Like a blockbuster trial, the verdict of Congress's probe into
unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles was eagerly awaited.
Engineering experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, NASA, Department of Transportation piled
through mounds of test data on thousands of vehicles.
Today, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released the
official verdict: "There is no electronic-based cause for unintended
high-speed acceleration in Toyotas."
Toyota, the world's largest automaker by volume, recalled 8 million vehicles over the last year
due to problems with the floor mats and electronic accelerator pedals.
What the report found was that the only causes of unwanted
acceleration were the previously identified ones -- physical problems with the
accelerator pedal design that caused it to stick in place and loose floor mats
that could jam the accelerator or brake pedals. These problems were
independent from electronic braking glitches that were
affecting Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle.
The report vindicated Toyota's electronic controls, which have been
used in Toyota vehicles since 2002. The news sent shares of the Japanese
automaker's stock 4.5 percent upwards.
The problems left Toyota's image badly stained. The issues were
suspected to be to blame in 89 acceleration-related deaths. However, only
a few of those were definitively substantiated to be due to the sticking pedal
or sliding floor mats. In most cases, driver error was to blame. In at least
one case the driver appeared to be faking the acceleration to try
to sue Toyota.
Toyota has already paid $50M USD to the U.S. federal government for
failing to bring them to the attention of federal regulators, despite being
aware of them. With state and local lawsuits, the automaker could face an
estimated $10B USD liability, according to a Reuters report.
a year ago, President Akio Toyoda paid Congress a visit to personally
apologize for the problems and cover-up. He stated he was "deeply
sorry" for these issues.