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Archive for January, 2010

Toyota Reverses Course, Sends Parts to Dealers First, Delaying Plant Restart

“Minor Repair,” says one major Toyota dealer.

by on Jan.31, 2010

Toyota dealers should begin getting replacement accelerator parts later this week, but repairs will only begin with federal approval of the fix.

Reversing course, Toyota Motor Co. has decided to ship replacement accelerator units to its U.S. dealers before using them to get five shuttered North American assembly lines back in operation.

Describing the replacement as a “minor repair,” one major Washington, D.C. dealer said it hopes to begin start contacting customers to make repairs as soon as it has a “sufficient” supply of the parts on the had.  But while Toyota is pressing its supplier, CTS Corp., to turn out accelerator assemblies as rapidly a possible, it’s unclear how long the latest in a series of safety setbacks for the automaker will be resolved.

The problem is that there are three major steps that must be taken before things get anywhere back to normal:

  • Toyota must notify owners of eight affected vehicles of the recall; dealers must schedule appointments and then complete repairs;
  • Dealers must also complete repairs of the un-sold vehicles sitting on their lots. There are an estimated 200,000 or more of the affected vehicles that will need new accelerator assemblies before they can be sold;
  • Toyota’s factories cannot begin producing the new vehicles until the plants have a steady supply of the replacement components.
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Keep informed!

The automaker initially planned to ship the first of the new accelerator parts to its factories, but when word hit the news media, including  Ken Zino’s report click here, that triggered a hue-and-cry that led the embattled company to re-direct the components to dealership

Brian Lyons, a Toyota spokesman, told the AP that the parts “are on their way to dealers,” but he cautioned it was unclear when they would arrive and how soon repairs could begin.

(more…)

Toyota Congressional Hearings: What to Expect

Here comes political posturing, pointing and posterior protection with your tax dollars at work, or is it non-work?

by on Jan.31, 2010

As all of the House is up for re-election this year. Need we say more?

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, is embroiled in two controversial U.S. recalls for unintended acceleration involving ~5.3 million vehicles so far, and sluggish-to-sticking accelerator pedals, at least 2.3 million vehicles.

In addition, this week Toyota is halting production at five North American assembly plants that make the affected vehicles to free up revised pedal assemblies for repairs. The company apparently knew of the problem and has been working on a fix for quite a while. This is shaping up as a classic coverup, according to the many critics of the company.

Millions of  heretofore mostly satisfied Toyota owners are potentially affected, and until root causes are established and fixes put in place, the anxiety of the unknown continues in the growing and increasingly skeptical media coverage.

As all of the House is up for re-election later this year, amid a growing voter revolt against incumbents for their partisanship, “pay for play” politics and lack of action on unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression, among other things, this sets the stage for the classic, three-ring, political circus.

The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a February 10th hearing titled, “Toyota Gas Pedals: Is the Public at Risk?” Lest you have forgotten, this same committee held the well-publicized Firestone tire recall hearings back in 2000. I know, I was there.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee also said that it would hold a hearing on February 25th to look at unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Bart Stupak, Democrat Michigan, and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said, “Staff has met with Administration officials and Toyota officials as part of our investigation. Members of Congress and consumers need to know exactly what the problem is, how to fix the problem and what must be done to protect drivers of Toyota vehicles,” he said.

Translation: Private meetings will not get me or any other congressman the press and TV footage I need to convey to voters that I should be re-elected and keep my lucrative job and medical insurance plan. (Alternate translations for this and all of the following are of course welcome in our comment section. Civil language please. )

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Comedy or Tragedy?

Expect: Statements that allow Stupak and other congressmen to express to the cameras their deep concern, while questioning the effectiveness of regulatory agencies. I do not expect he will explain why we need an expensive public hearing when the committee has already been meeting privately with Toyota and NHTSA on this matter. Moreover, both need to solve the problem or problems – and they will – without Congressional “help.”

