTSA.'” For her, that was it.

After all of Toyota’s strategizing, it could not have anticipated how those words would sound to a translator—or what she would do. It was one more thing lost in translation.

See http://www.law.com/corporatecounsel/PubArticleCC.jsp?id=1202591531416&Is_Toyota_Telling_the_Truth_About_Sudden_Acceleration&slreturn=20130214152355 (emphasis in original); see also http://www.safetyresearch.net/2013/03/14/betsy-spills-toyotas-beans/

As my article above and the comments beneath it show in no uncertain terms, Toyota has engaged in probably the biggest cover-up in global business history, and it deserves to pay a very heavy price for it, including a worldwide boycott of Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Nothing less will suffice. The lawyers on both sides of this fight have enriched themselves, but they have not ferreted out the truth or served the public good!

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1 06 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

Toyota Claimants Were Scammed, And It Is Unconscionable!

Toyota with horns

As the respected Safety Research & Strategies, Inc. has reported—which has crusaded against safety defects in Toyota and Lexus vehicles:

The $1.63 billion deal in the Toyota Unintended Acceleration economic damages multi-district litigation worked out between the lawyers for Toyota and Hagens Berman, Sobol, Shapiro, and Susman Godfrey the firms representing 22.6 million consumers is headed for a final approval hearing before U.S. District Judge James Selna on June 14, and really, who could complain?

Toyota gets to continue to claim that its electronics are just fine while funding research blaming drivers for runaway vehicles that it can stash in its back pocket for future unintended acceleration product liability lawsuits. Some Toyota owners – but not those of the most troubled model years will get a brake override system that sorta, kinda may work sometimes under select conditions (hint—don’t put your foot on the brake first).

There’s $250 million for consumers whose vehicles are ineligible for a brake override retrofit. The cash payouts for those folks range from $37.50 to $125. Let’s see. That ought to cover an oil change, a new set of windshield wiper blades, and a Vente Mocha Chip Frappacino at Starbucks to sip while you wait. Done!

There’s another $250 million in cash to cover owners’ economic losses incurred during sales or lease terminations while the crisis unfolded. Those folks have the potential to do a lot better. A 328-page matrix calculates the precise value of the loss by the owner’s home state, vehicle make, model and model year, the year and month of the sale. While the vast majority would receive nominal amounts – $37.50 is the lowest – some models and model years sold in 2010 could receive a few thousand in lost sale price potential. The largest such award would go to owners of 2007 Lexus LX vehicles who sold their cars March of 2010 – $5,977. Some of the other high-dollar-vehicles were the 2008 Lexus LX and LS, the 2008 Sequoia, the 2008 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid sold in certain months of 2010

Nonetheless, more than 200 Toyota owners and safety advocates, found a lot to object to. Their arguments ranged from complaints that the settlement remedies did not address the central problem Toyota identified – wandering floor mats – to the size of the lawyers’ fees, to the distribution of the cy pres money – any unclaimed funds after the class members have been paid. Some objections were brief and hand-written. Some were lengthy legal challenges with lots of citations.

One group of objectors protested the settlement’s potential to release the automaker from claims in a separate class action lawsuit over the Anti-lock Braking System in Prius vehicles which was headed for a certification hearing on June 17.

Many criticized the $200 million set aside for plaintiffs’ attorneys fees. Andrew Walter of Bloomington, Ill. and the owner of 2009 Toyota RAV4 was typical – he groused about the paltry award to each owner compared to the fees that would garnered by the attorneys. He wrote:

“The plaintiffs in the case (more than 16 million, according to Toyota’s records) are splitting $500 million. This amounts to just $31.25 per Toyota owner. This is a trivial amount, and it is not enough to even justify my time and costs incurred in writing this objection. Class action lawsuits such as this make a mockery of the American court system.”

