Toyota confronts its clueless customers

TOKYO -- If you missed Toyota’s latest missive to concerned customers, here’s the gist:

Today’s newfangled cars are so high-tech, there is a lot going on under the hood that most people just don’t understand. So when your engine suddenly revs, don’t panic.

It’s likely due to something quite normal and innocuous, rather than the dreaded unintended-acceleration demon. And Toyota goes on to list possible causes for the phenomenon -- cold start idle-up, transmission shift, power steering idle-up, air-conditioning idle-up, etc.

The release was titled, “Why is my car doing this?”

Now, if you’re saying "duh!" consider what Toyota’s dealing with:

Since the sudden-acceleration debate flared in the winter, Toyota has examined more than 4,000 complaints about cars having a mind of their own. Besides finding customers befuddled by an assortment of idle-up scenarios, they are still finding customers who stack their floor mats.

This was months after the company implored people to take the carpets out and get them fixed!

Back in January, just before Toyota’s recall crisis spiraled out of control, executives in Japan took pains not to blame the customer. One even asked me not to report that he thought most cases -- by far -- were due to driver error, because that would be insulting.

But as their recent release shows, Toyota is coming to grips with just how clueless some customers can be. And with federal regulators giving the carmaker’s electronics a clean bill of health so far, look for Toyota to become more assertive in running a driver-error defense.