Toyota’s Troubles

While driving with my future wife along California’s scenic but treacherous Pacific Coast Highway in 1991, my brand new Toyota suddenly fishtailed and dove straight off a cliff. That’s the “after” picture you see.

I was uninjured, but my wife suffered both a broken neck and crushed skull. I was told I would probably lose her, but she had a miraculous recovery and today only suffers epilepsy. A week after the accident I read Toyota was replacing the model at half year because, according to one car magazine, driving experts said it suffered from sudden “terminal” oversteering.

So you may think I assume that Toyota is guilty not only of having faulty accelerators but of covering up the fact for two years. But you’d assume wrong. They may well prove guilty of both charges, but we need to keep in mind that the allegations are all based on driver reports. Some of these are clearly going to be related to news events. And some will be opportunistic.

Yesterday a letter to the editor of the Washington Post began, “Toyota, I’m mad as hell! I blame you – not only for a faulty product but for the cover-up: a slow, secretive roll-out revealing too little, way too late.” It continues, “In September, driving a 2009 Camry on a clear day, I had a terrible accident. Despite strenuous braking efforts, I was unable to decelerate. I hit two other cars and rolled and destroyed my car. I was seriously injured. The cause, however, appeared not to be a faulty floor mat-the only responsibility Toyota acknowledged at that time.”

He then relates that he replaced the car with a 2010 Camry and “the gas pedal on that car stuck and the car uncontrollably gained speed.”

The second incident seems to match the general accusations against Toyota, but the first and truly serious one does not. Braking is an entirely different system from acceleration. Uncontrolled acceleration or lack of de-acceleration would not override slamming the brakes.

This is sheer opportunism and you will see it across North America and probably the world, regardless of whether there’s a real problem with Toyotas or not. And we’re talking about the world’s largest automaker. I’ll have more to say on this in an upcoming article, but this is going to be bad.