NHTSA Findings on UA on Toyota.com

Toyota Statement in Response to NHTSA/NASA Study

Feb. 8, 2011 — In response to the publication by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of an extensive review of the electronic throttle control systems in Toyota and Lexus vehicles, conducted with the assistance of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Steve St. Angelo, Toyota’s Chief Quality Officer for North America, said:
“Toyota welcomes the findings of NASA and NHTSA regarding our Electronic Throttle Control System with intelligence (ETCS-i) and we appreciate the thoroughness of their review.  We believe this rigorous scientific analysis by some of America’s foremost engineers should further reinforce confidence in the safety of Toyota and Lexus vehicles.  We hope this important study will help put to rest unsupported speculation about Toyota’s ETCS-i, which is well-designed and well-tested to ensure that a real world, un-commanded acceleration of the vehicle cannot occur.
“We will continue to develop and equip Toyota and Lexus vehicles with industry-leading safety technologies, including many based on breakthroughs in sophisticated electronics systems.  We will also continue to cooperate fully with NHTSA and respected outside experts in order to help ensure that our customers have the utmost confidence in the safety and reliability of our vehicles.  Everyone at Toyota – all 30,000 of our team members in the United States and the many thousands of Americans at our dealers and suppliers across the country – is focused on listening to our customers and constantly improving our products and service.”

Regarding the safety and reliability of Toyota vehicles with ETCS-i, the company also noted:

•    Electronic throttle control systems have long been standard across the automobile industry, and they provide great benefits to consumers.
•    Toyota’s ETCS-i has performed reliably in more than 40 million cars and trucks sold around the world, including more than 16 million in the United States.
•    This system has also made possible significant safety advances such as vehicle stability control and traction control, which are among the five sophisticated accident avoidance technologies in Toyota’s Star Safety System.
•    These enhancements, along with Toyota’s Smart Stop Technology braking system, are now standard on all the new vehicles Toyota manufactures for the North American market.

Crash Data Suggest Driver Error in Toyota Accidents

This is an interesting read published by the Wall Street Journal

By MIKE RAMSEY And KATE LINEBAUGH

The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that at the time of the crashes, throttles were wide open and the brakes were not engaged, people familiar with the findings said.

The results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyota and Lexus vehicles surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes. But the findings don’t exonerate Toyota from two known issues blamed for sudden acceleration in its vehicles: sticky accelerator pedals and floor mats that can trap accelerator pedals to the floor.

0713DRIVER

Associated PressA recalled Toyota gas pedal is posed next to a recalled Toyota Avalon at a dealership in Palo Alto, Calif.

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

The data recorders analyzed by NHTSA were selected by the agency, not Toyota, based on complaints the drivers had filed with the government.

The findings are consistent with a 1989 government-sponsored study that blamed similar driver mistakes for a rash of sudden-acceleration reports involving Audi 5000 sedans.

The Toyota findings, which haven’t been released by NHTSA, support Toyota’s position that sudden-acceleration reports involving its vehicles weren’t caused by electronic glitches in computer-controlled throttle systems, as some safety advocates and plaintiffs’ attorneys have alleged. More than 100 people have sued the auto maker claiming crashes were the result of faulty electronics.

NHTSA has received more than 3,000 complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyotas, including some dating to early last decade, according to a report the agency compiled in March. The incidents include 75 fatal crashes involving 93 deaths.

However, NHTSA has been able to verify only one of those fatal crashes was caused by a problem with the vehicle, according to information the agency provided to the National Academy of Sciences. That accident last Aug. 28, which killed a California highway patrolman and three passengers in a Lexus, was traced to a floor mat that trapped the gas pedal in the depressed position.

Toyota has recalled more than eight million cars globally to fix floor mats and sticky accelerators.

A NHTSA spokeswoman declined to confirm the results from the data recorders. She said the agency was continuing to investigate the Toyota accidents and wouldn’t be prepared to comment fully on the probe until a broader study is completed in conjunction with NASA, which is expected to take months.

Transportation Department officials, however, have said publicly that they have yet to find any electronic problems in Toyota cars.

Daniel Smith, NHTSA’s associate administrator for enforcement, told a panel of the National Academy of Sciences last month that the agency’s sudden-acceleration probe had yet to find any car defects beyond those identified by the company: pedals entrapped by floor mats, and “sticky” accelerator pedals that are slow to return to idle.

“In spite of our investigations, we have not actually been able yet to find a defect” in electronic throttle-control systems, Mr. Smith told the scientific panel, which is looking into potential causes of sudden acceleration.