He had lots of company among individual objectors who felt that their share of the settlement did not cover out-of-pocket expenses they occurred in repairs and lost sale revenue, particularly if they had experienced an Unintended Acceleration event. The most notable of these was Jeffrey Pepski, the owner of a Lexus ES350 who petitioned NHTSA in March 2009 to specifically investigate electronic causes of Toyota Unintended Acceleration. In February 2009, Pepski experienced a UA event while driving at high speed, in which the vehicle accelerated to 80 mph. Pepski tried pumping and pulling up the accelerator with his foot, but could not slow the vehicle. Pepski’s Lexus was equipped with a standard carpet mat, not the all-weather variety said to trap accelerator pedals. Toyota and NHTSA “investigated” his incident, which consisted of an uneventful drive in Pepski’s Lexus, and an unconvincing demonstration of carpet mat interference in which Pepski showed that the carpet could be easily dislodged. Toyota denied that anything was wrong with Pepski’s Lexus and succeeded in persuading NHTSA to shut down the investigation. NHTSA denied Pepski’s petition.

In his objection, Pepski argued that the settlement unfairly lumps individuals who experienced a UA event — and arguably suffered the greater loss — with all other owners. At the same time, the settlement gives preferential treatment to the individuals who acted as the class representatives in the suit. Further, he argued the settlement provided no special relief to those who experienced a UA and ignores altogether any owner who sold their vehicle before September 2009 and December 2010. “Many of these SUA events occurred long before September 2009 and undoubtedly impacted the proceeds received upon later disposition of the involved vehicle. The settlement further penalizes those same parties who morally feel an obligation to fully disclose their experience.”

Pepski traded his ES350 for a 2007 RX350 in June 2009.

Arguing against the plans for the cy pres funds — $30 million to be spread among five universities were Mark Chavez of Chavez & Gertler in Mill Valley, Calif., an attorney for two Maryland class members. The settlement requires Toyota to fund automobile safety research and education “related to issues in the litigation.” Unfortunately none of the proposed study topics actually covered the central defect issue: Unintended Acceleration. Instead, the settlement proposes funding a variety of studies – one focused on “driver attitudes, behaviors and levels of understanding concerning defensive driving techniques, and proper use of automotive technology.” Other studies would be centered on “the development of new active safety technologies and/or standards, as well as testing guidelines for emerging technologies,” and “general approaches to crash avoidance, human interface design, and lane departure warning/prevention and driver distraction.”

The complaints drivers have lodged about Unintended Acceleration with Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have nothing to do with driver distraction, lane departures or defensive driving techniques. Electronic throttle controls are not “an emerging active safety technology.” ETCS-IS-1 is an established technology that is not installed specifically as a safety feature. It is merely an alternative to a mechanical throttle cable – a means of relaying a driver’s intentions to the throttle. Not one of the topics described in the proposed settlement agreement relates to automotive design issues that may result in Unintended Acceleration caused by electronic faults. They do, coincidentally, lay the groundwork for industry financed and directed “scientific” studies that can be used in civil litigation against consumers and to cement the false notion that Unintended Acceleration events are solely caused by driver error or mechanical interference with the accelerator pedals.

Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety, who filed an affidavit in support of the Chavez objection, points out that the Research and Education Program wouldn’t benefit the class members at all, and that driver education programs have historically been “dismal flops in improving vehicle safety.” After all, if Officer Mark Saylor, a 19-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol, with “hands on driver training” couldn’t avoid a fatal UA crash, the proposed media campaigns “will not deliver better drivers on the road,” Ditlow said. He suggested that Toyota should fix its vehicle problems instead:

“If defects in electronic throttle control systems are found and corrected, then the driver does not have to be trained for the emergency unintended acceleration event because it doesn’t occur,” he wrote. “It is far better to cure unintended acceleration rather than “targeting the symptoms of unintended acceleration.”’

Few concerns were raised about the efficacy of the countermeasure Toyota offered to some claimants. The Brake Override System will only be installed on vehicles from 2005 and later, despite the millions of other vehicles in the fleet also equipped with the automaker’s Electronic Throttle Control System Intelligent (ETCS-IS-1S-i). Left in the dust are some of the highest complaint-rate vehicles, such as the 2002 – 2006 Toyota Camry and the Lexus ES. While the extended warranty on a number of component parts may assuage some owners of earlier, ineligible models, they still face UA risks, with no remediation.

