The Tale Of The Sticky Accelerator

John Neff at Autoblog:

Toyota has quite the PR nightmare on its hands. The boiling cauldron of complaints surrounding unintended acceleration issues bubbled over this month with two separate but giant recalls. The latest involves eight Toyota models that contain defective accelerator pedal mechanisms that could stick over time due to wear.

There is no fix available for the pedal mechanisms yet and dealers have continued to sell new models affected by the recall, so Toyota announced yesterday that it’s suspending the sale and production of these eight models for the week of February 1. It was a bold move that made headlines, as Toyota stands to lose a lot of money. On the other hand, the Japanese automaker got some pats on the back for doing the right thing.

Turns out, the decision to stop producing these vehicles wasn’t made by Toyota alone. The Detroit News reports that Toyota is required by law to stop selling the vehicles since there is no fix available yet. David Strickland, the new administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that Toyota consulted with his agency, which informed the automaker of its obligations and it complied. That still doesn’t answer why these recalled vehicles were being sold five days after the recall was announced.

Nevertheless, Toyota spokesman Mike Michels is reported saying that the company’s decision to stop selling the recalled vehicles was voluntary, but that they also had a legal requirement to do so. How do you voluntary do something that you’re obligated to do?

James Treece at Automotive News:

There’s only one level of telling the truth. If you almost tell the truth, it’s not the truth.

Toyota Motor Sales USA sent a notice to its dealers, suggesting a script of answers if customers call with questions about the accelerator-pedal problem. Here’s one of the Q&As from that script.

Q. Have there been any accidents reported?

A. The number of accidents are still under investigation.

That’s the truth, but it’s not the whole truth. The accurate answer would be, “Yes.”

Or, if Toyota wants to spin the news — and most automakers in Toyota’s position would be desperate to put some spin on the situation — the answer could be, “Yes, sadly there have been accidents. But we’re determined to prevent any future ones, so please come in and let us check out your vehicle.”

At 7:19 p.m. Wednesday, Toyota announced that the supplier of the faulty accelerator pedals , which are involved in the recall of 2.3 million vehicles, has revised its design for future vehicles. Vehicles built at Toyota assembly plants in the future will presumably not have the same issue with accelerator pedals getting stuck. A time frame for when these new vehicles will be on dealer lots was not announced.

Toyota also says it’s working with the supplier on a fix to address the recalled cars currently in owners’ hands.

Reilly Brennan:

Because the Pontiac Vibe is built on the same line as the Toyota Matrix in Fremont, California at the joint GM/Toyota NUMMI plant, GM is getting pulled into fray for problems with Toyota’s accelerator pedal system.

GM confirmed to AOL Autos this morning that they would halt sales of the Pontiac Vibe immediately. However, since GM announced the wind-down of the Pontiac brand last year, the company doesn’t have many on sale. In fact, the number is less than a dozen.

Tiernan Ray at Barron’s:

They’re deriding Toyota’s (TM) decision to halt sales of its most important U.S. autos as a “total recall” today; the event pushing down the company’s American Depository Receipts by $5.94, or 7%, to $80.84 this morning.

Toyota late yesterday said it told dealers to halt sales of eight models in the U.S., including the Corolla and Camry, over a sticking pedal. Quite an ungainly follow-up to the news earlier in the day that the company expects a 6% rise in volume of sales worldwide this year, at about 8.27 million cars — still below its 9.37 million peak in 2007, the Financial Times’s Jonathan Soble notes.

Those eight car models were 57% of Toyota’s sales in the U.S. in 2009, note The Wall Street Journal’s Norihiko Shirouzu, Mariko Sanchanta and Yhshio Takahashi. The authors quote a car analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets as saying it’s conceivable the drive to overtake General Motors in volume, which Toyota did last year, has hurt quality control at the firm. Toyota engineers are “scratching their heads” over whether the current problems reflect engineering snafus identified three years ago.

The story quotes a U.S. rep who says the recall will be ” as short as possible.”

UPDATE: James B. Meigs in Popular Mechanics

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