Also expect: Leaked documents in the days ahead of the hearings with apparently damaging excerpts from Toyota’s required written responses by politicians to favored Washington Post and New York Times, and other political media. Toyota’s fuller explanations will not be leaked. (more…)

GM Claims Pontiac Vibe is Safe to Drive

No "relevant” customer pedal complaints on shared, and recalled, Toyota design with 2009-10 Pontiac Vibe models.

by on Jan.29, 2010

The Vibe show can go on, according to General Motors. It does have pedal complaints, though.

Neither the Toyota unintended acceleration floor mat recall, nor last week’s sticking pedal recall should give Pontiac Vibe owners any cause for concern, according to General Motors.

Even though the Vibe shares a common platform with the recalled Toyota Corolla and Matrix models, “based on GM’s experience, the Vibe is safe to drive,” TheDetroitBureau.com was told by a General Motors spokesperson.

GM has not received any “relevant” customer complaints for the 2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe.

The company also says that there were not any complaints found in a search of U.S. and Canadian databases.

However, since it was announced that the Vibe was included in the two Toyota recalls, GM says “we have received several complaints of alleged sticking accelerator pedals. To the best of our knowledge, the Vibe vehicles were safely brought to a stop. We are investigating each of the claims.”

GM says it will communicate with the approximately 99,000 Vibe owners in the United States and Canada as soon as it receives additional information to share about the recall from Toyota.

Any customer who experiences any accelerator pedal issue should immediately park the vehicle, and have it towed to their GM dealer for an inspection, the company said.

The Vibe was built through August 2009 at the New United Motor Manufacturing (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, Calif., which was a joint venture of GM and Toyota.

Toyota is in the process of shutting the plant down.

Toyota Pedals Shipping to Factories not Helping People? Here come the Politicians Piling On

Toyota says all in due time. Dealers left without a remedy as owners panic and the posturing and finger pointing begins.

by on Jan.29, 2010

Another example of a regulatory agency not doing its job? NHTSA is responsible for safety.

The Associated Press has just reported that Toyota is shipping pedals to its factories in North America, even though they will be shut down next week because of the recall of 2.3 million vehicles for pedal sticking problems. The list of affected vehicles  includes current production Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, RAV4, Sequoia and Tundra models.

In a switch from its previous lethargic responses to allegations involving unintended acceleration and pedal sticking defects, Toyota Motor Sales immediately issued a carefully worded statement that says, among other things, “our highest priority is to fix the accelerator pedal problems for our existing customers, and our pedal supplier is starting to ship newly designed pedals to dealers to meet the most immediate needs.”

The statement comes after the Secretary of Transportation, who oversees the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in a radio interview with WGN in Chicago that NHTSA had demanded the stop sale and manufacturing halt that TMS announce earlier this week.

The Toyota statement did not actually deny that a company e-mail obtained by the AP said parts were still being shipped to the automaker’s plants.  Nor did it deny that a spokesperson said Toyota had not sent parts to its dealers because it has yet to determine whether it will repair or replace the gas pedals on the 4.2 million Toyotas that have been recalled – thus far — worldwide.

The statement did say that “our pedal supplier is starting to ship newly designed pedals to dealers to meet the most immediate needs. One of the main reasons we are stopping production next week is to make more of the new pedals available to dealers right away. But at the same time, we are continuing to test effective pedal modifications for existing vehicles on the road that will be available to our customers quickly. We expect to announce a comprehensive remedy program for all affected customers and new vehicles soon.”

NHTSA says that five deaths and 17 injuries were the result of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles since 2006, but has yet to provide an explanation why the safety agency took no action until recently – if the situation is as dire as Secretary LaHood’s radio comments implied.

This sets the stage for a classic “cover your backside” political circus as the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a February 4th  hearing on what  it titled,  “Toyota Gas Pedals: Is the Public at Risk?”

The Oversight committee has asked Yoshi Inaba, chairman and CEO of Toyota Motor North America, to testify. It was not immediately clear if NHTSA would also be held to account by the politicians.

In the meantime, Toyota owners are left without a fix, or any date as to when one will occur, while the allegations and posturing continue.

Porsche Power Shift as Qatar Sheikh Joins Board and Hans-Peter Porsche Retires!

