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Toyota found to keep tight lid on potential safety problems

A Times investigation shows the world's largest automaker has delayed recalls and attempted to blame human error in cases where owners claimed vehicle defects.

 

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During a routine test on its Sienna minivan in April 2003, Toyota engineers discovered that a plastic panel could come loose and cause the gas pedal to stick, potentially making the vehicle accelerate out of control. The automaker redesigned the part and by that June every 2004 model year Sienna off the assembly line came with the new panel. (Toyota / March 4, 2003)

By Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian

December 23, 2009

 

During a routine test on its Sienna minivan in April 2003, Toyota Motor Corp. engineers discovered that a plastic panel could come loose and cause the gas pedal to stick, potentially making the vehicle accelerate out of control.

 

The automaker redesigned the part and by that June every 2004 model year Sienna off the assembly line came with the new panel. Toyota did not notify tens of thousands of people who had already bought vans with the old panel, however.

 

It wasn't until U.S. safety officials opened an investigation last year that Toyota acknowledged in a letter to regulators that the part could come loose and "lead to unwanted or sudden acceleration."

 

In January, nearly six years after discovering the potential hazard, the automaker recalled 26,501 vans made with the old panel.

 

In a statement to The Times, Toyota said that there was no defect in the Sienna and that "a safety recall was not deemed necessary" when it discovered the problem in 2003. The company called the replacement part "an additional safety measure."

 

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.

 

The automaker's handling of safety issues has come under scrutiny in recent months because of incidents of sudden acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles, which The Times has reported were involved in accidents causing 19 fatalities since 2001, more deaths from that problem than all other automakers combined.

 

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 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which chastised the automaker for making "inaccurate and misleading statements."

 

In the wake of Toyota's announcement of the massive recall, The Times examined some of the ways the automaker has dealt with safety problems in recent years and found 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.

 

As a result, plaintiffs attorneys are considering reopening dozens of product-liability suits against the automaker.

 

Toyota has called the allegations of the attorney, Dimitrios Biller, "both misleading and inaccurate" and noted that he is also suing another former employer. The company said it had "acted appropriately in product liability cases and in all reporting to federal safety regulators."

 

In a written statement to The Times, Toyota said that it strove to keep government officials and consumers informed about potential safety problems with its vehicles, which it says are tested to meet or exceed federal standards.

 

"Toyota has absolutely not minimized public awareness of any defect or issue with respect to its vehicles," the company said.

 

Currently, Toyota is a defendant in at least 10 lawsuits alleging unintended acceleration that caused five fatalities and four injuries. Two of those suits are seeking class-action status.

 

But few, if any, sudden-acceleration cases ever make it to trial, according to attorneys who handle such cases.

 

After a 2007 crash of a Camry that accelerated out of control for 20 miles before killing the driver of another car in San Jose, Toyota was sued by members of the victim's family. Their attorney, Louis Franecke, said the automaker "didn't want to go to trial," and paid them a seven-figure sum in exchange for dropping the case and signing a non-disclosure form.

 

In an interview, Guadalupe Gomez, the driver of the runaway Camry, said he also signed a confidentiality agreement and received a settlement from Toyota. He was initially arrested on suspicion of manslaughter for causing the crash, but charges were never filed.

 

By settling, Toyota has managed to keep potentially damaging information out of the public eye, said Raymond Paul Johnson, a Los Angeles attorney who said he had settled four sudden-acceleration cases with the automaker.

 

"It's just a matter of risk control for them," Johnson said.

 

Toyota said that although it does not comment on individual cases, it "has resolved and will continue to resolve matters with litigants through confidential settlement when it is in both parties' interests to do so."

 

The majority of unintended acceleration incidents don't end up in accidents. But even after minor incidents, some consumers have obtained deals under which their cars were repurchased on favorable terms.

 

Tim Marks, a small businessman in Camden, Ark., parked his daughter's 2006 Lexus IS 250 in front of the dealership last year and said his family would never drive it again after experiencing four sudden-acceleration events.

 

"They told my daughter she was texting while driving and wasn't paying attention," Marks recalled. "She is a 95-pound, little itty-bitty thing, but she was fixing to twist off on that man."

 

The vehicle was bought back and the title branded as a lemon, according to vehicle registration records. It was later registered in Florida, suggesting that the dealer resold it.

 

Much the same thing happened to Joan Marschall, a Visalia resident whose 2003 Camry accelerated on its own three times before she complained.

 

"I took it to the dealer and said I wouldn't drive it again," Marschall recalled. "I said I don't care if you tell me the computer says nothing happened. I know it did."

