NHTSA and NASA Say Toyota Electronic Throttles Are Just Fine

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Today, NHTSA announced that Toyota’s electronic throttles aren’t responsible for any instance of unintended acceleration – at least not any instance that NHTSA could study. According to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:

“The jury is back. The verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas. Period…Our conclusion — that Toyota’s problems were mechanical, not electrical — comes after one of the most exhaustive, thorough and intensive research efforts ever undertaken.” [From Detroit News]

Let me say that one more time: after one of the most exhaustive, thorough, and intensive research efforts ever undertaken, NHTSA couldn’t find one flipping thing wrong with Toyota’s electronic systems.

This news comes as no surprise – in July 2010, early results from the NHTSA investigation were leaked to the New York Times. These early results showed that, in the vast majority of cases, unintended acceleration was caused by “pedal misapplication” (that’s safety-nerd-speak for “foot on the wrong pedal.”

NHTSA’s team of investigators, working with experts from NASA, couldn’t find one single shred of evidence to support accusations of electronic throttle problems.

Not one.

It turns out that the early analysis offered – over-sized floor mats, improperly placed floor mats, the rare “sticking pedal”, and driver confusion – were indeed the cause of all of these complaints. The questions are, now that this crisis is over:

  1. What will Toyota do to put this information in front of the public?
  2. How many people who argued that Toyota was at fault – or at the very least got caught up in all this mindless hysteria – will admit they were wrong?
  3. How many people will ignore this information because it suits their financial purpose?

Sean Kane, a supposed “auto safety” consultant, continues to say that Toyota’s electronics are at fault (link). This is the same Sean Kane who gets his checks from product liability lawyers suing Toyota for billions…but why is anyone listening to him now that he’s clearly been proven wrong?

LA Times Continues To Hint At Problems

First up on our list of people who clearly got it wrong, we have Ken Bensigner and Ralph Vartabedian of the L.A. Times – the two men who “cracked the case” on Toyota throttle problems in late 2009. Earlier today, they published an article quoting Sean Kane stating that these findings could somehow be incorrect…as if Sean Kane and his legion of litigators could somehow uncover a problem that NASA, NHTSA, MIT, Exponent, Toyota, and a few other entities all missed.


Today, I sent the following email to Bensinger and Vartabedian:

Sean Kane is demonstrably not an expert in automotive safety matters – at least not a competent expert. For more than a year, you have been asking Sean for his opinion on Toyota’s supposed safety problems, yet the following has occurred:

1. Sean Kane has admitted to working for product liability attorneys actively suing Toyota
2. Sean Kane and his team have never produced hard evidence of any Toyota problems
3. Sean Kane’s principal accusations against Toyota have been evaluated and dismissed by dozens of experts

Why, exactly, is he considered a legitimate source?

Also, why haven’t you continued to interview Richard Schmidt? According to one of your articles from November 09′:

“Richard Schmidt, a former UCLA psychology professor and now an auto industry consultant specializing in human motor skills, said the problem almost always lies with drivers who step on the wrong pedal”

He seems to know his business, wouldn’t you say?

In my view, you two are largely responsible for causing the entire Toyota throttle mess. I think your decision to trust Kane was sloppy, and I think your decision to continue to quote Kane despite the fact that he is clearly not a competent source is, at best, negligent.

Your actions and your poor reporting caused a lot of unnecessary problems for Toyota employees and vehicle owners. You should be embarrassed – and ashamed.

While I’m no journalist, I don’t think I’d keep quoting a guy after it became clear he was obviously wrong. But, maybe that’s why I’m no journalist.


Filed Under: Auto News


RSSComments (10)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. BobG says:

    I think most of us here knew all along this was nothing more than a witch hunt designed to take sales away from Toyota to help prop up “Government Motors”.

  2. JimS says:

    Just what I have thought all along. Now, I have this shortened pedal who’s bottom edge catches on the lugs of my boots.

  3. Jason (Admin) says:

    BobG – That’s definitely a possibility. LaHood’s response to the crisis was politically charged, and I’ve often wondered if he would have responded the same way had it been Ford instead of Toyota.

    JimS – Toyota was forced to do *something* to make regulators happy. I highly doubt that cutting all those accelerator pedals helped prevent problems, but it probably made NHTSA feel better.

  4. Rich says:

    Do they give Toyota back the civil penalty? Hence, another example of the media leading the public. Politicians fold all of the time to the subjective media base…what a joke!

  5. Jason (Admin) says:

    Rich – Nope! NHTSA kept all $48 million.

    The politicians in this whole thing really sucked, but I can’t say that I’m surprised. It’s relatively easy to pick on a little guy from Japan that doens’t speak English very well, and it really plays well in the rust belt. Gotta get the votes, right? 🙂

    I console myself with the knowledge that this fiasco has in all likelihood strengthened Toyota. Their culture seems to be shifting, and they’ve made some long-needed adjustments (more regional autonomy, more US production). If Toyota does a good job of telling everyone about this, they should come out ahead in the end.

  6. Danny says:

    this sums it it the best, “I told you so!”
    just another reason you cant trust a lawer, the media or a politician.

  7. tmac says:

    where’s all the haters now ????
    nothing to say i guess ….

  8. BobG says:

    Government Motors noun 1. An automobile manufacturer that became unable to compete in the free marketplace and had to be subsidized by the federal government to continue operations. Inability to compete caused by: 1) Inferior products. 2) Lack of product reliability. 3) Overburdened with labor costs and lavish retirement plans, due to extortion-like tactics of the labor unions.
    These companies, ignoring the obvious, blame their insolvency on incorrectly perceived unfairness by competitors or possibly spells cast by bad fairies.

  9. Jason (Admin) says:

    tmac – Word

    BobG – In defense of GM, everything is moving in a much more positive direction now than ever before. However, they still depend on fleet sales, pushing volume rather than meeting demand, and big trucks/SUVs. It will be interesting to see if the culture of blame at GM and the culture of entitlement at the UAW will disappear. As a taxpayer and part owner, I’d like to see that happen.

    Good comment.

  10. TXTee says:

    I never changed my pedal and requested they NOT mess with my truck. Go figure….

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 Email -- 0 Flares ×