“Toyota Hysteria,” my LA Times piece today

As I write in today’s Los Angeles Times, the imagery of Toyotas running amok like something out of a Stephen King novel is simply false, though it’s certainly been good for demagogic government officials, the sensationalist media, those who see greater government regulation as the answer to everything, and trial lawyers.

  • Although Toyota had almost 17% of total U.S. car sales in 2008, it accounted for merely 8% of total claims for deaths and injuries in the first quarter of that year, according to NHTSA. Edmunds.com found that while Toyota was third in U.S. car sales from 2001 through 2010, it was 17th in NHTSA complaints.
  • Thus, even if every sudden-acceleration complaint proved valid, Toyotas are among the safest cars made.
  • Sudden acceleration complaints are like the hypochondria of drivers. In the past decade, NHTSA has received 13,000 – against every type of car made.
  • In fact, There is an amazing parallel to the Audi 5000 hysteria, in which Audi actually received 40 times the sudden acceleration complaints per vehicle as Toyota has and ALL proved to be driver error.

Despite getting bad press last year, Toyota came out as far and away the top-quality automaker, according to Consumer Reports’ 2010 reader survey.

That some of the animosity appears to be that Toyota is foreign owned (I explore this more in a blog), but the company directly and indirectly provides 200,000 U.S. jobs and the Camry – built in the Midwest – has been rated the most “American” car.


Ultimately defects kill very few drivers. Assuming all 52 of the fatalities “connected to” Toyota sudden acceleration complaints were actually caused by them, that’s out of 420,000 Americans killed on our roads during that period.

Drivers kill drivers. And Americans are particularly good at this sport. Even though American cars lead the way in safety features, we’ve gone from having the world’s best driving record per mile in 1970 to 11th among industrialized countries by 2005.

Although it was cut from the final version, per capita we rank 42nd out of 48 countries surveyed! And part of the reason is our Naderite obsession with blaming the vehicle, pushed by the media and trial lawyers. It’s literally killing us!