Toyota has recalled millions of cars and trucks—4.2 million to replace floor mats that might impede throttle-pedal travel, and 2.4 million to install a shim behind the electronic pedal assembly. All of the affected pedal assemblies were made by Canadian supplier CTS. Toyota's boffins have documented a problem that can make a few of these pedals slow to return, and maybe even stick down. Problem solved.In other words, the media, Congress and the Obama Administration for no good reason have put out enough propaganda so that the price of used Toyotas are most assuredly down.
But the media, Congress—and personal-injury lawyers—smell the blood in the water. Not to diminish the injuries and a few deaths attributable to these very real mechanical problems, but they're statistically only a very small blip, which may explain why Toyota took so long to identify the issue, especially when it has symptoms similar to the similarly documented floor mat recall. Plus, sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) is notoriously difficult to diagnose because, more often then not, the problem can't be repeated in front of a mechanic. Let's not forget the Audi SUA episode back in the '80s; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration eventually concluded that there was no mechanical problem. The culprit, as hard as this is to admit, was most likely driver error. To put the issue into context, in the last decade, there were about 24,000 customer complaints about SUA involving almost every major automaker. The NHTSA investigated fewer than 50. ..
Bottom line: The system is not only redundant, it's double-redundant. The signal lines from the pedal to the ECM are isolated. The voltages used in the system are DC voltages—any RF voltages introduced into the system, by, say, that microwave oven you have in the passenger seat, would be AC voltages, which the ECM's conditioned inputs would simply ignore. Neither your cellphone nor Johnny's PlayStation have the power to induce much confusion into the system.
These throttle-by-wire systems are very difficult to confuse—they're designed to be robust, and any conceivable failure is engineered to command not an open throttle but an error message.
So what to make of the unintended acceleration cases popping up by the dozens? Not the ones explainable by problem sticky pedals, but the ones documented by people who claim their vehicle ran away on its own, with no input, and resisted all attempts to stop it? Some can probably be explained as an attempt to get rid of a car consumers no longer desire. Some are probably the result of Audi 5000 Syndrome, where drivers simply lost track of their feet and depressed the gas instead of the brake. It's happened to me: Luckily I recognized the phenomenon and corrected before it went bang. Others may not have the presence of mind.
But the possibility that a vehicle could go from idling at a traffic light to terrific, uncalled-for and uncontrollable acceleration because the guy next to you at a traffic light answered his cellphone? Or some ghost in the machine or a hacker caused a software glitch that made your car run away and the brakes suddenly simultaneously fail? Not in the least bit likely. Toyota deserves a better deal than the media and Congress are giving it.
According to a USA Today/Gallup poll published recently, 31 percent of Americans think it is unsafe to be in a Toyota or Lexus product, and 55 percent said that Toyota did not respond promptly to the safety problems.
Simple supply and demand economic analysis tells you that with this many people fearing Toyotas, the price of used Toyotas is down.
If you are in the market for a car, it's a great time to go out and get the "Obama discount" on a slightly used Toyota.