Thursday, January 28, 2010

Much ado about Toyota


(Accelerator pedal in a 2010 Lexus GX 460 - and no, it didn't stick.)

The past few days have been nothing but hell for Toyota, as the media all jumps on the bandwagon to make as big of a deal of this sticking throttle situation as possible. Guess the bloom is off the Haiti rose. Gotta have something to hype.

Don't get me wrong - it is a serious problem, and one that can lead to death or serious injury - but what is driving me nuts is the apparent lack of knowledge that is leading to this sensationalistic fear that every Toyota vehicle is just waiting to send you hurtling to your doom.

This is compounded by the recent floor-mat debacle, where certain floor-mats (Toyota USA's All-Weather accessory mats in particular) can jamb beneath the accelerator pedal and/or bunch up beneath the brake pedal, potentially causing unintended acceleration and loss of control.

That was brought to the public's attention by the tragic death of an off-duty CHP officer, his wife and daughter, and his brother-in law in a crash in California a couple of months ago. The vehicle in question was a 2009 Lexus ES 350, a dealer loaner fitted with the affected mats.

I'll admit to still not having all of the facts in this matter, but here's what I do know: there was sufficient time in this case for the car's occupants to place a 911 call.

While I understand that the mat was interfering with the brake pedal, I can't figure out why the driver didn't simply shift the car into Neutral.

Even if this car probably had push-button ignition (which I really don't care for) and thus didn't appear that it could be readily turned off (a lack of familiarity or confusion would come into play here), shifting to Neutral would have prevented any further acceleration, allowing the driver to apply the emergency brake if necessary, or at least slowing the rate at which everything was happening.

It's possible that it would have given him time to rub a guardrail or take other actions to slow down. As for the engine revving freely in Neutral - who cares? Besides, like every modern car, the ES 350 has a rev limiter, and frankly, if it's me or the engine, I'm picking me anyway.


Other automakers are having a field day with this latest pedal situation. GM is offering cash incentives to current Toyota owners to buy GM vehicles - basically "avoid the flaming Toyota death, buy a Chevy!". Good thing that blower motor resistors aren't gas pedal assemblies, or GM would be recalling one hell of a lot more cars and trucks than Toyota. People that live in glass houses...

Toyota will undoubtedly produce a fix, but it will be interesting to see what consequence this has in sales, long term. I'm betting not much, and those who want a Toyota today still have several models to choose from, including the Prius.

Can I interest anyone in a Nissan Sentra?

1 comment:

  1. Bang on (no pun intended) as usual. I'm not seeing how a supposedly trained police officer wouldn't know how to stop such a vehicle, but have the presence of mind to dial a cell phone.