First, Congress: House investigators, led by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), last week accused Toyota of totally failing to address the still-unanswered problems of unintended acceleration. Further, they found the company hired to do a comprehensive and independent review (Exponent, Inc.) was altering and withholding documents, had no bona fide work plan, and was under contract to Toyota’s legal team hired to defend against class action suits that might be forthcoming.
Mr. Waxman has detailed his objections here, and that document is a very good summary of Toyota’s gross failure, so far, to get to the bottom of the acceleration problems. I urge you to read it.
These developments finally got the attention of major media and the auto press last week. Lawmakers were steaming, but any assistance from NHTSA in studying the problem may be deferred until after August 31, as their study is taking more time than planned.
Declining sales: In March the company began issuing big buyer incentives, and they did work for a while. Evidence now is that the program has already made its impact and is fading. Toyota-brand sales are down 17 percent compared to last month. Sales of Lexus in the U.S., however, are up 22 percent.
But that brand has its own ongoing troubles, the latest being a recall of some 11,000 cars (worldwide) to fix a steering problem in the 2009-2010 Lexus LS 460 (right) and 600h L, its highest priced sedans. In some cars when the wheel is cranked hard over to left or right, it fails to return to the center position.
Some might find that a bit unnerving, especially if the car is under way, but consider the “lurching Lexus,” whose behavior caused great concern to Lexus engineers—yet the cars were allowed to go into production anyway.
As reported by the L.A. Times, these were the 2002-2006 Lexus ES models, and “thousands of Lexus buyers” would become victim to transmission problems that caused the car to hesitate, lurch forward, or shift gears roughly.
While the company struggled to figure out the problem over the years, one of its staff attorneys wrote in August 2005 that
The objective will be to limit the number of vehicles to be serviced to those owners who complain, and to limit the per-vehicle cost.
And if you didn’t complain loudly enough, you didn’t get the 2003 software upgrade (which many said didn’t work anyway). Those transmission problems may be tied into the unintended acceleration issues that have also plagued the ES.
NHTSA instituted three “defect investigations” on those ES cars, all were dismissed, yet 49 injuries and one death were blamed on “acceleration problems” in the ES, and no one has the answers yet.
Toyota so far has brought little to the table, and what has appeared isn’t appetizing. I say if it smells bad, don’t eat it.
Should Toyota be fined again for its unconscionable stalling and deception? Will your next car be a Toyota?