“We’re bound and determined that if it exists we’re going to find it,” he added. “But as yet, we haven’t found it.”

Toyota officials haven’t been briefed on NHTSA’s findings, but they corroborate its own tests, said Mike Michels, the chief spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales. Toyota’s downloads of event data recorders have found evidence of sticky pedals and pedal entrapment as well as driver error, which is characterized by no evidence of the brakes being depressed during an impact.

Some company officials say they are informally aware of the NHTSA results. But Toyota President Akio Toyoda has said the company won’t blame customers for its problems as part of its public-relations response.

Toyota is still trying to repair damage to its reputation caused as much by disclosures that the company hid knowledge of safety problems with its vehicles as by the reports of sudden acceleration.

NHTSA levied a $16.4 million fine against Toyota earlier this year for failing to notify the agency in a timely manner about its sticky-accelerator issue. Toyota’s handling of a rash of safety complaints involving high-profile models such as the hybrid Toyota Prius has prompted Congress to consider a far-reaching overhaul of U.S. auto-safety laws.

Last week, Toyota announced it had taken steps to improve its vehicle quality, including moving 1,000 engineers into a new group that will try to pin down problems. The Japanese auto maker also will extend development times by at least four weeks on new models to do more testing and will cut down on the use of contract engineers.Toyota showed reporters the inner workings of its labs, including how it has been testing its electronic throttle control module to find any malfunctions. The system is controlled by a main computer and has a second computer as a backup if the first fails. In either instance, failures should be noted in the car’s main computer and result in engine power being cut.

The car maker also has tested its vehicles’ responses to strong electromagnetic radiation, such as the waves generated by cellphones and radio towers, which some critics have said could be causing a malfunction. The only interference engineers have encountered after bombarding cars with electromagnetic waves is static on the car radio.

U.S. Reps. Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) and Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) have been critical of Toyota’s efforts to track down alternative causes of unintended acceleration. They have said Toyota has been slow to react or evasive. Toyota has said it is doing everything in its power to respond to both Congress and customer complaints.

—Josh Mitchell contributed
to this article.


Relatively Few Toyota Complaints

RELATIVELY FEW COMPLAIN ABOUT TOYOTA

Bottom of Form

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

2010 Toyota Corolla

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Despite a torrent of high-profile recalls that have tarnished Toyota [1]’s once stellar reputation, a study published Wednesday reveals that the automaker actually gets fewer customer complaints per car than the majority of its competitors.

Edmunds.com reviewed more than 200,000 complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) over the last
decade and found that Toyota ranked 17th among the top 20 automakers in the overall number of complaints per vehicle sold.

The results come amid a series of recalls totaling more than 8.1 million Toyotas worldwide, including 400,000 of the popular 2010 Prius [2] hybrid for problems associated with sticking brake pedals, software glitches and faulty floor mats.

The study was based on the percentage of complaints each automaker received versus the total number of vehicles they sold in the United States between 2001 and 2010.

As a result, British carmaker Land Rover [3] had the highest proportion of complaints relative to the number of cars it sold. The company received 0.6% of the total complaints in the database, while its sales amounted to only 0.1% of all new cars sold in the United States.

Meanwhile, Toyota had 9.1% of all the complaints in the database.
But the company was number 17 on the list because its sales made up 13.5% of the U.S. market.

According to the study, Toyota had fewer complaints than its American rivals. Ford [4] was number 10 on the list, while General Motors [5] came in at number 11.

The only automakers to receive fewer complaints than Toyota were Mercedes-Benz [6], Porsche [7] and the Mercedes-made Smart Car [8].

Among the other automakers that ranked high on the list were Suzuki [9] and Isuzu, which came in at numbers 2 and 3 respectively. German automaker Volkswagen [10] came in at number 4.

The complaints lodged against Toyota ranged from minor problems with lighting to more serious issues such as sudden acceleration and difficulty steering. But the study did not rate the reported incidences for severity.

Edmunds.com said that it found some unreliable reports in the database, including one complaint indicating that
99 people had died
in one vehicle as a result of an accident. It also said that about 10% of the complaints appeared to be duplicates.

Quality control: Not just Toyota’s problem

While the issues raised by Toyota’s recent recalls shouldn’t be overlooked, quality control concerns are apparent across the entire automobile industry, said Jeremy Anwyl, Edmunds.com chief executive.

