Our Point of View: What We Are Doing to Get Back on Track

March 23, 2010

by Michael Rouse

There has been a great deal of confusion, speculation and misinformation about our recent recalls – much of it in the media or as a result of unsupported claims about “unintended acceleration” caused by our electronics.
We want to set the record straight and tell you the actions we are taking to get back on track.
Update on Recalls
First – regarding our recalls, we are making an all-out effort to address the two specific mechanical causes of unintended acceleration we’ve identified – the potential for unsecured or incompatible floor mats to trap the accelerator pedal and rare instances of sticking accelerator pedals.
We have rigorously engineered and tested our solutions and they are effective and durable – we are confident that they work.  Both fixes are well under way and we are doing everything we can, as fast as we can, to make things right for our customers.
And our dealers continue to make extraordinary efforts to complete the recalls as quickly and conveniently as possible for vehicle owners, with some even staying open 24/7 to get the job done. So far, they’ve repaired more than one million vehicles for the sticking accelerator pedal recall in just a few weeks and more than half a million vehicles subject to the floor mats recall.
No Flaws Found in our Electronic Systems
Second – regarding our electronic throttle control system, we have sold more than 40 million cars and trucks with ETCS and we’re very confident that the system is not the cause of alleged unintended acceleration.
Toyota engineers have repeatedly and rigorously tested our ETCS and have never found a single case of unintended acceleration due to a defect in the system.
Three things ensure this absolute reliability. The first is the fail-safe mechanisms we build into the design to shut off or reduce engine power in the event of a failure – and they do work.  Second is its tolerance to extreme environmental conditions, including electromagnetic interference.  And third is its resistance to software problems. 
Toyota takes all complaints of unintended acceleration seriously and will investigate them quickly by deploying teams of engineers and technicians to examine the vehicle and share our findings with safety officials. 
We will continue to search for any event in which a failure could occur – even though time and again we have not found that to be the case. 
In order to further validate the safety of our ETCS, we have opened our electronics to independent external review in the interests of full transparency.
We also have asked Exponent, a world-class engineering and scientific consulting firm, to conduct its own independent, comprehensive evaluation.
Exponent was unable to induce unintended acceleration in any of the Toyota or Lexus vehicles it investigated in the first phase of its study.
Our new, independent North American Quality Advisory Panel also will evaluate our ETCS and the findings of both studies will be made public.
We’re Making Fundamental Changes to be More Responsive
Third - We are making fundamental changes in the way our company operates in order to ensure that Toyota sets an even higher standard for vehicle safety and reliability, responsiveness to customers and transparency with regulators.
At a global level, we have established a Special Committee for Global Quality, led by Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda, which will thoroughly review our operations.
We are also putting a system in place to better share important quality and safety information across our global operations and to work more closely and transparently with government agencies, including NHTSA in the United States.
At a regional level, we will ensure that our customers’ voices will be heard and acted upon in a timely manner. 
We are establishing the new position of Regional Product Safety Executive, and our North American operations will have more autonomy and decision-making power with regard to recall and other safety issues. 
We will establish a new Automotive Center of Quality Excellence in the U.S., where a team of our top engineers will focus on strengthening our quality control throughout the region. 
And, an independent North American Quality Advisory Panel led by former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater will advise the company on quality and safety issues.
At the customer level, we are taking significant steps to bolster confidence in the safety and reliability of our vehicles.
Toyota will be one of the first full-line automakers to make brake-override systems standard on all our new models sold in North America by the end of 2010, and our hybrids already have a system that achieves a similar result.   We also are installing brake override on seven existing models.  
In addition, we are making greater use of event data recorders other improved vehicle diagnostic tools.
Unintended Acceleration is Complex, Beware of a Rush to Judgment 
Unintended acceleration is a complex issue of great importance, and rushing to judgment on the basis of unfounded theories – as some media and others have done – is a disservice to the public.
For example, the public and Congress were misled in February by a claim by Professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University Carbondale that he had induced unintended acceleration in a Toyota without leaving a trace.
A comprehensive analysis by Exponent and testing by Toyota established that Prof. Gilbert had rewired and reengineered the vehicle’s electronics in multiple ways and in a specific sequence under conditions that are virtually impossible to duplicate in the real world.
ABC News dramatized its report of Prof. Gilbert’s artificial manipulation using fabricated footage to show an engine speed surge on the tachometer that was actually filmed while the vehicle was standing still. We’ve asked ABC News to retract the story and issue an apology.
And Sean Kane, an advocate for trial lawyers suing Toyota who financed Prof. Gilbert’s work, misleadingly told Congress that the event could only happen in a Toyota.
Mr.  Kane was wrong – Exponent and Toyota reproduced the Gilbert experiment in seven other makes of vehicle with broadly similar results.
It’s important to note that Mr. Kane has never demonstrated that Toyota’s electronics are a cause of unintended acceleration – never.
The case of James Sikes and his “runaway Prius” in March is another example of rushing to judgment without the facts.
Toyota investigators and NHTSA inspectors both examined the vehicle and found that it operates as designed – including its hybrid brake override system.
The vehicle diagnostics we downloaded showed the accelerator and brake pedals had been applied more than 250 times over a very short period.
So the way the event that Mr. Sikes says happened was conveyed through the media is inconsistent with the empirical findings of the investigation.
We Stumbled; We’ve Learned; We Aim to Set New Standards 
We acknowledge that we stumbled with our recent recalls and we have learned the lessons – and now we are working hand-in-hand with our team members, our dealers and our suppliers to make sure that Toyota sets the industry benchmark for safety and quality.
We’ve been in the business of providing Americans with safe, reliable cars and trucks for 50 years – and that doesn’t happen without great quality, outstanding engineering and a robust safety record. And, fully 80 percent of the Toyotas sold in America in the past 20 years are still on the road today.
Many consumers tell us over and again that they believe Toyota has been over-scrutinized and that they remain very confident in the safety our products – as we are.
Our dealers are telling us that customers are coming back and are comfortable with Toyota now that the facts are coming out, and we’re also seeing many consumers come in and shop Toyota for the first time.
Actions speak louder than words and we are taking strong actions to get back on track and better serve our customers.