 

Marschall received a lemon buyback too. Registration records show the car was transferred to a new owner in Southern California.

 

Toyota said it had no policy to repurchase vehicles from customers complaining about sudden acceleration, though its dealers may act on their own to "preserve goodwill."

 

Some motorists who have confronted safety issues said the automaker has hidden information from them.

 

In January, Jeffrey Pepski, a financial consultant in suburban Minneapolis, took his 2007 Lexus ES 350 to the dealer after it accelerated out of control on a Twin Cities freeway, reaching 80 miles per hour.

 

Toyota sent an expert to examine the car Feb. 3 and download electronic data stored on the vehicle's computers. When Pepski asked for a copy of the data, he was refused.

 

"They said it was proprietary," Pepski recalled.

 

He filed a defect petition with NHTSA, and the dealer allowed Pepski to trade in the sedan for a sport utility vehicle. The Lexus ES was not branded a lemon and was resold in Minnesota, records show.

 

How Toyota handles requests like Pepski's has frustrated investigators and vehicle owners who want to get information contained on computers in their vehicles.

 

Nearly all new cars today contain an event data recorder, often called a black box, that can record several seconds of key information when accidents occur or in other circumstances.

 

According to Toyota, its black boxes can capture vehicle speed, engine speed, brake pedal application, accelerator pedal position and seat belt usage, among other things. That data, experts say, could be crucial to investigating causes of sudden acceleration.

 

Unlike manufacturers such as General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., Toyota's data recorders are extremely difficult for non-Toyota personnel to read, said W.R. "Rusty" Haight, a black-box expert who owns a San Diego collision investigation company.

 

Toyota says it has only one device in the U.S. that can read the data. An operating manual for the device, a copy of which was reviewed by The Times, indicates that it takes two passwords to operate.

 

On its website, Toyota says that it "will not honor EDR readout requests from private individuals or their attorneys," because its device is a prototype.

 

On some safety issues, Toyota has little choice but to go public.

 

Sudden acceleration didn't become a national issue for the automaker until this fall, when it announced its largest recall shortly after a 2009 Lexus ES accelerated out of control and crashed in San Diego County, killing an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer along with his wife, daughter and brother-in-law.

 

In a 5:30 a.m. conference call the day before Thanksgiving, Toyota detailed remedies to prevent acceleration problems it has blamed on gas pedals trapped by floor mats. Toyota will replace or modify pedals, replace floor mats, modify floor well padding and add new safety software to seven models, representing 4.26 million cars and trucks.

 

The campaign follows eight recalls in the U.S. over the last decade to fix problems that in the automaker's own words could cause sudden acceleration or faulty throttle system operation, Times research shows.

 

Two years ago, a NHTSA investigation found that the gas pedal in Camry and Lexus ES sedans could be trapped by rubber all-weather floor mats -- the same problem being addressed in the current recall. Toyota responded by recalling 55,000 of the vehicles, but only enlarged a warning label on the underside of the mat and on its packaging.

 

In 2005, Toyota recalled 3,567 Lexus IS 250 sedans because the gas pedal had a propensity to stick on a floor pad. In 2006, it recalled 367,594 Highlander and Lexus RX SUVs after receiving complaints that an interior cover could interfere with the accelerator pedal, keeping it depressed.

 

All those followed a 2003 recall in Canada of 408 Celicas, also for floor mat interference with the accelerator pedal.

 

In the ongoing Sienna recall, Toyota is replacing a hard-plastic trim panel over the center console. In its statement to The Times, the automaker said that pedal entrapment could only be caused in the event of a missing attachment clip, which might not be replaced after service work.

 

Toyota said it issued the recall voluntarily after a single complaint to NHTSA prompted an investigation by the agency. "In response to Toyota's voluntary campaign, regulators closed the investigation," the company said.

 

NHTSA officials did not respond to a written question about the recall and the agency's oversight of the matter.

 

The Sienna incident wasn't the only time that Toyota issued a recall long after discovering a problem.

 

In 1994, NHTSA slapped Toyota with a $250,000 fine, at the time the agency's second-largest, for providing misleading information about a fuel leak in Land Cruisers and waiting two years to undertake a recall to fix the problem. Toyota acknowledged that it failed to conduct a timely recall but denied withholding information from the agency.

