Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. announced Tuesday that it is slamming the brakes on the manufacturing and sales of many of its bestselling models in the U.S. The decision to suspend production and sales follows a series of safety recalls involving millions of vehicles.
Toyota announced a recall of more than 4 million cars and trucks last September, saying that driver-side floor mats could interfere with the accelerator pedal and cause the vehicle to accelerate suddenly and unintentionally.
On January 22, Toyota announced another recall of 2.3 million American cars and trucks, saying that the gas pedal mechanisms could wear out over time and cause the accelerator to stick or grow unresponsive.
Both acceleration-related recalls also affect hundreds of thousands of Toyota vehicles in Canada and millions in Europe.
Many Toyota owners who have had a sudden acceleration incident and lived to tell about it dispute Toyota’s claim that the problem is related to floor mats. Some have even produced undeniable evidence that something more than floor mats and sticking accelerator pedals is causing the problem.
Beasley Allen shareholder Graham Esdale, who has become a leading attorney in the investigation of cases involving runaway Toyotas, says that Toyota is concealing the truth.
“It’s not a sticking accelerator pedal. Just like it wasn’t the floor mats. They are doing everything they can to direct attention away from the electronics,” Esdale alleges.
Recent evidence turned up by ABC News supports Esdale’s claims. Just after Christmas, 4 people died when the Toyota they were in sped out of control and landed upside down in a pond. Investigators found the floor mats had been removed and stashed in the trunk as the vehicle’s owners had been instructed.
Another recent incident involved a New Jersey man whose Avalon accelerated violently. Kevin Haggerty told ABC News that he managed to navigate his racing car to his dealership by shifting repeatedly between drive and neutral. When he arrived, the service manger was able to verify that the floor mat and gas pedal were not to blame.
Some Japanese analysts have grown critical of Toyota’s expansion efforts in recent years, asserting that the company began sacrificing quality for efficiency and increased sales.
Koji Endo, the managing director at Japan Advanced Research, a Tokyo-based research organization, told the New York Times that Toyota used the same parts “here, there and everywhere on major models.”
“That’s very efficient, but very risky. If the part turns out to be faulty, you suddenly have a problem on your hands involving millions of cars.”
Masahiro Fukuda, the research manager at global auto research company Fourin, told the New York Times that he and others in the industry saw the treacherous path Toyota had chosen when it chose to cut costs, increase efficiency, and boost sales.
“We have had fears for quite a while now that Toyota lacked the human resources and production capacity for such rapid expansion. By chasing numbers, they were becoming seriously outstretched,” Fukuda said.
“Many of us weren’t surprised over the big recalls. We were more surprised that it took Toyota so long,” Fukuda told the New York Times.
Esdale added that research and date have shown that Toyota has ignored the vehicles with the highest incidence of sudden unintended acceleration (SUA). The 2002-2006 Toyota Camrys have three times the SUA events than any of the recalled vehicles. He says, “Toyota can offer no explanation as to why they have not addressed these vehicles given the higher incident rates.”