Even more frightening is the inadequacy of the Toyota Brake Override System. The primary purpose of a brake override system is to give the driver a way to limit the engine output when there is a simultaneous request to the ECM for throttle and braking. Unfortunately, the Toyota version doesn’t do that. According to Toyota, its Smart Stop Technology “automatically reduces engine power when both pedals are pressed at the same time under certain conditions.” Installed in some vehicles beginning in 2011, the override only intervenes when “the accelerator is depressed first, and the brakes are applied firmly for longer than one-half second at speeds greater than five miles per hour.” Further, “the feature doesn’t engage if the brake pedal is depressed before the accelerator pedal.” Toyota says that it designed this sequence to allow “vehicles starting on a steep hill to safely accelerate without rolling backward.” A significant percentage of Toyota consumer complaints allege UA events in parking lots that initiate at speeds less than 5 mph and when the brake is applied.

But then, the automaker didn’t design it as a fail-safe – Toyota has stated that its BOS feature is not a failsafe against Unintended Acceleration. No, Toyota’s BOS was designed to address the poor return of the accelerator pedal. It doesn’t not [sic?] work in low-throttle situations – even though Toyota has acknowledged that its field experience with sticking accelerator pedals shows that this rare event occurred in very low-speed scenarios. Finally, the Toyota BOS does not work in two of the most common Unintended Acceleration scenarios and only provides a failsafe for a limited type of UA event.

Pity the poor Toyota driver riding the brake into a parking space, when the ETCS-i takes a notion to open that throttle real wide. In that very common scenario, the BOS is a POS.

See http://www.safetyresearch.net/2013/05/31/the-toyota-claimants-are-getting-restless/ (emphasis added)

The lessons learned: NEVER trust Toyota again, and NEVER buy a Toyota or Lexus vehicle!

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1 01 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Toyota and Lexus Problems Continue!

It has been reported:

It’s safe to say Toyota can’t wait until it can put to rest the unintended acceleration issue that has plagued so many of the company’s vehicles. Until then, the automaker will continue to experience the fallout from the product defects that created unsafe conditions in millions of cars and trucks. On December 24, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry became the latest government agency to mandate a Toyota recall, with the vehicle count breaking 400,000.

The recall, first reported by Reuters, “exceeds 400,000″ vehicles bearing the Lexus and Toyota badges from model years 2005 through 2011, the Ministry said in a statement. The Saudi Arabian regulators will mandate that Toyota bring in the vehicles and install a brake override system. In addition, Toyota is obliged to launch “an awareness campaign” that will instruct drivers on how it works and what to do should they encounter the issue of unintended acceleration.

According to the Ministry, Toyota and its Saudi Arabian partner have been meeting with government regulators for the past several months to discuss the steps necessary to address the vehicle defects within the country. The action taken by U.S. regulators had a direct influence on the Ministry’s decision.

“Any action car manufacturing companies take internationally will be a mandatory action in Saudi Arabia.,” the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a company statement. The installation of brake override systems in U.S. drivers’ cars thus guaranteed Toyota would face the same obligation in Saudi Arabia. Toyota spokespeople continued to claim that such fixes were unnecessary.

In a statement to Reuters, Toyota reps said the brake override system would be installed according to the mandate though the vehicles were safe without them. Among the vehicles being recalled, the Lexus ES and Camry would both span five model years while the RAV4, Land Cruiser LX, and Land Cruiser LC200 made in four model years would be recalled. Other cars on the list include the Toyota Avalon, Sequoia, and Corolla as well as the Lexus IS 300 and Lexus RX.

See http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/mandatory-toyota-recall-confronts-old-problem-overseas.html (emphasis added)

The lessons learned once again: NEVER trust Toyota, and NEVER buy a Toyota or Lexus vehicle!

The company has defrauded buyers around the world. . . .

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5 01 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Toyota, Lexus And Scion Safety Problems Will Never Go Away For The Cars’ Owners Until The Vehicles Are Junked!