Six-month figures show improvement at the loss making firm.

by on Jan.29, 2010

Keep on truckin' with new Arab leadership and a sedan and SUV as the best sellers.

Porsche Automobil Holding SE’s annual meeting saw economic reality prevail over history, as board member Hans-Peter Porsche 69, retired from office and was immediately replaced by “His Excellency” Sheikh Jassim Bin Abdulaziz Bin Jassim Al-Thani, 31, as a representative of Qatar Holding LLC, Doha, on the supervisory board of the company.

The changes came at the general meeting held on Friday in the Porsche-Arena in Stuttgart. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund acquired a 10% voting stake in Porsche last year amid the turmoil of a reckless, leveraged and failed takeover bid of Volkswagen by Porsche that ultimately saw the ouster of Porsche chief executive Wendelin Wiedeking and chief financial officer Holger Haerter.

Sheikh Jassim Bin Abdulaziz Bin Jassim Al-Thani is the chairman of the board of Qatar Foundation International, USA, and is a member of the boards of Qatar National Bank, of InvestCorp and of Qatar Foundation Endowment Fund.

It appears that the Porsche and Piech families still control 90% of the remaining voting rights.

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Verdrahtet!

Other shareholder representatives on the supervisory board of Porsche SE are the chairman, Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, and Dr. Ferdinand Oliver Porsche, Dr. Ferdinand K. Piëch, Dr. Hans Michel Piëch and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Lehner.

(more…)

Toyota CEO Apologizes, Even as Signs Suggests More Recalls May Follow

Electronic problems could be key issue; could they trigger recall over Prius brakes?

by on Jan.29, 2010

Could the third-generation, 2010 Prius be next among Toyota products to face a recall?

With Toyota announcing nearly 3.5 million recalls since just the beginning of this year – on top of a record 4 million in 2009 – the embattled Japanese maker’s top executive issued his first official comment, in the form of an apology, today.

“I am deeply sorry,” declared Akio Toyoda, president and CEO and heir to the founding family of the Toyota Motor Co.  Toyoda spoke with the Japanese network NHK after leaving the annual summit of world leaders held in Davos, Switzerland.

“Truly we think of our customers as a priority and we guarantee their safety,” the executive said, according to a translation, but Toyoda cautioned that he could not explain the source of a series of problems that have led Toyota to announce the recall of 7.6 million vehicles since just last October due to safety problems that could result in runaway cars, an issue also known as sudden, or unexpected, acceleration.

Even as the executive apologized, there were growing signs that further problems could be in store for the Japanese giant.

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Your Breaking News Source!

As Ken Zino, editor of TheDetroitBureau.com and World Auto Reports first reported, on December 24th, there are mounting concerns that 2010 Toyota Prius models may experience unexpected problems with brakes that can suddenly release when the vehicle hits a bump or pothole.  In recent days, as word of the problem has begun to spread, TheDetroitBureau has received calls and letters from a number of additional owners, including Wisconsin’s Jill Krahn, who says her third-generation Prius has experienced unintended brake release on a number of occasions.

(more…)

Toyota Europe Recalls Eight Models for Bad Pedals

Accelerator pedal sticking problem is going global. Another 1.8 million units could be affected. More recalls coming?

by on Jan.29, 2010

Unlike the U.S., Toyota in Europe will keep producing vehicles.

Toyota Motor Europe officially announced this morning the recall of eight Toyota models in Europe for the same sticking pedal problem that has the U.S. Congress demanding public hearings. The vehicles are among the most popular in its European range.

TheDetroitBureau.com reported on the expansion of the recall in Europe and Asia earlier in the week. A recall is now underway in China as well.

The number of European involved units is still under investigation at the beleaguered company, but may include as many as 1.8 million more vehicles. No Lexus models and no other Toyota models are affected, thus far.

We have been unable to determine if multiple suppliers or just one, CTS, is the maker of the defective pedals. Denso is known to be a supplier of Toyota pedals as well, and possibly Hella.