Michael Rouse
Vice President, Philanthropy & Community Affairs
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Displaying comments 1 - 5 of 32:

B. Lynch said...
Poetic justice is universial and even applies to multinationals sooner or later! Toyota had an oppertunity to refute safety claims before the US parliamentary committee but did not. This was the forum to defend Toyota and not this pathetic blog facilitating spin!
6/1/10 at 12:00 AM

Rover said...
Thanks for the update!
5/17/10 at 12:00 AM

Diana Akopyan said...
I'm tired of all this ugly news coverage and unfair treatment for Toyota. The intelligent people know the truth. I have been Toyota and Lexus owner and will always be. I think you will just increase your standards and you are looking for growth years ahead. Please, continue to move move forward and invest in a new green technologies and just keep up your best work. This ugly histeria is not going to help the dying American Car industry. It will help if you will lower the prices for Lexus and make entry level Lexus model cost less.
5/16/10 at 12:00 AM

Steven said...
And YOUR name is ?
5/14/10 at 12:00 AM

Steven said...
NOT being selfish - Just stating the facts !!!!!!
5/12/10 at 12:00 AM

Louise Rosen said...
I have a 1995 Camry LE, 6 cyl, bought from a prior owner at 169,000 miles. It now has almost 300,000 on it and going strong. It looks great, drives great, no rattles or squeaks, gets 30 mpg on S CA freeways and I'm driving it to Montana (round trip of 2600 miles) in a couple of weeks. I TRUST MY TOYOTA! I have great confidence in your products and will buy Toyota - ALWAYS! Please contact me if you want to use my statement. These Camry's are great cars!
4/26/10 at 12:00 AM

Robin Altman said...
GM is now targeting Lexus/Toyota owners with 60 month 0% financing OR 1000.00 cash back. Of course they claim my old truck is not worth very much. - I'm getting tired of the pricing agencies undervaluing anything made by Toyota! For a new truck, why would I want a 292 HP @5200 RPM (5.3L iron block) engine when I can get a 381 HP engine from Toyota? I see GM is finally offering a 6-speed auto transmission in a truck. These guys still have no clue - their extended cab still has suicide doors and they still don't make use of all of the wasted space in truck doors. I wonder if that new engine for the LFA would fit in my Tundra?
4/26/10 at 12:00 AM