Toyota with horns

This is essentially the conclusion reached in the latest article from Safety Research & Strategies, Inc., which has analyzed Toyota’s “Sudden Unintended Acceleration” (SUA) problems since they first appeared:

Toyota is looking to close out its unintended acceleration crisis, with a speedy resolution to the remaining lawsuits out there. According to news reports, the automaker has been inspired by the Bookout verdict to settle a whole passel of UA lawsuits. Last month, for example, Toyota came to terms with Opal Gay Vance, a West Virginia woman who injured her neck and back, when her 2010 Camry suddenly accelerated, striking a trailer. The confidential settlement forestalled a trial set to begin on Jan. 21. In California, orders from judges in the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana and Los Angeles Superior Court opened the door to settlements in nearly 300 death and injury plaintiffs’ cases.

. . .

The race to empty the court dockets should not be confused with a conclusion to Toyota’s UA technical problems, which continue unabated. SRS took a stroll through the Vehicle Owners Questionnaire database, looking for 2013 UA complaints and found more than 300. They cover all of the classic scenarios, like this one:

“I backed my 2006 Toyota Corolla into a friend’s driveway, and then put the car into drive to straighten it a bit. The car suddenly without warning shot across the street (perhaps at 45-50 mph), went over a 6″ high cement retaining curbing, and across a lawn into another driveway. All the while I had my foot firmly on the brake (not the gas pedal). I swerved the wheel to avoid hitting a telephone pole, and the house. I finally got the car into neutral, and at last the brakes engaged, and I was able to stop the car avoiding a pick-up truck in the driveway and a tree. During this entire time the engine was loudly revving. Other than 3 shredded tires and 2 ruined rims, the car seems to be intact. I have contacted Toyota and hope for a successful resolution. The service manager at the dealership where this vehicle was purchased, however, said that since it is not under recall there is nothing they can do. Meanwhile I will be fearful every time I get behind the wheel, which I have yet to do! 3 new tires and 2 new rims is a small price to pay—it could have been my life! Had cars been passing by on this normally busy street, or children walking on the sidewalk on their way home from school—other lives as well could have been taken. This was a terrifying event! Judging from all of the similar stories written regarding this make, model and year, Toyota needs to do a recall to solve this problem once and for all.” (ODI 10496026)

Not bloody likely.

Bookout Inspires Settlements

Toyota’s found its desire for closure in November when it settled an Unintended Acceleration case, hours after an Oklahoma jury returned a $3 million verdict, but before the trial could move into the punitive damages phase. The case involved a September 2007 crash that seriously injured the driver, Jean Bookout, and killed her passenger, Barbara Schwarz. Bookout was exiting Interstate Highway 69 in Oklahoma in a 2005 Camry when she realized that she could not stop her car. She pulled the parking brake, leaving a 100-foot skid mark from right rear tire, and a 50-foot skid mark from the left. She could not stop the Camry, which flew across the road at the ramp’s bottom, crashing into an embankment.

One of the key factors in the trial was the testimony of two plaintiff’s experts in software design and the design process, Phillip Koopman and Michael Barr. Koopman reviewed Toyota’s software engineering process, while Barr examined the source code for the 2005 Toyota Camry. (See Koopman trial testimony part 1 and part 2 and Barr’s trial testimony and slides.) Both characterized Toyota’s software system as defective and dangerous, riddled with bugs and gaps in its failsafes that led to the root cause of the crash. Among the many deficiencies: possible bit flips, task deaths that would disable the failsafes, memory corruption, single-point failures, inadequate stack overflow and buffer overflow, single-fault containment regions, thousands of global variables. Barr and Koopman called Toyota’s software, “spaghetti code” a term for overly complex, badly structured code. Both said that Toyota did not follow established industry practice in developing automotive software, while breaking its own coding rules. Bottom line, concluded Barr: Toyota’s safety architecture was “a house of cards.”

. . .

