Sunday, February 13, 2011

Government Probe Finds no Link Between Electronics and Unintended Acceleration in Toyota and Lexus Vehicles

A 10-month long probe done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NASA found no link between software-driven throttles and unintended acceleration in Toyota Motor Corp vehicles. The investigation concluded that the previously suspected sticking accelerator pedals and loose floor mats are to blame for the unfortunate incidents, which allegedly caused some 89 deaths.

“There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas”, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

While the result of the government inquiry on this matter is in Toyota’s favor, the Japanese maker is still not off the hook. First of all, Toyota has been found 'guilty' in regards of the two mechanical safety defects including the 'sticky' accelerator pedals and a design flaw that allowed the floor mat to trap the accelerator pedal.

Besides losing massive amounts of money due to having recalled nearly 8 million vehicles in 2009 and 2010, the automaker also had to pay almost US$50 million in fines and lawsuit settlements. And that’s not the end of it, as there are still many cases in federal and state courts, which have an estimated potential liability of up to US$10 billion.

Last but not least, the government may demand that all vehicles must be equipped with braking systems capable of automatically counteracting unintended acceleration, which could deliver another blow to Toyota’s budget.

In response to the NHTSA/NASA study, 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”, Mr. Angelo concluded.

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