Toyota: Acceleration Complaints Drop 80%

October 5, 2010

Toyota Motor Corp.’s North American manufacturing arm said Monday that consumer complaints regarding unintended acceleration have dropped 80 percent since April, when it instituted a new method for handling those complaints.

Toyota in April responded to negative publicity surrounding the worst safety crisis in its history, including more than 10 million recalls worldwide, by creating a team of engineers and technicians to respond to consumer complaints on acceleration issues within a day.

That effort called swift market analysis response teams, or SMART, has checked out 4,200 vehicles. In no case did the teams find that electronic throttle control systems were responsible for unintended acceleration, said Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing of North America.

Toyota on Monday held a conference call with reporters on its safety issues and its response to them.

In U.S. congressional hearings in February, Toyota executives, including President Akio Toyoda, were heavily criticized for creating a corporate culture in which U.S. and North American safety issues were handled in Japan.

Toyota has put more U.S. executives in charge of safety issues who will better handle safety issues with U.S. safety officials including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said Steve St. Angelo, Toyota’s chief quality control officer for North America.

“I have a direct line to Akio Toyoda on safety issues,” St. Angelo said on Monday’s conference call.

Since the recalls began last year, Toyota has said that unintended acceleration complaints have been linked to two main issues — sticking accelerator pedals or improperly installed floormats that cause accelerators to become trapped in the open position. Those two issues, Toyota says, are linked to 5.4 million U.S. vehicle recalls.

The world’s biggest automaker also said that it has updated anti-lock brake systems on some 2010 Prius and Lexus models.

Toyota engineering and manufacturing, in a press release on Monday, reiterated that its complete 2011 model year North American lineup will be equipped with a brake override system, that ensures braking overrides any throttle command.

St. Angelo said Toyota will be the first major automaker to have the brake override system on all of its North American lineup and the system is already in 84 percent of Toyota, Lexus and Scion models currently on sale, St. Angelo said.

He also said that event data recorders, nicknamed black boxes, are being installed in every 2011 model year Toyota, Lexus and Scion now in production.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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