 

A decade later, Toyota recalled about 330,000 vehicles in Japan after a 2004 crash there -- caused by a broken steering linkage -- seriously injured five people. The vehicle in the accident, a Hilux Surf, was sold in the U.S. as the 4Runner. Other truck models sold here, including the Toyota 4x4 and T100 pickups, also used the same linkage, a steering relay rod.

 

Despite that, the company told NHTSA in an October 2004 letter that it would not conduct a U.S. recall because it had not received information here indicating a problem with the part.

 

Documents entered in four lawsuits filed in Los Angeles this year, however, show that Toyota had received numerous consumer complaints dating from 2000 and had replaced dozens of the parts under warranty. The documents also show that Japanese police, in an investigation of the defect, said that Toyota employees had known about the problem since 1992 and should have initiated a recall immediately.

 

In September 2005, Toyota recalled nearly 1 million vehicles in the U.S. to replace the part, its second-largest campaign.

 

It came too late for Zackary Audulewicz of Ila, Ga., relatives said. The 20-year-old was driving his Toyota 4x4 to work in August 2003 when the pickup lost control. A witness said she heard a pop and saw a spark just before the pickup careened off the road, flipped into the air and rolled on its roof. Audulewicz was killed instantly.

 

"I feel like they knew about the problem long before the recall," said Don Audulewicz, Zackary's father and one of the plaintiffs in the suits. "I can't understand why whoever was making decisions at Toyota would do that."

 

Toyota declined to discuss the case, citing its policy not to comment on pending litigation. In a written statement, Toyota explained that its own investigation of the defective steering component part led it to broaden the recall to include the T100 truck.

 

On several occasions in the last decade, Toyota has been admonished by judges for failing to provide evidence. In 2000, for example, a Missouri state judge sanctioned it for failing to disclose results of five rear-impact tests of Corollas "despite numerous discovery requests." He ordered a new trial.

 

In 2007, California's Court of Appeal found that "Toyota had intentionally violated two orders compelling discovery" of stability test results in a case involving a Toyota-made forklift that tipped over and killed a worker. The court slapped Toyota with a $138,984.33 sanction and ordered a new trial. Toyota, which denied wrongdoing, ultimately settled the case.

 

E. Todd Tracy, a Texas attorney with 22 years of experience litigating against automakers, believes that Toyota's issues with legal discovery run far deeper than a few sanctions.

 

Over the last three months, he has moved to reopen 17 lawsuits against the automaker related to vehicle rollovers because he now believes Toyota routinely hid information in those cases.

 

His argument rests on four boxes of documents submitted by Biller, the former Toyota attorney. The contents have not yet been revealed, but Tracy believes they prove that Toyota hid crucial information about rollovers in those lawsuits.

 

"This is clearly information that Toyota does not want the public to see," Tracy said. "For years, they were the gold standard, but right now they have more problems than they know what to do with."

 

ken.bensinger@latimes.com

ralph.vartabedian@latimes.com

 

Times staff writers Doug Smith and Thomas Suh Lauder contributed to this report.

 

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-secrecy23-2009dec23,0,557792,full.story

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Despite the efforts to try and bring this company down, toyota owners know how good their cars are.

 

I'm not pro japanese, i like european cars and i even prefer american over borring japanese, but let's be honest here, toyota makes the most reliable, and longest lasting cars on the road.

 

If i were in the market for a new family sedan, i'd look at the new ford fusion, and i'm surprised it has'nt caught on in montreal yet.

 

Then again there's a lack of good dealers, it seems the big 3 have no interest in expanding in quebec, just look at the gm dealer on the 40 (parkway) what a neglected eye sore, they started renovating then just stopped, it's been sitting like that for almost a year now..

 

GM = Generally Mismanaged

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  • 1 month later...
Toyota crisis worries Honda, boosts rivals

2516901.bin

Employees at Toyota Motor Corp's Tsutsumi plant work at a Prius hybrid assembly line in Toyota, central Japan in this undated handout photo. Toyota said on February 3, 2010 it’s North American and Japanese dealers had received several dozen complaints over what drivers characterized as insufficient braking on the new Prius hybrid when driving over bumpy or frozen roads.

Photograph by: Handout, Reuters/Toyota Motor Corp

 

 

By Chang-Ran Kim and David Bailey, Reuters

February 3, 2010 12:03 PM

 

TOKYO/DETROIT - Honda Motor Co raised its annual forecast on Wednesday after cost-cuts boosted quarterly profit, and said it was concerned that rival Toyota’s huge safety recall might tarnish other Japanese brands.

 

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, continued to wrestle with the recall that was prompted by complaints over sticking accelerator pedals, losing U.S. sales and struggling to repair its reputation.

