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By 2g1c2 girls 1 cup

Toyota’s New Math

3rd February 2010

Perhaps you’ve been following the news about Toyota’s “issues”. Perhaps, even, you know a bit about automotive design and engineering and can see through the PR-speak and the smoke screen that they tend to put up in front of the real truth. If so, then you have already come to the same conclusion that I have. Congratulations, but this column is not for you. This column is for the people who are taking all of the news in, and are confident that Toyota is the greenest, most altruistic company that has ever walked (several inches above) the Earth. Toyota makes the best cars and trucks anywhere, and this little glitch only proves that they’re human, even if all previous evidence indicates that their headquarters is not in Japan, but on top of Mount Olympus.

To recap, Toyota is recalling over 8 million vehicles around the world for 2 separate, but similar, problems. In some vehicles, the floor mats can interfere with the gas pedal and cause it to stay depressed even when the driver takes their foot off of it. The other is for gas pedals that, on their own, stay depressed when the driver intends to slow down. Different problems, same effect – the car doesn’t slow down when the driver intends it to slow down.

Toyota maintains that the floor mat issue is simple to fix – the mat just needs to be secured properly. In other words, customer error. Toyota is taking the step of recalling the affected vehicles to fix this.

Toyota's Pedal Fix

Toyota's Pedal "Fix"

In the other, Toyota blames the pedal itself, and said a few days ago that it has a fix for cars on the road. A small metal part will be inserted into the accelerator pedal assembly to make sure that the pedal’s springs will work as intended and force the pedal up when the customer takes their foot off.

So far, so good, right? Wrong. Toyota says only the pedals made by CTS, an Indiana supplier, are affected. Pedals made by the other supplier, Denso, are not. Denso, by the way, is partly owned by Toyota. In the world of automotive purchasing, such an arrangement is called “dual-sourcing” (as opposed to “single-sourcing”). Two (or more) companies make the same part for the same vehicle from the same set of specifications from the automaker, and are used interchangeably. Neither Toyota nor the government has indicated that CTS is to blame in any way, but only its pedals need to be fixed, not Denso’s. The pedal design is to blame, according to everybody. If it’s a design issue, then why are Denso’s parts not part of the problem?

Something doesn’t add up.

Next, the issue being “fixed” is being called unintended acceleration, as in “the car keeps going faster than I want it to.” No matter if you’re talking about the floor mat issue or the pedal issue, neither one will make the car or truck go faster. The both would prevent the car from slowing down. Big difference. To be fair, to a panicking driver, these would likely feel very much the same, so maybe this is a case of a badly worded problem. However, if that were the case, wouldn’t Toyota or the US government use the proper wording when describing the problem? If the cars are, in fact, accelerating, Toyota’s “fix” won’t “fix” anything. It will simply pacify the masses while they really try to figure out the problem. If they really are accelerating, then the problem is likely to be in the vehicle’s electronics, in the software code that makes modern cars and trucks (usually) so reliable and fuel-efficient. Toyota itself said during a meeting with a congressional committee that “…sticking accelerator pedals are unlikely to be responsible for the sensational stories of drivers losing control over acceleration as their cars race to 60 miles per hour or higher.” In addition, there have been reports of the acceleration issue in vehicles that are not subject to either recall.

Something doesn’t add up.

Also, less than 2 weeks ago, Toyota said it did not know what the problem was, nor how to fix it. Yet on Monday, February 1, Toyota announced the fix, complete with a diagram, saying, “Toyota’s engineers have developed and rigorously tested a solution…” Toyota went from still investigating to a “rigorously tested” solution is less than 2 weeks. Just how “rigorous” is this solution?

Something doesn’t add up.

If the “solution” is so good for the cars already on the road, why then is the solution for cars and trucks yet to be built different? That’s right, kids, CTS is already making a redesigned accelerator pedal for the factory to use after they are back up and running next week. It is NOT the same pedal with an extra part inserted, as described above for cars on the road. Why?

Something doesn’t add up.

If the various “fixes” that Toyota is implementing do not correct the problem, they will have a PR problem that will make the Pinto look like a schoolyard argument. And something else won’t add up, either. Toyota’s sales and profits.

That’s what I think – how about you? Please leave your comments below.

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