Used Lexus said...
Yes paul! same with me too...they are very dependable and trustworthy than any other brand. have been with them since years Have bought a used car recently from usedcars.lexus.co.uk and was very happy with the service and the car...Just love the brand..there must be some minor defect in the technology thats making the car accelerate out of control...IMO
4/22/10 at 12:00 AM

JB said...
I've owned two Toyotas and love both of them. This whole issue has been grossly mishandled by Toyota, but mostly by the devious media. My 2002 Toyota Tacoma 2wd truck has 391,000 km on it and runs like the day I bought it. Just tires, oil changes, brakes and part of the exhaust at 340,000 km. The Camry is a 2006 and it's a great car with no problems whatsoever. Thank you Toyota, you have a longtime customer here. We're looking at possibly the Venza next time. Cambridge and Woodstock plants do a great job and employ thousands of Canadians.
4/21/10 at 12:00 AM

Robin Altman said...
While I love my 2008 Tundra DC, I do wish I had the Tow Mirrors. Since I only have 3 wires going to my regular mirrors I cannot use the 296.00 EACH mirrors(Police would spot the non-working signal lamps on the mirrors and give me a ticket). To get the Tow Mirrors to work properly you must have either the 8 or 12 wire harness. For the 2011 models I'd like to see the Tow Mirrors(TM) standard with the Tow Package OR install the 8/12 wiring harness to the doors and install the regular mirrors. There is no difference in the feel of the pedal after the fix has been applied.
4/20/10 at 12:00 AM

Brian said...
After reading all of the media hype on the recalls, I became worried about Toyota quality (after 14 years in Toyota cars/trucks...all trouble-free I might add). So when I was looking for a new full-size truck, I put Ford and Chevy against Toyota. No contest, Toyota still has what it takes. The Tundra is awesome, and is now sitting in my driveway. Keep making excellent quality cars and trucks, and I'll keep buying. Nothing but Toyota for me after 14 years behind the wheel of Toyota products. I also like that my Tundra has more American-made parts than Ford, Chevy, Dodge, or Nissan.
4/20/10 at 12:00 AM

charles c. said...
Question can anyone tell me if any of the vehicles that have compleated the accelerator adjustment process have reported further speed control issues?
4/11/10 at 12:00 AM

:) said...
stop being selfish
4/8/10 at 12:00 AM

Steven said...
See my reply to Dee
4/6/10 at 12:00 AM

Steven said...
When will you redirect your incentives to those of us who currently own recalled vehciles. My 2010 Toyota Highlander Limited that I purchased in late December 2009 is subject to 2 recall & it is only 3 months old. Quit ignoring your current customers by concentrating on obtaining new customers. Don't foget, it is cheaper to keep a current customer than to obtain a new one. Where is the love for your current customers???????????
4/6/10 at 12:00 AM

edvard said...
I've been a lifelong Toyota owner. I have a 96' Tacoma with a 4 cylinder engine built at the now-closed NUMMI plant. It has 230,000 miles so far and runs great. But... If there's one thing that bothers me its that Toyota- and all the other automakers for that matter- seem to be ignoring the small diesel truck market. I've been waiting years for a small efficient no-frills diesel truck. YEARS. Toyota has these trucks in other countries but not here. Ironically the only company coming out with one is an almost unheard of ( to Americans) company called Mahindra. They are bringing a small diesel truck that not only gets good fuel economy, but also looks and and acts like a truck. It even has tiedowns on the outside of the bed. That's what people like me want. Not a grocery-getter. But a true, honest, get-the-job-done truck. With the Tacoma, the only choices are either the smaller model with a 4 cylinder that gets just OK fuel economy or the V6 models that get truly AWFUL economy that is often worse than even some of the V8s out there. 15-18MPG for a V6 is unacceptable. Unless Toyota can get it together and deliver s small diesel, I might actually try Mahindra. If you make a small diesel, you will have a real winner on your hands.
4/6/10 at 12:00 AM

