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Consumers Union Defends Role in Missing Toyota Unintended Acceleration Problems and Deaths

Non-profit group also promises to improve its safety coverage.

by on Mar.11, 2010

Until recently a double standard was in use at Consumers Union. It is now trying to distance itself from Toyota.

Ami Gadhia, the Policy Counsel for Consumers Union, vowed to make changes in the way the respected organization handles safety matters in prepared testimony today in front of a hearing by the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

Consumer Reports’ self-proclaimed role is to evaluate product performance and provide detailed ratings and reliability information to help car buyers choose the best vehicle.

However, the organization has a history of favoring Toyota, so much so that until recently it automatically gave all new Toyota products recommended buy ratings before reliability data were available – something it did not do with vehicles from other makers.

The non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports said it did not identify sudden acceleration issues in Toyotas or in any other vehicles because it did not encounter any issues with either floor-mat entrapment or a sticking accelerator pedal in any of the vehicles CU tested.

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Experienced and Informed!

“These episodes are too rare to show up in our standard testing. And they did not surface as an issue in our annual reliability survey. Had we noticed a problem in our testing, we would have contacted the company immediately, as we did when we experienced a perceived brake failure in our Ford Fusion Hybrid,” said Gadhia.   (more…)

Consumers Union Calls for Changes in Safety Rules

Long time endorser of Toyota quality and safety apparently missed or overlooked unintended acceleration deaths.

by on Feb.26, 2010

A double standard in play at Consumers Union?

Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports- a long standing endorser of Toyota quality – is now calling for changes to strengthen what it calls the “U.S. car safety net.”

This new emphasis on safety comes about as its April Auto issue is published against a background of questionable practices by Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in controversial unintended acceleration and pedal entrapment issues, which are, allegedly, responsible for 34 deaths in the U.S. and the recalls of more than 8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles globally.

In its annual auto issue – in preparation for months before the now well-publicized Toyota recalls – Consumer Reports endorses the 2010 Toyota Prius as the “best value” in family cars. Other previous Toyota vehicle recommendations have been dropped.

To determine which cars are the best values, Consumer Reports claims it looked at a combination of performance, utility, and reliability for the money, considering total owner costs over the first five-years. The better a car performs in road tests and reliability ratings and the less it costs to own, the greater its value.

The magazine, with more than 7 million print and online subscribers, is notably silent in its endorsement of Prius about the current recall of 2010 Prius models for braking failures, and does not acknowledge the ongoing controversy about other Prius safety and quality issues.

Critics point out that for decades, Consumer Reports automatically gave Toyota products its top ratings before quality data was available from surveys of its readers – an “innocent until proven guilty” position that is at the heart of American criminal law.

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Historical Perspective!

However, this automatic endorsement reverted to the French Napoleonic code of “guilty until proven innocent” when Consumer Reports rated other makers’ vehicles, including those from the Detroit Three. Until there was a track record, CR would not recommend them – a clear double standard that in light of recent events is even more troubling.

Questions also arise if Consumer Reports readers flagged the Toyota quality and safety issues now in full public view; and if they did, what did Consumer Reports do about them? Is CU trying to duck the issue? (more…)