Last week Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) announced last it would recall approximately 2.3 million vehicles to correct sticking accelerator pedals on eight Toyota Division models. It was subsequently revealed that CTS  made the pedals to Toyota’s design specifications. Toyota also stopped the sales of the vehicles and plans to halt production at five North American plants, after the U.S. Secretary of Transportation intervened to prompt the action.

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Recalls!

A running change in production using different parts has already been implemented for the models on sale in Europe. Toyota Europe also said in a statement that there is “no need or intention to stop production in Europe.” Whether that holds remains to be seen.

(more…)

Is Your Town “EV-Ready”?

New list shows battery car-friendly communities.

by on Jan.29, 2010

A new study ranks the U.S. cities most ready to support the new generation of electric vehicles.

The battery cars are coming, or so say most automotive experts.  According to one recent report, as many as 40 battery-based products, including plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, will be on the market by 2014.

But if you’re a fan of the eco-friendly technology is your community ready to support your new electric vehicle with things like public charging stations?

The Norwegian-based BEV maker, Think, aims to answer that question with a first-of-its-kind “EV Ready Cities Index.” It considers a range of factors, including tax credits and other incentives, charging stations, and current sales levels of more conventional hybrid-electric vehicles.

Perhaps not surprisingly, California has four cities ranked in the index’s Top-15, Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Chicago and New York tied for third place.  And Washington, D.C., which has been lending growing government support to battery power, landed in the 13th spot.

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“We expect that the roll-out of EVs to the U.S. market will be quite focused in the early stages,” said Think CEO Richard Canny.  “Since EVs are a unique solution for congested urban environments, we are taking a city-by-city approach rather than a national or state-by-state approach.  Some cities are more likely to be early adopters of EV technology, and the EV-Ready Cities Index will be a helpful tool to guide and prioritize the development of those markets.”

(more…)

Honda Joins Recall List With Fit Subcompact

Potential fire hazard prompts action.

by on Jan.29, 2010

Honda's worldwide recall of the Fit hatchback impacts 140,000 cars in the U.S.

Honda's worldwide recall of the Fit hatchback impacts 140,000 cars in the U.S.

Honda Motor Co. will recall more than 600,000 of its subcompact Fit hatchbacks due to a potential fire hazard, the maker announced today.

The problem is the result of a defect master power window switch that could leak and, in some cases, cause a fire.  So far, the automaker acknowledges, it has received three reports of fires caused by the defect, including two in the U.S. and another in South Africa.

The problem impacts what has become one of Honda’s best-sellers worldwide, and a vehicle that has proven unexpectedly popular in the United States, where it competes against a growing list of subcompacts, such as the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, and soon American offerings like the Ford Fiesta.

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Your News Source!

The recall involves a total of 646,000 of the subcompacts sold in North America, South America, Europe, South Africa and Asia.  The Japanese market – where the Fit is Honda’s best-selling product – is notably not included in the recall.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Toyota’s Sticking Accelerator Pedal Recall in North America

Here is the latest from Toyota -- as of last night.

by on Jan.29, 2010

The ongoing controversy about the Toyota accelerator pedal recall has resulted in many inquires. Here is Toyota’s official view, which does not necessarily represent the views of TheDetroitBureau.com — and is subject to ongoing investigations by various government and safety agencies.

Which models are affected by the recall/stop sale?

Toyota’s accelerator pedal recall and suspension of sales is confined to the following Toyota Division vehicles:

  • Certain 2009-2010 RAV4,
  • Certain 2009-2010 Corolla,
  • 2009-2010 Matrix,
  • 2005-2010 Avalon,
  • Certain 2007-2010 Camry,
  • Certain 2010 Highlander,
  • 2007-2010 Tundra,
  • 2008-2010 Sequoia

No Lexus Division or Scion vehicles are affected by these actions. Also not affected are Toyota Prius, Tacoma, Sienna, Venza, Solara, Yaris, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser, Highlander hybrids and Camry hybrids, which will remain for sale.

Further, Camry, RAV4, Corolla and Highlander vehicles with VINs that begin with “J” are not affected by the sticky accelerator pedal recall. (made in Japan)

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