 

It suffered a sharp drop in U.S. sales last month as the recall and unprecedented sales halt allowed rivals to grab market share.

 

In the latest blow to its once gold-plated quality image, Toyota said on Wednesday dealers in both the United States and Japan had reported complaints from buyers over the brakes in its new model Prius hybrid.

 

Toyota has received 77 reports of consumer complaints about the braking issue through dealers in Japan, as well as eight in North America, including one in Canada.

 

The carmaker has not had any reports of problems in Europe, a Toyota Motor Europe spokeswoman told Reuters.

 

Unlike rivals General Motors, Hyundai Motors and Ford Motor Co, Honda has not taken aim at Toyota customers.

 

Honda, although not a beneficiary of Toyota’s woes in January, raised its forecast for the year to March after cost cutting contributed to the strongest quarterly profit in a year-and-a-half.

 

A Honda executive expressed concern that fallout from Toyota’s crisis might spill over to other car makers.

 

“Toyota is the front-runner representing Japanese cars,” Honda Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo told reporters. “In that sense, we’re somewhat worried that there may be a knock-on effect on other Japanese brands, but we’ll need a little more time to gauge any impact.”

 

Toyota pulled eight of its most popular models including the Camry, Corolla and Rav4 from U.S. showrooms in the last week of January following complaints over sticking accelerator pedals.

 

Toyota’s monthly sales fell 16 percent and its U.S. market share fell to its lowest level since January 2006 as rivals Ford Motor Co and General Motors Corp surged past. Its monthly U.S. sales dropped below 100,000 vehicles for the first time in more than a decade.

 

“Auto sales and market share is kind of like a high-speed road race and if you get caught up in the gravel on the shoulder you can get passed really fast, and essentially that is what happened to Toyota,” Autoconomy analyst Erich Merkle said.

 

“Right now we have to find out how long it is going to take them to get back on pavement again,” Merkle said.

 

As Toyota sales fell, Ford and Hyundai Motor Co emerged as the big winners, each posting 34.8 percent sales gains. Honda’s adjusted sales rose 2.9 percent.

 

Separately on Wednesday, Toyota’s German rival Volkswagen said it saw a positive mid-term margin of 3-4 percent in the U.S., and 5-6 percent in the long-term.

 

Volkswagen had on Tuesday set out targets to dethrone Toyota as the world’s top carmaker.

 

Volkswagen’s total vehicle sales in the U.S. rose an adjusted 53.2 percent in January.

 

MORE SCRUTINY

 

Toyota is battling two problems - accelerator pedals that get stuck on floor mats and pedals that jam in the open position by themselves. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said five people have died in two separate accidents in the United States because of Toyota accelerator pedals becoming stuck on floor mats. It is not aware of any deaths or injuries linked to the second problem.

 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took a harder line with Toyota for what he said was a slow response to safety complaints.

 

“We’re not finished with Toyota,” LaHood said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

 

U.S. government officials said Toyota could face both an unusual civil penalty because of the recall and an expanded probe that would focus on electric controls. Either development could further damage the Japanese automaker’s reputation.

 

On top of a separate recall for slipping floormats linked to unintended acceleration, some 8.1 million Toyota vehicles are now being recalled, more than its total group sales last year.

 

Regarding the Prius, a Toyota spokeswoman said the company was investigating several dozen complaints since December over what drivers characterised as insufficient braking when driving over bumpy or frozen roads.

 

CRISIS MANAGEMENT

 

The problems have raised questions about the handling of the crisis by Toyota executives, led by president and founding family member Akio Toyoda.

 

Toyota will have a further opportunity to address the issue at its third-quarter results, due on Thursday.

 

Honda, the first Japanese automaker to post third-quarter earnings, raised its full-year operating profit forecast to 320 billion yen, a third above consensus forecasts.

 

Shares in Honda ended 2.3 per cent higher on Wednesday ahead of the results, while Toyota closed down 5.7 per cent at its lowest in more than two months. Turnover was three times its daily average.

 

The stock has fallen in eight of the past nine sessions and lost more than $25 billion in value since its initial U.S. accelerator pedal recall on Jan. 21.

 

© Copyright © The Montreal Gazette

http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Toyota+crisis+worries+Honda+boosts+rivals/2517478/story.html

 

It's one problem after another with Toyota these days.

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  • 4 weeks later...

GM aussi.

