Problems With The World's Largest Automobile Manufacturer

Toyota Motor Corporation has recalled 8.5 million vehicles worldwide during the past four months because of problems with gas pedals, floor mats and brakes.

Since 1999, Toyota and Lexus owners have made in excess of three thousand (3,000) complaints of “Sudden Unintended Acceleration“, which resulted in at least 815 crashes, 341 injuries and, 34 deaths. These complaints arose from incidents in the following vehicles:

  • CAMRY Models
  • ES Models
  • GS Models
  • IS Models
  • LS Models
  • RAV4
  • RX

Toyota initially blamed its own customers for the problems, accusing its customers of improperly installing floor mats. Toyota also claimed that uncontrolled acceleration was impossible without the driver applying the accelerator pedal. However, in 2005 and 2007, Toyota launched two small recall campaigns. The first was directed toward an accelerator that could stick in Lexus IS250 vehicles; the second replaced all-weather floor mats in a limited group of 2007 and 2008 Lexus and Camry vehicles.

accelerator-pedal-defectSince 2005, Toyota has launched six recalls related to accelerator pedals – floor mat replacement was featured in four of these campaigns.

On November 25, 2009, Toyota Motor Corp. announced that it would replace accelerator pedals on approximately 4 million recalled vehicles in the United States to address problems with the pedals becoming jammed in the floor mat. Toyota indicated it will have dealers shorten the length of the gas pedals beginning in January while the company develops replacement pedals for their vehicles, according to both the Transportation Department and Toyota. The “new” pedals will be available sometime in April, 2010, and will have “brake override systems” installed in some vehicles. The world’s largest automaker, announced this recall in late September, 2009, and told owners to remove the driver’s side floor mats to prevent the gas pedal from potentially becoming jammed. According to Toyota, vehicles involved in that recall included the Toyota Camry (2007-2010), Toyota Avalon (2005-2010) Toyota Prius (2004-2009), Toyota Tacoma (2005-2010), Toyota Tundra (2007-2010), Lexus ES350(2007-2010), and the Lexus IS250/350 (2006-2010).

The recall involving the accelerators was Toyota’s largest in the United States. It was prompted by a high-speed crash in August involving a 2009 Lexus ES350 that killed a California Highway Patrol officer and three members of his family near San Diego. The out of control Lexus hit speeds exceeding 120 mph, struck another vehicle, flew off an embankment, rolled over several times and burst into flames. Reportedly, the driver’s brother in law in the runaway Lexus made a frantic 911 call moments before the crash, stating the accelerator was stuck and the driver couldn’t stop the car- another person in the Lexus was overheard telling others to hold on and pray, which was followed by a woman’s scream. Then the call and the lives of these unfortunate victims ended.

car-crash-bad-lgThe government has attributed at least five deaths and two injuries to floor mat-related unintended acceleration in the Toyota vehicles and has received reports of more than 100 incidents in which the accelerator may have become stuck.

However, as indicated above, there are reports of more than 3,000 incidents involving 34deaths and hundreds of injuries potentially tied to the Toyota gas pedals.

To “fix” the problem, Toyota and the government said dealers will shorten the length of the accelerator pedal on the recalled vehicles and in some cases remove foam from beneath the carpeting near the pedal to increase the space between the pedal and the floor. Reportedly, owners of the ES350, Camry and Avalon would be the first to receive notification because the vehicles are believed to have the highest risk for pedal entrapment.

Toyota indicated it would install a brake override system on the Camry, Avalon and Lexus ES350, IS350 and IS250 models. The brake override system, will supposedly ensure the vehicle will stop if both the brake and the accelerator pedals are applied simultaneously.

Toyota stated that it had plans to make the brake override system standard equipment throughout the Toyota and Lexus lineup starting with January 2010 production of the ES350 and Camry. Most new models will get the equipment by the end of2010.

