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Toyota Will Contact Customers Reporting Vehicle Runaways

Maker will reach out in any sudden acceleration claim within 24 hours.

by on Apr.09, 2010

Have a sticky accelerator or some other problem with a "runaway Toyota"? The maker's new SMART team will be in touch, it claims, within 24 hours.

As many as 200 Toyota engineers have been put on call and will be poised to respond to any customer reporting a problem with a runaway car, the maker says.

Any report of sudden acceleration will be dealt with in less than 24 hours by the new Swift Market Analysis Response Team, or SMART, according to Toyota, with engineers dispatched to examine the vehicle to see what might have caused the problem.  It’s the latest step by the Japanese maker, which is struggling to understand why so many owners have reported runaway vehicles, some even after their cars, trucks and crossovers have been reparied in accordance with two Toyota recalls.

“There has been a great deal of confusion, speculation and misinformation about unintended acceleration in the past several weeks,” declared Steve St. Angelo, who was recently named Toyota’s North American quality czar. “We believe judgments should be based on reliable evidence, and our SMART business process is there to help provide information upon which such judgments can be made.”

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In a release, St. Angelo pointed to two recent cases, one in San Diego, the other in upstate New York, in which it appears the Toyota vehicles likely weren’t at fault.  There is some evidence to suggest the California case was either a hoax or driver error, while the East Coast incident was likely the result of a driver confusing the brake and accelerator pedals.

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Toyota May Have a Fix for its Accelerator Fix

Maker will install new pedal if accelerator repair doesn’t work.

by on Mar.24, 2010

Toyota may have a new fix for cars that weren't fixed by the first fix.

A growing number of Toyota owners are complaining that the prescribed fix for a sticky accelerator isn’t working – and that’s prompting the embattled automaker to come up with a fix for the fix.

So far, Toyota has announced two separate recalls, since last October, to deal with complaints about so-called unintended acceleration, an issue now linked to dozens of deaths and a growing number of accidents.  In the most recent service action, announced on January 21, and originally involving 2.3 million vehicle,, the maker said it would fix potentially sticky accelerator pedals on eight models by inserting a small metal shim designed to resist binding.

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But since repairs began, federal regulators have received more than 100 complaints by owners of Toyoa vehicles who say the fix did not solve their problem with sudden acceleration.  Now Toyota say it will replace the pedal assembly entirely, if necessary.

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Toyota Not Ready With Fix for Prius “Carpet Entrapment” Recall

Maker focusing on other safety campaigns first.

by on Mar.11, 2010

Toyota has yet to begin repairing '07 - '10 Prius hybrids for a "carpet entrapment" problem.

Though Toyota announced the recall of 2007 through early 2010 Prius sedans, back in October, to fix a problem with so-called “pedal  entrapment,” the maker says it is still not ready to start making repairs to the hybrid.

There is no set date, but “we’re hoping very soon” to notify owners to begin bringing their Prius sedans into service centers for repairs, Sean Gilligan, a Toyota field technical specialist, tells TheDetroitBureau.com.

Part of what is known internally as the “90L” recall, the broader recall campaign was announced last October. It targets vehicles where accelerator pedals can inadvertently be jammed open by loose carpet or mats.  Originally, Toyota said that 3.8 million vehicles, including Camry and Avalon, as  well as Prius, were affected by the problem.  Since the beginning of the year, the automaker has expanded the number of models covered by the recall to more than 5 million.

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There were several challenges, Gilligan explains, before the recall can be completed.  First, Toyota has had to identify the problem, then develop a fix which can vary by model.  The carmaker started by focusing on higher-volume models, like Camry and Avalon.

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Electronics Meltdown?

Toyota hearing raise new question about in-car electronics.

by on Feb.23, 2010

It may look like a simple mechanical device but behind this pedal, Toyota (like other automakers) has wired up a spider's web of electronic controls.

The ongoing Toyota safety crisis is putting the spotlight on the use of electronic controls for critical vehicle systems such as brakes and throttle.  During today’s hearings, on Capitol Hill, testimony raised serious questions about Toyota’s claims that it had developed a safe and reliable engine controller that could and would not cause vehicles to unexpectedly surge out of control.

Whether or not the automaker is ultimately cleared, with more electronic content in cars today, especially as electronic systems replace mechanical functions, a fundamental question has arisen: Are automakers equipped with the right tools to design and develop these digital systems — and, more importantly, do they have the right testing mentality?

(A university professor’s 3-hour experiment could show that Toyota electronic systems are flawed. Click Here for that story.)