 

GM rappelle 1,3 million de véhicules

 

Radio-Canada.ca avec

Agence France Presse, Associated Press et Presse canadienne

Mise à jour le mardi 2 mars 2010 à 9 h 30

 

 

Divers modèles de petites voitures de General Motors vendues au Canada, aux États-Unis et au Mexique sont aux prises avec un problème de direction assistée.

 

Les modèles touchés par ce rappel sont les Chevrolet Cobalt 2005 à 2010, les Pontiac G5 2007 à 2010, les Pontiac Pursuit 2005 et 2006 vendus au Canada et les Pontiac G4 2005 et 2006 vendus au Mexique.

 

GM précise que les véhicules demeurent sécuritaires, mais que certains problèmes pourraient survenir à très basse vitesse.

 

Les autorités américaines mènent une enquête sur plusieurs accidents peut-être causés par ce problème de servodirection.

 

L'agence de sécurité routière américaine (NHTSA) avait ouvert une enquête en janvier concernant 905 000 Chevrolet Cobalt, après avoir reçu plus de 1100 plaintes portant sur des problèmes de direction assistée et faisant état de 14 accidents et un blessé.

 

Cette campagne de rappel du géant américain arrive au moment où le numéro un mondial de l'automobile, le japonais Toyota, rappelle plus de 8 millions de voitures dans le monde, dont 6 millions aux États-Unis. Divers modèles de Toyota sont aux prises avec des problèmes de pédales d'accélération ou du système de freinage dans le cas de la Prius hybride.

 

GM finance Opel

 

En Europe, General Motors tente de faire approuver le plan de restructuration envisagé pour sa filiale Opel.

 

Pour y arriver, le constructeur américain propose de tripler le financement de sa filiale, de 850 millions à 2,6 milliards de dollars. General Motors se dit prêt à contribuer à plus de 50 % au besoin total de financement d'Opel, sous forme de prêts à sa filiale et de transferts de titres financiers. Les garanties de crédit demandées aux gouvernements européens sont réduites.

 

GM espère ainsi convaincre les gouvernements européens d'approuver le plan de restructuration prévu pour Opel et sa division britannique Vauxhall. Ce plan prévoit notamment la suppression de 8300 emplois en Europe. La fermeture de l'usine belge d'Anvers et la réduction de 20 % des capacités de production permettraient un retour aux bénéfices en 2012, selon GM.

http://www.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/Economie/2010/03/02/002-gm-rappel-americdunord.shtml

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This must have been posted for my benefit.

 

Similar thing has happened in Corollas recently:

 

Toyota looks into Corolla steering complaints

ELAINE KURTENBACK and KEN THOMAS -- Associated Press

Published: 17 02 2010

 

WASHINGTON - First it was gas pedals, then brakes. Now Toyota and the government are looking into complaints that the popular Corolla is difficult to steer straight, raising a new safety concern ahead of next week's congressional hearing about the automakers recalls.

 

But how worried should drivers be? Or is this an example of how any problem at the Japanese company now gets intense scrutiny?

 

The executive in charge of quality control said the company is reviewing fewer than 100 complaints about power steering in the Corolla. Toyota sold nearly 1.3 million Corollas worldwide last year, including nearly 300,000 in the United States, where it trailed only Camry as Toyota's most popular model.

 

The executive, Shinichi Sasaki, said drivers may feel as though they are losing control over the steering, but it was unclear why. He mentioned problems with the braking system or tires as possible underlying causes. U.S. officials are also investigating.

 

He stressed that the company was prepared to fix any defects it finds and that executives were considering a recall as an option, although no decision had been made.

 

In Japan, President Akio Toyoda said he did not intend to appear at congressional hearings next week in Washington, preferring to leave that to his U.S.-based executives while he focuses on improving quality controls. Toyoda, grandson of the company's founder, said he would consider attending if invited.

 

Also Wednesday, a Transportation Department official said the agency planned to open an investigation into the reports about the Corolla.

 

The preliminary investigation is expected to begin Thursday and involve an estimated 500,000 vehicles. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the department had not yet notified Toyota of the probe.

 

In an attempt to reassure car owners, Toyota Motor Corp. said it would install a backup safety system in all future models worldwide that will override the accelerator if the gas and brake pedals are pressed at the same time. Acceleration problems are behind the bulk of the 8.5 million vehicles recalled by the automaker since November.

 

The company said it was placing ads in U.S. newspapers Thursday, featuring an open letter from Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, seeking to answer concerns over quality issues.

 

"History shows that great companies learn from their mistakes. That's why all 172,000 people working for Toyota and our dealers are doing more than ever to make things right for our customers today and for the future," it says.

