Toyota gambles in declaring victory over unintended acceleration
Hans Greimel is Asia editor for Automotive News.
By repeatedly asserting that it has pinpointed the two root causes of sudden-acceleration problems, Toyota is making a high-stakes gamble with its remaining credibility.
Allegations that Toyota’s electronic control system is to blame have dogged the company for years as complaints about unintended acceleration piled up. Toyota consistently stood by its technology, saying it employs multiple fail-safes and has withstood repeated testing.
Indeed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has said it cannot find any evidence that a defective electronic throttle control triggered the runaway cars.
Seeking closure, Toyota now has declared final victory by targeting floor mats and a defective pedal. The floor mats can jam the gas pedal, and a defective part can make the pedal stick.
“We've studied the events of unintended acceleration, and we're quite clear that it's come down to two different issues,” Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said Monday on NBC's “Today” show. “Between those two things, this will be under control.”
But NHTSA says the case is far from closed.
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation said it is -- again -- looking into whether the unintended acceleration can be traced to defects in the electronic controls.
Toyota already has confused shareholders, dealers and customers by rolling out different explanations for the problem. Last fall, it said the problem was floor mats. Last month it conceded there was another problem: a rare glitch in which gas pedals can become stuck while returning to idle.
If another “root” cause is dug up now, it will be a disturbing strike three for Toyota.
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