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January 30, 2010


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How bout the latest update of Toyota? Have they responded clearly about the results?

As your post and news reports point out, the recall is far from voluntary. The Detroit News reported that Toyota is legally required to discontinue sales since no fix is available. Toyota first consulted the NHTSA, which informed it of its legal obligations. That led to the embarrassing spectacle of Toyota spokesman Mike Michels describing the recall as voluntary, while admitting the recall was legally compelled.

Toyota has yet to explain why it continued selling the recalled cars five days after the recall's announcement.

Early on, Toyota made the classic move of blaming its supplier, which promptly threw the blame back by disclosing that its parts were manufactured to Toyota's own design specifications.

The PR model Toyota must be most concerned with is Audi, which took 10-15 years to recover from faked 60 Minutes footage showing unintended acceleration, even after the NHTSA exonerated Audi with an operator-error determination.

Toyota's biggest PR problem isn't the recall itself, but that it might have denied & covered up the need for one. A damning LA Times article ( http://bit.ly/dlXDma ) claims the company knew about these problems for years but only began recalls late last year:

"A peerless reputation for quality and safety has helped Toyota become the world's largest automaker. But even as its sales have soared, the company has delayed recalls, kept a tight lid on disclosure of potential problems and attempted to blame human error in cases where owners claimed vehicle defects."

"After Toyota this fall announced its biggest recall to address the sudden-acceleration problem, it insisted publicly that no defect existed. That drew a rare public rebuke from the [NHTSA], which chastised the automaker for making 'inaccurate and misleading statements.' "

The Times' investigation claimed that:

"The automaker knew of a dangerous steering defect in vehicles including the 4Runner sport utility vehicle for years before issuing a recall in Japan in 2004. But it told regulators no recall was necessary in the U.S., despite having received dozens of complaints from drivers. Toyota said a subsequent investigation led it to order a U.S. recall in 2005."

"Toyota has paid cash settlements to people who say their vehicles have raced out of control, sometimes causing serious accidents, according to consumers and their attorneys. Other motorists who complained of acceleration problems with their vehicles have received buybacks under lemon laws."

"Although the sudden acceleration issue erupted publicly only in recent months, it has been festering for nearly a decade. A computerized search of NHTSA records by The Times has found Toyota issued eight previous recalls related to unintended acceleration since 2000, more than any other automaker."

"A former Toyota lawyer who handled safety litigation has sued the automaker, accusing it of engaging in a "calculated conspiracy to prevent the disclosure of damaging evidence" as part of a scheme to "prevent evidence of its vehicles' structural shortcomings from becoming known" to plaintiffs lawyers, courts, NHTSA and the public."

Toyota took the unusual step of calling out the LA Times for attacking it, and publicly posting the newspaper's original interview questions, along with the company's responses, on its media Web site (http://bit.ly/5yTmYg).
Edmunds Auto Observer ( http://bit.ly/88QeO7 ) reports that "The automaker told USA Today...that it recognized the problem as long ago as late 2008 but hadn't seen enough problems to issue a recall. A Toyota spokesman told the newspaper it has no direct reports of injuries or deaths.

"But the day Toyota announced the recall, ABC News broadcasted [sic] a report, prepared before the recall announcement, linking the problem to four deaths. In that case, a Toyota Avalon sped out of control into a pond, killing all four passengers. When police popped the trunk, they found the floormats."

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