 

The emergence of potential steering problems with Corolla presented another roadblock in the automaker's efforts to repair its image of building safe, reliable vehicles. Dealers across the U.S. are fixing accelerators that can stick, floor mats that can trap gas pedals and questionable brakes on new Prius hybrids.

 

Auto industry experts said any power steering troubles on the Corolla were less worrisome than accelerator pedals or brakes because drivers could still steer the vehicle, even though doing so may be more difficult.

 

The government investigation comes even though the automaker said it has received relatively few complaints about the popular compact.

 

Even so, in the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received a growing number of complaints from drivers about power steering on 2009 and 2010 Corollas. The numbers are small compared to Toyota's overall sales - only about 150 reports for those two models. By comparison, there are more than 1,000 complaints about problems with 2010 Prius brakes, a vehicle Toyota has already recalled.

 

But the decision to investigate the Corolla offered further evidence that the automaker is exposed to heightened scrutiny of its cars and trucks.

 

Some Corolla drivers said they had difficulty keeping the vehicle straight, especially at higher speeds. They reported having to fight the wheel to keep the car from wandering between lanes.

 

Jerry Josefy, a 71-year-old retired farmer and mechanic from Grandfield, Oklahoma, said he noticed problems with the steering on his 2009 Corolla when he drove it home after buying it last year.

 

He took it back to the dealer for repairs, but the steering trouble persisted. Josefy still drives the car, but said it requires constant attention to make sure it stays straight.

 

"It wants to wander all the time," he said. "You could have a wreck with it if you don't keep your eyes on the road."

 

Smaller, less-expensive vehicles such as the 2009 and 2010 Corolla use electric-assist power steering. They are usually equipped with power steering systems that are aided by a small electric motor, a system known as electric-assist steering.

 

The motor essentially helps align the steering wheel with the movement of the tires. The system is cheaper to install than steering systems that rely on hydraulics.

 

Problems can arise if the motor is out of sync with the steering wheel, which could potentially cause the vehicle to wander without any turning of the wheel, he said.

 

"Car companies work on it a lot," said Jim De Clerck, a professor in the Michigan Technological University's mechanical engineering department and a former General Motors engineer. "It is a pretty well-known customer-satisfaction issue."

 

Toyota said the steering problem could be related to the braking system or tires. Improperly aligned tires, for example, can be a source of steering complications, De Clerck said.

 

In Washington, the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked several auto insurance companies for information on whether they reported incidents of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles to the NHTSA.

 

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee moved its scheduled hearing up to Feb. 23, one day ahead of the Oversight Committee meeting. Toyota's Lentz and the head of the NHTSA, David Strickland, been invited to testify before the energy committee. A Senate hearing is planned for March 2.

 

Toyota is expected to send North America chief executive Yoshi Inaba to the hearings. Toyoda does plan a U.S. visit, mainly to speak with American workers and dealers, but he said details of his trip are not yet final.

 

The executives will face scrutiny in the U.S., where the Transportation Department has demanded documents related to its recalls. The department wants to know how long the automaker knew of safety defects before taking action.

 

Reports of deaths in the U.S. connected to sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles have surged in recent weeks, with the alleged death toll reaching 34 since 2000, according to new consumer data gathered by the U.S. government.

 

-

 

Kurtenbach reported from Tokyo. AP writers Stephen Manning in Washington, and Yuri Kageyama, Mari Yamaguchi, Tomoko A. Hosaka, Malcolm Foster, and Shino Yuasa in Tokyo contributed to this report.

http://www.autonet.ca/autos/news/2010/02/17/12920336-ap.html

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This one is from today ;)

 

Toyota repairing leaky oil hoses in US, Japan

 

By YURI KAGEYAMA (AP) – 13 hours ago

 

TOKYO — Toyota is repairing more than 1.6 million vehicles around the world, including the U.S. and Japan, for potentially leaky oil hoses — the latest in a spate of quality problems battering the world's biggest automaker.

 

The fix affects 1.3 million vehicles in North America, including repairs that have yet to be officially announced on 100,000 Highlander crossovers and 215,000 Sienna minivans, Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said Tuesday.

 

Repairs on 45,000 vehicles in Japan have already been rolled out since October. The problem affects an additional 230,000 vehicles in 90 other nations, Takeuchi said. The models involved in Japan are the Harrier luxury model, Estima minivan, Blade hatchback, Mark X Zio sedan and Vanguard crossover.

 

Toyota does not consider the latest repair a recall because the problem doesn't endanger safety, and categorizes it as a "service campaign," with owners receiving notices through dealers about the needed repair.

