Update on Toyota Car Recalls

Toyota certainly didn’t ask for the trouble they’re in, but they’re getting it anyway. Ten months after the initial Toyota accelerator recalls, the company’s woes continue. Since January, the car maker has also instituted recalls for several more models due to faulty brake and steering systems. In fact, as of the end of October, Toyota had put eight recalls into effect over the previous six months, and over the last 13 months, has issued more than 12 million recall notices around the world. The first class action trial hasn’t even begun, but they can certainly expect to see more in the near future.

In addition to lawsuits, Toyota is the focus of three National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) probes related to the sudden acceleration problem encountered by numerous Toyota car owners last year, a problem which caused several deaths. It was one accident in particular that prompted the recall. An off-duty California Highway Patrol officer, Mark Saylor, was killed in August 2009, along with his wife, daughter, and brother-in-law when the Lexus ES350 they were in crashed due to unintended acceleration. Toyota has since settled the claim that resulted from that crash.

The company said it determined that the sudden acceleration was caused by the gas pedal sticking to the floor mat, and Toyota’s initial fix was to instruct customers to remove the floor mats. However, the problem persisted, and plaintiffs have updated their complaint against the company to claim that Toyota knew about the problem for over a decade, yet did nothing.

Claims filed last month in California state that Toyota employees were able to re-create the acceleration problem brought to the company’s attention by customers who had experienced it. According to those dealership employees, Toyota bought the defective vehicles back from the owners, in exchange for the owners signing confidentiality agreements that prevented them from disclosing the issue to the proper authorities.

Toyota released a statement in August which said, in part: “Toyota has identified two specific mechanical causes of potential unintended acceleration in some of its vehicles and has moved decisively to address these issues with effective and durable solutions. Toyota rejects claims that plaintiffs suffered economic damages because of the recent recalls.” The statement did not address the deaths that occurred as a result of the acceleration problem.

Toyota is also being investigated by a Congressional committee because of allegations it delayed the car recall for unintended acceleration. The company has already agreed to pay $16.4 million in fines, but the investigation continues. The National Academy of Sciences and NASA are performing independent studies of the acceleration issue as well.

Shockingly, despite the numerous recalls over the last year, the impending lawsuits, and the new allegations that the company knew of the dangers, but did nothing to prevent them, Toyota says its sales are up over what they were at this time last year. Consumers may be seduced by the series of commercials the company has released which try to reassure both current Toyota owners and potential buyers that the company is committed to the safety of its customers.

If you own a Toyota, or are thinking about buying one, we urge you to monitor the status of current, and any possible new recalls.