The 2013 Complaints

The Toyota UA complaints . . . from 2013 look very much like the Toyota UA complaints of the previous years (see SRS reports on Toyota UA from 2010 and 2011.) Out of more than 300 complaints, nearly a third were attributed to the Camry, with 85—mostly minor—injuries. There were a preponderance of parking incidents in which the driver is coasting, or actively braking, when the vehicle shoots forward or backward, and assaults a garage door, a pole, a brick wall, a concrete curb; a tree, the my-cruise-control-won’t-disengage scenario and the high-speed UA scenario. Again, the Camry features heavily in these complaints.

Here’s one poor 2005 Camry owner from Clifton, New Jersey who had two parking incidents in November:

November 9th 2013—as I pulled into a parking space with my foot on the brake, the car took off like a rocket and hit a small tree. When I put the car in reverse, again with my foot on the brake, it shot backward into a parked car. November 25th 2013—again, pulling into a parking spot with my foot on the brake, the car shot forward, this time, it went right into a brick wall. Approximately 40 bricks rained down on the hood of the vehicle, the front end is smashed in, but this time, I had a passenger that was injured and kept overnight in the hospital. The airbags never deployed. The police that responded were shocked. (ODI 10556199)

Here’s another parking incident, in which the only thing between this 2006 Lexus RH400 occupants from Irvine, CA and a serious or fatal injury was a steel cable:

“As I was pulling into a parking space on the 4th level of a 6 story parking building, I had my foot on the brake pedal and the vehicle was coming to a stop, suddenly the vehicle accelerated (lounged)[sic] forward. There were steel cables (rail guards) that stopped the vehicle from going over and nose diving onto the street below. The front bumper and the hood were damaged. I took the vehicle to the local Lexus dealer and had them check the braking system for any defects. After doing a “health check” on the vehicle the Lexus rep told me that there was nothing wrong with the braking system. I also filled a report with Lexus customer service and they told me, a technical inspector will go to the dealership and check the vehicle out.” (ODI 10508299)

Wonder if the tech will find anything?

And the oft-told tale of a damaged garage, courtesy of a Central, New York owner:

“The contact owns a 2012 Toyota Camry. The contact stated that while driving 5 mph into a residential garage, the vehicle suddenly accelerated and crash thru the garage door. A police report was not filed and no injuries were reported. The vehicle was taken to the dealer. The technician was unable to diagnosed the failure. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure who decided to send an engineer to inspect the vehicle. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 22,000.” (ODI 10556213)

Here’s a couple of classic cruise-control-would-not-disengage scenarios. From a 2006 Scion owner in St. Paul, Minnesota:

“I was on the hiway and using cruise control. When I tried to turn it off, the light went off, but the vehicle continued to hold speed. I tried to engage the cruise control and decelerate/accelerate, but the only effect was accelerating up to 80mph. Stepping on the brakes only slowed the vehicle down and didn’t disengage the cruise control. I tried to shift the gears to neutral and still no effect except the engine revving to the red line. So I floored the brakes and could only slow the vehicle down to 20mph. Worried about what else may happen, I exited the hiway and turned on to a street. Seeing no other options, I chose to just turn the engine off. At that point the power brakes stopped working and the car was still rolling. So I shifted the gear to park and we stopped abruptly.” (ODI 10553512)

From a 2013 Lexus RX350 owner from Guntersville, Alabama:

“I was driving on I-59 north with wife as passenger with radar cruise control set at 70 mph approaching departure exit. I tapped the brake pedal to release the cc and it did not release. Thinking I had not tapped it hard enough, I made the turn and tapped the brake pedal harder. The cc did not release. I applied the brakes with full force. The engine raced to satisfy the cc and the speed was 69 mph going into the exit. My focus was steering the vehicle to avoid objects and traffic. We crashed across a four lane concrete curbed boulevard and into a chain-link fence. I steered down a frontage road and brought the vehicle to a stop. This was a 30 second + event. The black box captured 9.5 seconds of information. Lexus downloaded the black box and I requested a copy of the information which they did furnish on a thumb drive. They immediately erased all evidence of the crash from the vehicle data recorder and proclaimed there were no problems with the vehicle. The thumb drive data clearly displays that the car was traveling 69 mph on the data recorder. It also shows that the cc dropped out during the crash. I received a letter from toyota legal in torrance, ca, indicating that their review of the vehicle found nothing wrong with it and the case was closed. The body shop repairs were $16k plus the depreciated value of the vehicle is $11k. Valley Lexus galleria, smyrna, ga, where the vehicle was purchased, defers all communications to toyota. I have been a Toyota customer since 1990 and this has been my third Lexus RX. Bitter sweet end!” (ODI 10502982)