 

"This is a routine measure," said Takeuchi. "We are not hiding anything."

 

The automaker earlier Tuesday said some 1 million vehicles were affected after the repair for the oil-supply engine hose was expanded overnight in the U.S. to include 2007 and 2009 RAV4 sport utility vehicles and some Avalon sedan models, totaling 217,800 vehicles.

 

It was unclear when U.S. owners would receive notices on the Highlander and Sienna repairs, but Toyota was making preparations now, Takeuchi said.

 

Toyota's quality standards have come under intense scrutiny following global recalls of some 8.5 million vehicles for gas pedal, floor mat and braking problems, mostly in the U.S.

 

In Europe, the global recalls affects 1.7 million vehicles for the gas-pedal problems, and nearly 53,000 Prius hybrids for the antilock braking glitch, according to an updated tally.

 

In the latest defect, faulty hoses can cause engine noise and light up the oil pressure light on vehicle dashboards, according to Toyota. In the U.S., the problem also affects the best-selling Camry and two Lexus models.

 

Toyota President Akio Toyoda returned to Japan Tuesday after apologizing the day before in Beijing, seeking to placate growing consumer worries.

 

In Beijing, Toyoda made a formal Japanese-style deep bow of contrition — the first time since the recall fiasco surfaced — that immediately followed his words of apology. He had apologized earlier in Japan and the U.S., but did not offer a bow of apology.

 

"I learned a lot," Toyoda told reporters at the company's Nagoya office. "We will really do what we can from now to transform to the kind of company that will have people saying they can trust in our transparency and our customer focus."

 

Toyoda was encouraged by the response he got from American lawmakers, who expect Toyota to learn from its mistakes to become a great company, not just a good company, he said.

 

But he did not respond when asked about the leaky oil hoses, and it was still undecided whether he would go to Europe, where he has yet to offer a personal apology, according to Toyota.

 

Yasuaki Iwamoto, auto analyst with Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo, said U.S. consumers were unlikely to be forgiving, and Toyota must continue to show how it has improved quality checks, not just make promises.

 

"Brand recovery in the U.S. will take time, and there are no shortcuts," he said.

 

China was another important growth market for Toyota, but the backlash there may be easier to contain, Iwamoto said, because of the smaller numbers of recalls. Some 75,000 RAV4 vehicles are being fixed in China for sticky gas pedals.

 

Toyoda has said the automaker grew too fast in recent years and failed to listen as closely as it should have to consumer complaints about its vehicles.

 

Toyoda was grilled by U.S. lawmakers at a congressional hearing last week. Three other Toyota executives are scheduled to appear at the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation later in the day.

 

Toyota will announce that former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater will lead the panel that will review the company's quality control systems, according to remarks planned for delivery by Toyota executive Yoshi Inaba.

 

The U.S. government has attributed 34 deaths to alleged sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles since 2000. Since September, Toyota has recalled about 6 million vehicles in the U.S.

 

Separately, Hyundai Motor of South Korea said Tuesday it was recalling 515 Tucson SUVs, produced from Nov. 10-30, 2009 for a defect in safety devices related to air bags.

 

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jTG7SuUsayqE6bO9GPluAfU5blewD9E6E4180

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US monthly sales figures released:

http://www.autoblog.com/2010/03/02/by-the-numbers-february-2010-easy-being-green-edition/

 

Ford up 43.14% Feb. 2010 compared to Feb. 2009

All other makers except Toyota post gains.

Toyota sales in Feb. 2010 dip 8.72% compared to Feb. 2009

 

In Canada

http://www.thestar.com/business/article/774113--ford-roars-ahead-in-february-auto-sales

 

Ford sales up 51%. Toyota still managed to increase sales 25% (??). GM up 20%. Chrysler up 17%.

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Video: San Diego 'runaway Prius' has media buzzing

 

priusvideocap.jpg

 

Both the second- and third-generation Prius are part of Toyota's massive recall – the former for floormat problems, the latter for braking issues – but a new incident from California has the automaker looking into more potential issues with the second-generation car.

 

As CNN tells it, Jim Sikes was driving his Prius on Interstate 8 in San Diego County when he pushed the gas pedal to pass a slow-moving car, but then, as Sikes says, "[the pedal] did something kind of funny ... it jumped and it just stuck there." Sikes called 911 for assistance, but a California Highway Patrol officer caught up to the car, and the officer used a loudspeaker to give Sikes instructions on how to safely stop the vehicle with the emergency brake. "As it was going, I was trying the brakes... it wasn't stopping," Sikes recounts. The highway patrol officer said that Sikes had reached speeds of over 90 miles per hour.