Matt said...
Another happy Toyota customer right here. Have had multiple Toyota vehicles and am looking at adding a Lexus to the collection. With the irresponsible reporting by the media, I believe Toyota needs to do more to set the record straight. There is a lot of misinformation out there causing unjustified fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Mr. Kane and Gilbert were definitely suspicious from the beginning, however a lot of people have only heard "their" (litigious) side of the "story" and not yet the true facts. Additionally, hopefully ABC News issues a retraction and formal apology very soon. The true intent of the report was not the error codes (ABC News is hiding their intent by using "error codes" as a distraction). The intent was to show a Toyota accelerating out of control. People may never get the real facts unless it is strongly communicated to them, which is definitely not an easy task and requires delicate treatment. It can certainly be done, while at the same time showing class as well. There can only be positive outcomes from all of this. Toyota is doing even more than ever to focus on quality, and I can get a great deal on a new one! Thank you to Toyota, ... and especially ABC News, Mr. Kane, and Mr. Gilbert.
4/2/10 at 12:00 AM

Mike Tower said...
I have a good friend who fell for all the negative publicity and traded in her two year old Tundra for a new Ford F-150 last month. She is so unhappy with the Ford that all she keeps saying is "I want my Tundra back". The Ford has already been in for repairs twice in less than 700 miles. She told me that she could not find one thing about the Ford that she liked better than the Tundra. I told her that she ought to offer to make a commercial for Toyota and just tell her story exactly as she told me. I am in the process of contacting the local Toyota dealership to see if they will try to work out something to get her back in a Tundra. It might be a bit difficult because the Ford and Toyota dealers are both owned by the same folks?
3/31/10 at 12:00 AM

T. Smith said...
My 1999 Camry Solara still runs great and I am 1000 miles from reaching 300,000 miles. I feel this would make an excellent addition to a Toyota commercial. You have my email, if interested, let's talk. It helps that I've kept it looking good too.
3/31/10 at 12:00 AM

John said...
What really irritates me is my new Camry with 2000 miles on it needed to be driven around without the floormat for a few months. The carpet is a little dirty from this. Do you think Toyota had the sense or courtesy to run a shampoo machine over it to restore it to new condition ? No. They are more worried about incentives for new buyers that to spend 5 minutes on me.
3/27/10 at 12:00 AM

Matt said...
I LOVE the Toyota brand, and I am confident you will get back on track. It's unfortunate that some false claims have caused controversy. However, with all that said, I think that in certain ways Toyota has done a bad job of handling these problems. I mean, coming here and reading these press releases one might think that all the claims were false or just no big deal. But the fact is that Toyota vehicles did ENDANGER MANY LIVES and I know if I had one of the affected vehicles that I would not take kindly to the way Toyota has dismissed concerns. Can't you be a little more humble, Toyota, and admit that many people died or could have died because of your errors? That might start to repair the broken relationship that you have with your customers (me included). I want to trust Toyota again because I totally love your cars but how about you take the first step and admit that many people were hurt because of the errors?
3/26/10 at 12:00 AM

Gil Champagne said...
It's good to finally read something from Toyota that speaks firmly about the false claims being made. Please do it far more frequently. Part of the problem, as I'm sure you aware now, is that communicating a message today must happen much more quickly, more authoritatively and much broader. One thing that puzzles me is why aren't you doing more to stand on facts in your advertising. Yes loyalty is important. After all, I agree it built your brand. But right now, the message should be about facts. Facts about the true extant of the problems. Just like you have now shared with us above. That should be in your media mix I believe.
3/25/10 at 12:00 AM

Paul Nguyen said...
i wont buy nothing but Toyota. im very confindent on Toyta product.
3/25/10 at 12:00 AM

Paul Nguyen said...
i wont buy nothing but Toyota. im very confindent on Toyta product.
3/25/10 at 12:00 AM

sean t said...
I believe that Toyota will get back on track soon, very soon.
3/24/10 at 12:00 AM

Donna Langton said...
My husband and I purchased a 2010 Limited Highlander in January. We traded in our 2005 Highlander. I loved the 2005 and I love the new improved Highlander. We have also owned 2 Camrys, 1 Tundra and 1 Tacoma. We trust Toyota vehicles. Our new car was involved in the recall. It has been repaired..and I am confident that it is. Thank you for making great automobiles
3/23/10 at 12:00 AM

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