“A broader view shows that consumer complaints reflect an industry issue, not just a Toyota issue,” said Anwyl. “It is no longer an option for car companies to dismiss consumer complaints, even if the event is difficult to replicate or diagnose.”

Some automakers assume that customer complaints are the result of driver error and not necessarily a reflection of design problems, said Jeannine Fallon, an Edmunds.com analyst.

“It depends on the culture of the car company,”
she said. “But it’s
clear now that Toyota has not had very many conversations with NHTSA.”

Akio Toyoda writes The Washington Post

washingtonpost.com


Toyota‘s plan to repair its public image

By Akio Toyoda
Tuesday, February 9, 2010; A17

More than 70 years ago, Toyota entered the auto business based on a simple, but powerful, principle: that Toyota would build the highest-quality, safest and most reliable automobiles in the world. The company has always put the needs of our customers first and made the constant improvement of our vehicles a top priority. That is why 80 percent of all Toyotas sold in the United States over the past 20 years are still on the road today.

When consumers purchase a Toyota, they are not simply purchasing a car, truck or van. They are placing their trust in our company. The past few weeks, however, have made clear that Toyota has not lived up to the high standards we set for ourselves. More important, we have not lived up to the high standards you have come to expect from us. I am deeply disappointed by that and apologize. As the president of Toyota, I take personal responsibility. That is why I am personally leading the effort to restore trust in our word and in our products.

For much of Toyota’s history, we have ensured the quality and reliability of our vehicles by placing a device called an andon cord on every production line — and empowering any team member to halt production if there’s an assembly problem. Only when the problem is resolved does the line begin to move again.

Two weeks ago, I pulled the andon cord for our company. I ordered production of eight models in five plants across North America temporarily stopped so that we could focus on fixing our customers’ vehicles that might be affected by sticking accelerator pedals. Today, Toyota team members and dealers across North America are working around the clock to repair all recalled vehicles.

But to regain the trust of American drivers and their families, more is needed. We are taking responsibility for our mistakes, learning from them and acting immediately to address the concerns of consumers and independent government regulators.

First, I have launched a top-to-bottom review of our global operations to ensure that problems of this magnitude do not happen again and that we not only meet but exceed the high safety standards that have defined our long history. As part of this, we will establish an Automotive Center of Quality Excellence in the United States, where a team of our top engineers will focus on strengthening our quality management and quality control across North America.

Second, to ensure that our quality-control operations are in line with best industry practices, we will ask a blue-ribbon safety advisory group composed of respected outside experts in quality management to independently review our operations and make sure that we have eliminated any deficiencies in our processes. The findings of these experts will be made available to the public, as will Toyota’s responses to these findings.

Third, we fully understand that we need to more aggressively investigate complaints we hear directly from consumers and move more quickly to address any safety issues we identify. That is what we are doing by addressing customer concerns about the Prius and Lexus HS250h anti-lock brake systems.

We also are putting in place steps to do a better job within Toyota of sharing important quality and safety information across our global operations. This shortcoming contributed to the current situation. With respect to sticking accelerator pedals, we failed to connect the dots between problems in Europe and problems in the United States because the European situation related primarily to right-hand-drive vehicles.

Toyota will increase its outreach to government agencies charged with protecting the safety of motorists and passengers. I have spoken with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and given him my personal assurance that lines of communications with safety agencies and regulators will be kept open, that we will communicate more frequently and that we will be more vigilant in responding to those officials on all matters.

In recent years, much has been written about what we call “the Toyota Way” — the values and principles at the heart of our company. Chief among these is our unwavering commitment to continuous improvement: going to the source of a problem and fixing it. While problems with our cars have been rare over the years, the issues that Toyota is addressing today are by far the most serious we have ever faced.

But great companies learn from their mistakes, and we know that we have to win back the trust of our customers by adhering to the very values on which that trust was first built. The hundreds of thousands of men and women at Toyota operations worldwide — including the 172,000 team members and dealers in North America — are among the best in the auto industry. Whatever problems have occurred within our company, the strength and commitment to fix them resides within our company as well.

You have my commitment that Toyota will revitalize the simple but powerful principle that has guided us for 50 years: Toyota will build the highest-quality, safest and most reliable automobiles in the world.

The writer is president of Toyota Motor Co.

BrionStapp@interstatetoyota.com

Toyota Is Ready To Lend Money

Toyota ready to loan money

DAN STRUMPF | Sunday, October 5, 2008 at 12:30 am

NEW YORK – Toyota Motor Corp.’s unprecedented offer of zero-percent financing on nearly a dozen models is trying to make the point that tight credit is no excuse for buyers – in fact, it’s literally giving credit away for free.

