Myth/Fact

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In their Third Amended Consolidated Complaint (TAMCC), lawyers suing Toyota have made a series of inaccurate and misleading claims in an effort to justify their meritless litigation against the company.

Toyota believes that all parties in the multidistrict class action lawsuit have an obligation to present their case on the basis of scientific evidence and reliable data, not speculative, misleading and emotionally-charged statements of counsel.  Here is the truth behind just a few of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ most egregious misleading claims: 

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Myth: Plaintiffs’ lawyers falsely say NASA’s review of the NHTSA VOQ database showed increases in UAs in Toyota models when the design changed from a mechanical to electronic throttle system (TAMCC, P. 187).

THE FACTS: Plaintiffs’ counsel blatantly mischaracterizes material from the NASA report to make a claim that is directly contradicted by the NASA report itself.

  • To support their claim, plaintiffs’ counsel cites a graph, pulled from the NASA report, claiming it shows an increase in UA in Toyota models. (TAMCC, pg. 117)
  • In fact, the sentence in the NASA report that immediately precedes the graph cited by plaintiffs puts the lie to their argument: 

“The NESC team did not observe an increase in VOQ reports coincident with the introduction of ETCS-i on all TMC models.” (NASA Report, p. 29) [Emphasis added]

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Myth: Plaintiffs’ lawyers falsely say Toyota knew about and hid its unintended acceleration (UA) problem as far back as 2002 (TAMCC, Par. 172), claiming that an internal document “proves” the company couldn’t identify or fix the cause of the problem (TAMCC, Par. 174).

THE FACTS: Plaintiffs are mischaracterizing an issue that had nothing to do with any kind of sustained acceleration or wide open throttle and is in no way unique to Toyota vehicles.  Toyota fully resolved this issue years ago with complete transparency to its regulators and customers.

  • The issue related to a transmission torque converter in the 2002-2003 Camry that was causing a slight rocking motion in the vehicle, or “surge,” while holding steady throttle between 38 and 42 miles per hour. Toyota has publicly addressed these false claims made by plaintiffs’ lawyers and others on numerous occasions over the past year.
  • The “internal document” that plaintiffs’ lawyers quote is a Field Technical Report (FTR) created at the earliest stages of Toyota’s investigation into this issue.  In part as a result of this document, Toyota subsequently identified, diagnosed, and fully remedied the condition.
  • The FTR was provided to the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) in accordance with NHTSA regulations. NHTSA investigated the issue with the 2002-2003 Camry and did not find a safety defect trend.
  • The solution to the issue was communicated to dealers in a routine Technical Service Bulletin, or TSB. TSBs are used by all auto manufacturers to supply information to dealers.
  • The TSB was also provided to NHTSA, was published on the Toyota website and was published through other public portals in accord with industry practice.
  • NHTSA and NASA have extensively investigated unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles and confirmed that the only known causes are the two mechanical issues addressed by the company’s recalls.

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Myth: Plaintiffs’ Lawyers falsely say Toyota documented unintended acceleration as early as 2003 (TAMCC, Par. 190) and secretly replaced parts to conceal a defect in the ETCS-i that was causing it (TAMCC, Par. 197).

THE FACTS: Plaintiffs’ lawyers base this claim on documents about vehicles that don’t even have ETCS-i.

  • The documents are two Field Technical Reports, one related to a 2003 Avensis 250 in Europe and another related to a 2005 Echo in the U.S. -- both of which had mechanical, not electronic, throttles.
  • In fact, one of the documents that plaintiffs’ lawyers say proves their claim even includes a picture of the Echo’s mechanical throttle.
  • Far from demonstrating a defect in Toyota’s ETCS-i, the reports cited by the plaintiffs’ lawyers actually reinforce the benefits of ETCS-i technology.  The stuck throttle in the Avensis would not have occurred in a vehicle with ETCS-i because the system would have triggered a fail-safe. 
  • In recognition of this and other benefits of an electronic throttle control system, virtually every automaker now uses electronic throttle control technology.

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Myth: Plaintiffs’ lawyers wrongly say Toyota silences UA victims by buying back vehicles and requiring confidentiality agreements (TAMCC, Par. 211).