The electrical and electronics complexity inside cars today is enormous, and with relentless attention focused on fuel economy, reduced emissions and improvements in safety, it’s unlikely to abate.  By some estimates, as much as 40% of the value of some premium cars will be in the onboard electronic systems by mid-decade.  It’s like having a full computer network on wheels.

“Frequently a single function – braking, for example – involves multiple electronic control units (ECUs), as well as a lot of application software, communication software stacks, and operating systems,” explains Serge Leef, vice president at Mentor Graphics. His firm markets software that car makers use to verify that the communications between ECUs are transmitted and received accurately and on time.

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“There may be one ECU that controls the brake pedal, another for tire rotation information, and another responsible for braking signals – and it’s quite possible that all three ECUs come from different vendors. When you consider what happens when the driver hits the brakes, the opportunities for error from network communication inside the vehicle are phenomenal,” Leef says.

“If all the computers involved come from different sources, and the only way they know how to communicate is because the automaker gave the suppliers specifications for the type and timing of each message, the first time that everything comes together is in the automaker’s lab.”

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Toyota President Akio Toyoda Apologizes For Recalls – Even As More Problems Surface

Still no decision on how to handle Prius brake defects.

by on Feb.05, 2010

How do you say "mea culpa" in Japanese? Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda apologized for the company's ongoing safety problems.

The yen stops here, according to Akio Toyoda, the president and CEO of Toyota Motor Co., and heir to the carmaker’s founding family today apologizing for the company’s safety problems.

“Many customers are wondering whether their cars are OK,” the chief executive acknowledged, saying “I offer my apologies for the worries.”

Speaking in a mix of Japanese and English, the executive tried to put a concerned face on the company’s mounting problems, which have led to the recall of about 10 million vehicles since last October, and which are being linked to a variety of new issues including what Toyota now admits was a defect in the braking system of its most visible offering, the hybrid Prius sedan.

“Please believe me. We always put customers first,” Toyoda said, turning to English, during a hastily staged news conference.

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The chief executive of the world’s largest automaker said, meanwhile, that Toyota has not yet decided how to handle problems with the Prius.  After repeatedly downplaying owner reports of problems, the maker yesterday confirmed that it had uncovered a defect that can cause brakes on the hybrid to release for a second.  Toyota has made changes meant to prevent the problem on vehicles it has been building since sometime in January, but it has so far declined to order a recall of 270,000 2010 Prius sedans already sold.  Meanwhile, the automaker is looking to see if a similar problem plagues the dedicated Lexus hybrid, the HS250h, which the upscale brand introduced last year.

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Toyota Expands Recall; Rental Firms Pull Toyotas

by on Jan.28, 2010

Yet another million vehicles added to recall list, while daily rental companies pull Toyotas from their fleets.

The blowback from Toyota’s recent spate of safety recalls keeps mounting – as does the actual number of vehicles involved.

The automaker has quietly revealed that the recall it first announced last October is expanding by another 1.1 million cars, trucks and crossovers.  At the time, Toyota said it would need to make safety-related repairs to 3.8 million vehicles in which it determined floor mats might inadvertently “entrap” accelerator pedals, leading to a loss of control.  That number was previously increased to 4.2 million and now stands at 5.3 million Toyota products.

Meanwhile, a number of major car rental chains have announced they will be removing Toyota products from their fleets in a move one firm described as “an abundance of caution.

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“It’s bad,” said Dave Sargent, head of automotive research for J.D. Power and Associates.  “Their image and their success has been based on building high-quality, safe and reliable products.”

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Consumer Reports Shows Toyota Dominates Sudden Acceleration Complaints

Ford also on list, says non-profit group, but Toyota stands out.

by on Dec.08, 2009

Toyota accounted for a disproportionate share of complaints to federal regulators about sudden acceleration.

Toyota accounted for a disproportionate amount of complaints about sudden acceleration.

Since problems with the Audi 5000 first put the term, “sudden acceleration,” in the public lexicon, consumers have filed complaints about virtually every automaker on the market.  But a study of federal safety records from 2008 show that an overwhelming number of those complaints target a single manufacturer: Toyota.

A search of 5,916 complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year shows that Toyota and its luxury brand, Lexus, account for 41% of all those incidents that appear to involve unintended acceleration, according to an extensive study conducted by Consumer Reports.

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In October, Toyota announced that it would recall 3.8 million vehicles which it said could have driver floor mats jam the accelerator pedal – creating a situation like sudden acceleration.  The recall was triggered by the growing body of complaints filed with NHTSA – and news reports of an accident in which a California state trooper and three members of his family were killed in the fiery crash of a Lexus ES350.

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