Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What Does the Data Say, Toyota?

We might all remember the scare a few years ago that Toyotas were subject to going out of control because the accelerator could get hung up on an oversized floor mat. Turns out that 'cause' only appears in a few of the reported incidents. Not everyone had larger, all-weather mats in their cars that experienced the unintentional accelerator problem. However, Toyota paid billions in dollars as fines, civil suit settlements and vehicle recalls. Toyota fixed a sticky accelerator 'problem' in the recall.

I show the word 'problem' in quotes because the data shows that you can overcome the accelerator issue by stepping on the brake (in the link, Malcolm Gladwell goes with some Car and Driver guys to put the pedal to the metal while simultaneously putting on the brake--and talks about some shady 'recreations' with weirdly modified vehicles, and see previously linked article also).

And in every case (yes, every case) where 'black box' data could be recovered, none of the drivers had stepped on the brake...or tried to put the car in neutral...or turn off the car--all methods that will shut down the acceleration, the engine and slow the car down. However, when people think the brake doesn't work, they panic...and they think the brake isn't working because they are mistakenly 'mashing' the accelerator pedal. And once the brain locks up in panic, it's difficult to think clearly.

Unfortunately, when customers are in pain and hurting, data doesn't help. Toyota took actions--like settlements and recalls--that demonstrated they cared about their customers. I commend them on that, especially since all car manufacturers have had reports of unintentional acceleration similar to Toyota but haven't been put through the scrutiny Toyota has.

[Note: by the way, Toyota Camry continues to be at the top or near the top for the most American of all cars sold in the U.S. by domestic content--more American than Ford, GM and Chrysler...as I've reported earlier on how we lie to consumers about 'Made in America'.]

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