by Michael Rouse
We want to set the record straight and tell you the actions we are taking to get back on track.
First – regarding our recalls, we are making an all-out effort to address the two specific mechanical causes of unintended acceleration we’ve identified – the potential for unsecured or incompatible floor mats to trap the accelerator pedal and rare instances of sticking accelerator pedals.
We have rigorously engineered and tested our solutions and they are effective and durable – we are confident that they work. Both fixes are well under way and we are doing everything we can, as fast as we can, to make things right for our customers.
Second – regarding our electronic throttle control system, we have sold more than 40 million cars and trucks with ETCS and we’re very confident that the system is not the cause of alleged unintended acceleration.
In order to further validate the safety of our ETCS, we have opened our electronics to independent external review in the interests of full transparency.
We also have asked Exponent, a world-class engineering and scientific consulting firm, to conduct its own independent, comprehensive evaluation.
Third – We are making fundamental changes in the way our company operates in order to ensure that Toyota sets an even higher standard for vehicle safety and reliability, responsiveness to customers and transparency with regulators.
At a global level, we have established a Special Committee for Global Quality, led by Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda, which will thoroughly review our operations.
We are also putting a system in place to better share important quality and safety information across our global operations and to work more closely and transparently with government agencies, including NHTSA in the United States.
At a regional level, we will ensure that our customers’ voices will be heard and acted upon in a timely manner.
We are establishing the new position of Regional Product Safety Executive, and our North American operations will have more autonomy and decision-making power with regard to recall and other safety issues.
We will establish a new Automotive Center of Quality Excellence in the U.S., where a team of our top engineers will focus on strengthening our quality control throughout the region.
At the customer level, we are taking significant steps to bolster confidence in the safety and reliability of our vehicles.
In addition, we are making greater use of event data recorders other improved vehicle diagnostic tools.
Unintended acceleration is a complex issue of great importance, and rushing to judgment on the basis of unfounded theories – as some media and others have done – is a disservice to the public.
For example, the public and Congress were misled in February by a claim by Professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University Carbondale that he had induced unintended acceleration in a Toyota without leaving a trace.
A comprehensive analysis by Exponent and testing by Toyota established that Prof. Gilbert had rewired and reengineered the vehicle’s electronics in multiple ways and in a specific sequence under conditions that are virtually impossible to duplicate in the real world.
And Sean Kane, an advocate for trial lawyers suing Toyota who financed Prof. Gilbert’s work, misleadingly told Congress that the event could only happen in a Toyota.
Mr. Kane was wrong – Exponent and Toyota reproduced the Gilbert experiment in seven other makes of vehicle with broadly similar results.
It’s important to note that Mr. Kane has never demonstrated that Toyota’s electronics are a cause of unintended acceleration – never.
The case of James Sikes and his “runaway Prius” in March is another example of rushing to judgment without the facts.
So the way the event that Mr. Sikes says happened was conveyed through the media is inconsistent with the empirical findings of the investigation.
We acknowledge that we stumbled with our recent recalls and we have learned the lessons – and now we are working hand-in-hand with our team members, our dealers and our suppliers to make sure that Toyota sets the industry benchmark for safety and quality.
We’ve been in the business of providing Americans with safe, reliable cars and trucks for 50 years – and that doesn’t happen without great quality, outstanding engineering and a robust safety record. And, fully 80 percent of the Toyotas sold in America in the past 20 years are still on the road today.
Many consumers tell us over and again that they believe Toyota has been over-scrutinized and that they remain very confident in the safety our products – as we are.
Our dealers are telling us that customers are coming back and are comfortable with Toyota now that the facts are coming out, and we’re also seeing many consumers come in and shop Toyota for the first time.
Vice President, Philanthropy & Community Affairs
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.