But after the top Japanese automaker posted a 32 percent drop in September sales that only domestic competitors had experienced until now, the question is: Is it enough to get people to buy?

“I don’t think it’s going to just open the floodgates,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at the auto Web site Edmunds.com. “But it’s going to help a lot of people who want a quality car, who don’t want to worry about it, and are now going to be able to afford it because of this deal.”

Toyota’s U.S. division said Thursday night that it will offer the free financing on 11 models with terms ranging from 36 to 60 months. The incentive expires Nov. 3.

Toyota is offering the deal on a wide variety of vehicles, including the Matrix, Corolla, Camry, RAV 4, Highlander, FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, Sequoia, Sienna, Tacoma and Tundra. The automaker’s hybrids, along with some better-selling models like the Yaris subcompact, are excluded.

Although Toyota has cut financing rates and offered other deals in the past, zero-percent financing on such a wide scale is an unprecedented move for an automaker that has prided itself on its restraint with incentives. Its U.S. counterparts, meanwhile, have aggressively used cut-rate financing and big cash-back offers as a way to bolster sales in the flagging auto market.

Nearly all automakers said tighter credit standards knocked buyers from the market last month, when sales industrywide fell 27 percent from a year earlier, hitting fewer than 1 million for the first time in 15 years.

“What this is a response to is the misconception that getting a loan or leasing a car is difficult to do,” Toyota spokesman Xavier Dominicis said Friday. “At Toyota it’s not. Our finance arm … it’s in a position to loan money.”

Richard Howse, senior director of auto finance for J.D. Power and Associates, said Toyota’s offer is likely an attempt to kick-start its sales considering September’s disappointing results.

“I don’t want to read their minds, but I think they realize they need to move the cars they have now,” Howse said. “It’ll be interesting to see how many people are able to take it given today’s credit environment.”

Credit score

Kerry Rivera, spokeswoman for Toyota’s finance arm, Toyota Financial Services, said the requirements to qualify for the offer include a FICO credit score of at least 650. The median FICO score is 720 on the scale that ranges from 300 to 850, according to a spokesman for Fair Isaac Corp.

“This is similar to how we’ve priced zero-percent deals in the past,” Rivera said.

Toyota’s incentives come at a time when banks are curtailing lending because of widespread mortgage defaults that have brought down investment banks and a major insurance company.

Automakers’ finance arms often raise capital by bundling auto loans and selling them as securities, and more of those loans have defaulted as the economy has deteriorated. Now that any collateralized debts like mortgages have fallen out of favor, the securities are more difficult to sell, making it harder for the finance companies to raise more money to lend.

However, Toyota is likely in a better position than its domestic competitors to offer zero-percent loans to a greater number of consumers, owing to its AAA credit ratings and strong cash flow, Edmunds.com’s Caldwell said.

“They have such deep pockets they’re able to weather the storm a little bit better. … I think Toyota will be able to offer more customers zero-percent APR financing than Chrysler or GM, where they have to be more picky with the customers that can receive,” she said.

Rivera said Toyota hasn’t been lending to subprime customers, which has insulated it from some of the credit troubles that other companies have experienced. She declined to release Toyota’s loan approval rates but said the automaker’s year-over-year rate “hasn’t dropped significantly.”

Other automakers

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., said Toyota may be among the best-positioned automakers to weather the credit storm.

“Toyota has absolutely gold-plated credit,” Cole said. “They’ve got $30 billion-plus in the bank. So whatever happens from a financial standpoint, they’re not going to be impacted too severely.”

That doesn’t mean other automakers aren’t offering zero-percent financing as well.

General Motors Corp. on Wednesday launched zero-percent financing on several models for up to 72 months, after more than a month of offering all buyers employee discounts, which generally knock 10 percent off the purchase price of a vehicle.

Chrysler LLC, meanwhile, has been offering 72-month zero-percent financing on a range of trucks and SUVs. Ford Motor Co. also offers zero-percent financing for up to 72 months on several models.

“There seems to be a feeling that people can’t get financing, but our credit criteria hasn’t changed in years,” said Meredith Libbey, spokeswoman for Ford Motor Credit. “We have financing available and we have money available to finance your contract and put you behind the wheel.”

At the same time, Libbey said, that doesn’t mean people’s credit scores haven’t dropped because of their economic troubles, making it harder for them to get loans. Ford doesn’t disclose its criteria for loan approval, she said.