THE FACTS:  Toyota repurchases vehicles on rare occasions as part of its ongoing commitment to quality and safety.  Its repurchase agreements do not contain confidentiality clauses and Plaintiffs admit that they made this allegation without any supporting evidence.

  • Toyota, like all automakers, sometimes repurchases vehicles for a variety of reasons, including to allow further engineering analysis without inconveniencing customers.
  • As is standard in the industry, Toyota usually asks customers, but does not require them, to sign a settlement agreement that releases Toyota from liability.  The majority of owners agree, but these agreements do not contain a confidentiality clause.
  • In fact, plaintiffs’ lawyers admit that they have never seen these supposed “confidentiality agreements” – they told Automotive Newsthat the only evidence they can muster is that “the consumers told [them].” (10/30/2010)

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Myth: Plaintiffs’ lawyers say Toyota hides vehicle repurchases related to unintended acceleration claims from the NHTSA (TAMCC, Par. 211). 

THE FACTS:  Toyota properly reported the vehicles in question to the NHTSA on multiple occasions.

  • Toyota informed NHTSA three separate times of the two specific vehicles in question: first, in timely compliance with the TREAD Act (for the Corolla – May 2010 and for the Tacoma – December 2009); second, in a Spring 2010 response to the NHTSA’s document request in connection with its Recall Query, and finally, in a voluntary response to an informal NHTSA request on October 20, 2010. 

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Myth: Plaintiffs’ lawyers claim that, as early as 2007, Toyota knew a brake override system was the answer for unintended acceleration and, unlike other manufacturers, did not install it. (TAMCC, Par. 18) 

THE FACTS:  A brake override system can’t solve a problem that doesn’t exist, and plaintiffs’ lawyers have shown no reliable or scientific evidence that Toyota’s ETCS-i causes unintended acceleration.

  • Brake override provides an extra measure of confidence; it is not a universal remedy for unintended acceleration.
  •  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has specifically rejected the idea that the technology eliminates the risks associated with unintended acceleration.  [See Slide 31 on NHTSA’s June 30, 2010 presentation to the National Academy of Sciences on unintended acceleration]
  • Brake override does not work unless the driver depresses the brake pedal, which is not what always happens when there is unintended acceleration.
  • With its 2011 model year vehicles, Toyota is one of the first full-line manufacturers to have brake override in its line of new vehicles in the United States. In 2007, major U.S. manufacturers such as GM, Ford and Honda did not offer brake override.

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Myth: Plaintiffs’ lawyers say that Toyota tracks UA fatalities with a “Death by SUA Chart” (TAMCC, Par. 309).

THE FACTS: This is just inflammatory rhetoric.  There is no “Death by SUA chart.”

  • NHTSA’s vehicle owner questionnaire (“VOQ”) database contains all customer complaints to NHTSA.  The complaints are unverified and are grouped by very broad categories.  The category that includes UA ranges from rough shifting transmission and engine idle complaints to claims of high-speed unintended acceleration.
  • In February 2010, Toyota reviewed the VOQ database and compiled some of the entries in an effort to understand claims being made in an inaccurate research report funded by plaintiffs’ lawyers based on the same information.
  • To be clear, plaintiffs’ inflammatory claims about the number of deaths associated with UA in Toyota vehicles are utterly without merit.
  • NHTSA advised the National Academy of Sciences in June 2010 that it had investigated the 75 incidents and 93 fatalities in the VOQ database allegedly involving unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles and confirmed only one had a vehicle-based cause, which was pedal entrapment.  [See Slide 38 on NHTSA’s June 30, 2010 presentation to the National Academy of Sciences on unintended acceleration]
  • NHTSA and NASA confirmed these findings in reports released after their comprehensive investigation of alleged unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. (Technical Assessment of Toyota Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) Systems, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,  Pg. 40-43)
  • As IHS Global Insight has reported, “The hyperbole is thick here—there have not been ‘thousands of crashes and hundreds of deaths’ associated with any sort of unintended acceleration defect. In fact, beyond the issues of pedal entrapment and stuck accelerators, there have been no proven incidents of any unintended acceleration for any other technical reason other than operator error.”   (IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis, May 7, 2012)
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