We might point out here that the team of NASA engineers pinpointed the design vulnerabilities plaguing Toyota’s cruise control—an old system carried over to the new electronic architecture, which lacks a fuel cut-off feature.

(Toyota also settled the Van Alfen case, which featured a UA while the cruise control was engaged. Like Bookout, the case had bad facts for Toyota. In November 5, 2010, Paul Van Alfen was exiting I-80 West in his 2008 Toyota Camry when he tried to take the vehicle out of cruise control mode. According to witnesses, he went around two stopped vehicles at the end of the ramp, and crashed into a rock wall. The surviving occupants, his wife and son said the Van Alfen was pressing the brake firmly and was communicating this action as the crash unfolded. Van Alfen was killed as was his son’s fiancé seated in the left rear.)

And, there’s the already-underway at highway-speed scenario, from a 2005 Lexus ES owner from The Villages, Florida:

“Driving south on Florida turnpike, car suddenly accelerated–unable to steer it or slow it down–had to get off highway to avoid collision–turned wheel to right and slid across swale into thicket of trees. Want to get a used Lexus to replace this but am afraid of safety issues now.” (ODI 10542709)

What to Expect in 2014

As neither Toyota nor NHTSA has ever adequately addressed the technical issues, we expect the complaints to continue as before. What’s most disturbing are the numbers of complaints for newer models—54 Toyota UA complaints involved 2012 and 2013 models. So, Toyota’s UA issues will not go away when the first generation of throttle-by-wire vehicles age out. Koopman and Barr repeatedly made the point that if safety is not part of the software development process at the outset, it cannot be added later. Both concluded that Toyota strayed far and frequently from established industry protocols.

The litigants may get a quick settlement that undervalues the economic and physical harm they’ve suffered, because the value of such cases will likely be based on the overall evidence–and physical evidence is absent in many instances. Toyota has, no doubt, and will, no doubt, continue to leverage this risk to the plaintiff’s disadvantage. At the same time, the automaker can point back to the government reports which, it claims, exonerated Toyota’s electronic throttle control.

And we’ll bet that, like the Audi problems from the 1980s, Toyota UA will be memorialized by the mainstream media—which has hewed tightly to the Toyota narrative—as a crisis composed of bad drivers, misplaced floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals. (Replay Ray LaHood: “The jury is back, the verdict is in, there is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas. Period.”)

For many more Toyota owners who fortunately didn’t suffer serious injury or death there will be no real resolution. They will continue to foot the bill for Toyota’s problems buried deep within the software, or the accelerator pedal position sensor—and they are going to have to live with it. In fact, the motoring public is going to have to live with these scary safety failures until NHTSA gets off its hindquarters and starts regulating the functional safety of automotive electronics.

See http://www.safetyresearch.net/2014/01/02/toyota-lawsuits-wrapped/ (emphasis added)

At any given moment during the life of these cars, they could suddenly accelerate out of control, with the vehicle’s passengers (e.g., children) and others being killed or severely injured in an instant.

This is the state of affairs that exists today, thanks to Toyota. It has foisted a blatant and massive fraudulent cover-up on consumers worldwide, which continues to this day and is criminal. At the very least, its management should be removed and prosecuted.

Anyone who is in such a vehicle is playing Russian roulette with his or her life, and the lives of others.

Because these vehicles should be junked, at the very least Toyota should pay their owners the replacement value of such vehicles, in cash. Unless and until this is done . . .

TOYOTA PRODUCTS MUST BE BOYCOTTED!

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