 

Neither Sikes or any other drivers were hurt during this alleged unintended acceleration incident. In a statement issued Monday night, Toyota says that it has dispatched a field technical specialist to investigate the case. Click through the jump to watch the CNN video and you can read more about it in Los Angeles Times link below. Thanks to everyone for the tips!

 

[sources: CNN, Los Angeles Times]

http://www.autoblog.com/2010/03/09/video-san-diego-runaway-prius-has-media-buzzing/#continued

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  • 3 weeks later...

Guides Autos 2010: Toyota recommandable... malgré la tempête

 

Karim Benessaieh

La Presse

26 mars 2010

 

 

Bonnes autos, compagnie irresponsable. Malgré la tempête qui secoue Toyota, le constructeur japonais continue d'offrir des automobiles plus fiables que la moyenne, comme le résume le Guide Autos 2010 publié par Protégez-vous et l'Association pour la protection des automobilistes.

 

«En dépit de leurs ennuis, nous recommandons leurs voitures, mais déplorons les agissements cachottiers de la compagnie Toyota, qui n'a pas fait ses devoirs et essayé de s'esquiver, a expliqué ce matin en conférence de presse George Iny, de l'APA. Le produit est bon, mais la compagnie n'est pas fiable en matière de sécurité.»

 

L'avantage de la récente controverse, c'est que Toyota est aujourd'hui sous surveillance. «Leur vieille façon de faire ne leur a manifestement pas réussi», dit M. Iny. La Yaris, la Prius et la RAV4 figurent toujours parmi les modèles neufs les mieux cotés.

 

 

 

Bonne nouvelle pour les constructeurs américains, leurs modèles sont considérés à une vingtaine de reprises comme les meilleurs choix quand vient le temps d'acheter une voiture usagée. Ford, en particulier, continue de bien paraître avec sa Taurus et sa Fusion. Le plus grand intérêt des voitures américaines, selon M. Iny, réside dans leur prix «souvent de 30 à 50% plus bas» que leurs concurrentes japonaises sur le marché de l'usagé.

 

Cadeaux empoisonnés en vedette

 

La performance des voitures neuves américaines est toutefois plus douteuse. À l'exception de Ford, qui brille notamment avec sa Fusion Hybrid, aucun constructeur ne se distingue dans ce créneau. «Ford s'améliore dans ce créneau depuis 2006. GM, c'est inégal. Chrysler, on ne voit pas de progrès», tranche le président de l'APA.

Pour sa 22e édition, le Guide Autos épingle une fois de plus la publicité carrément trompeuse qui a trop souvent cours chez les constructeurs. Frais cachés, «cadeaux empoisonnés», la revue dresse un portrait des «arnaques» à éviter. «Les constructeurs n'ont toujours pas fait leur travail, il y un ménage à faire», estime M. Iny.

 

L'année 2010 reste tout de même une bonne cuvée pour acheter une voiture, conclut le guide. D'abord parce que les déboires de Toyota l'ont forcé à offrir des rabais alléchants, qui ont déclenché une guerre de prix avec ses compétiteurs dont profitent les consommateurs. «Nous somme dans une année de transition : on sent la fin de l'évolution vers des véhicules plus gros, plus puissants, plus gourmands en essence, dit M. Iny. On nous prépare à une nouvelle génération de voitures qui va répondre, notamment, aux lois américaines.»

 

 

Voitures neuves: les meilleurs choix

 

Sous-compactes

Honda Fit

Totoya Yaris

 

Compactes

Honda Civic

Toyota Matrix

Subaru Impreza

 

Intermédiaires

Ford Fusion Hybrid

Honda Accord

Toyota Prius

 

De luxe

BMW Série 3

Infiniti G37

Lexus ES 350

 

Sportives

Ford Mustang

Honda Civic Si

Mazda MX-5

Subaru Impreza WRX

Volkswagen Golf GTI

 

Petites fourgonnettes

Kia Rondo

Fourgonnettes

Honda Odyssey

 

Utilitaires sports

Subaru Forester

Toyata Highlander

Toyota RAV4

 

 

http://monvolant.cyberpresse.ca/nouvelles/201003/24/01-4263826-guides-autos-2010-toyota-recommandable-malgre-la-tempete.php

 

^ Il y a des commentaires, allez les voir si vous voulez lire plus de discussions sur le sujet.

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