Another Toyota recall was announced on January 21, 2010, affecting another 2.3 million vehicles, (2009-2010 RA V 4, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Matrix, 2005-2010 Avalon, 2007-2010 Camry, 2010 Highlander, 2007-2010 Tundra, 2008-2010 Sequoia) also involving a gas pedal issue.

Is It Really The Floor Mat? Or Is It The Gas Pedal? The Early Evidence Suggests Otherwise

Toyota, after deciding to stop blaming the consumer, attributed the sudden acceleration problem to the floor mat, also referred to as “Floor Mat Entrapment” – the theory being that an unsecured floor mat would push up against or somehow otherwise interfere with the gas pedal and cause it to get stuck.

Thereafter, Toyota targeted the accelerator pedal, or gas pedal, indicating that there was a possibility that the pedal or pedal mechanisms may cause the pedal to stick or remain in a partially depressed position.

The evidence, however, is that sudden unintended acceleration occurs even when floor mats are not present or even when the mats are properly installed and secured (i.e., not allowed to “slide” forward into the gas pedal). Further, sudden unintended acceleration reportedly also occurs when the vehicle is at a constant highway speed, when the vehicle is in idle mode (and foot not on gas pedal), when the driver has his/her foot pressed down on the brake pedal, and even when the vehicle is in reverse at low speeds!

Electrical Interference? Electromagnetic Incompatibility?

Technological development and innovation continues at lightspeed. The multitude of electronic functions that vehicles are equipped with is ever increasing, if not overwhelming to the consumer. However, there is a direct correlation between the number of electronic functions in a motor vehicle and the number of defects. Electronic throttle controls have been problematic. Pedal sensors, supposedly designed to detect problems often mask them. Electromagnetic interference, or electromagnetic incompatibility occurs when one electrical system interferes with another, and can causes failure(s) of electrical components. (Hey, isn’t this one of the reasons they tell you to turn off your cell phones in airplanes and hospitals?)

However, Toyota has staunchly denied and rejected any suggestion of the possibility that Toyota’s electronics are responsible in for the sudden unintended acceleration problems.

Throttle Shaft

circuit-diagramRumors have arisen that Toyota has been aware of problems with cracked throttle body shafts for year. The effect of a broken throttle shaft is no throttle control whatsoever and potential wide open acceleration. This has nothing to do with a floor mat or the gas pedal.

Toyota has an Electronic Throttle Control System which it introduced in 1998 in various models of Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

Independent research reveals that Electronic Throttle Controls are subject to numerous faults.

Toyota however, lauds its own Electronic Throttle Control System, and insists that Toyota has “thoroughly and methodically investigated” the issue, using “a variety of proven and recognized scientific methods” and that Toyota has concluded that electronic throttle control system malfunction is NOT the cause of unintended acceleration.
Toyota’s own evidence suggests otherwise.

When Toyota first introduced its Electronic Throttle Control System, the design included a mechanical fail safe mode-in case the Electronic Throttle Control System failed, the magnetic clutch in the control motor would disengage. In 2002, Toyota stopped using the mechanical fail safe system on certain vehicles like the Toyota Camry and replaced it with a sensor. Almost immediately, in 2002, owners began complaining about their engine surging when the vehicle was at a complete stop or when the drivers had their foot on the brake. Toyota’s response was to issue a technical service bulletin to its dealers to recalibrate the electronic control module in 2002 Toyota Camrys. Toyota was obviously aware of the sudden unintended acceleration problem in 2002, and it was obviously caused by the electronics.

As it turns out, in the span of six months, from September 2003 to March 2004, there were eight deaths that were alleged to have resulted from sudden unintended acceleration events in 2002-2004 Camry models. All of these eight fatalities were reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2004. On February 13, 2010, various news services reported that Toyota hired away former employees from NHTSA, in order to head off the legal investigation of the sudden unintended acceleration fatalities. In other words, Toyota was well aware of this problem several years ago. According to the news services, the two former NHTSA employees, Christopher Tinto and Christopher Santucci, both declined to comment per a Toyota spokeswoman.