Congress believe that Toyota recalled over 8 million vehicles in an attempt to HIDE some form of defect in the 'mysterious' electronic controls!
Speed readers at Congress have decided to run fast and loose with partial information they have received so far from Toyota and start a trial by press coverage of the situation. Congress, already reeling from their inability to get anything of substance done and in full politico mode posturing for upcoming fall elections, are setting the scene for a Congressional bloviation session aimed at Akio Toyoda of Toyota on Wednesday. Congress is leading with accusations and innuendo, to be later followed up maybe by actual careful review. The news articles alone will be enough to fuel the flames of anti-Toyota sentiment and will be waved in court in every Toyota litigation case.
Leading Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Monday in a letter to James Lentz, Toyota Motor President and COO that Toyota relied on a flawed study in dismissing the notion that computer issues could be at fault for sticking accelerator pedals, and then made misleading statements about the repairs. Toyota had earlier released more than 75,000 pages of documents, including 20,000 in Japanese, that had been requested by the committee. The representatives, apparently after a fast read probably fueled by class action seeking lawyers, also wrote a separate letter to the transportation secretary, Ray LaHood. In the letter to LaHood they stated they were concerned about the competency of NHTSA's investigations into Toyota’s problems:“It appears that NHTSA lacks the expertise needed to evaluate defects in vehicle electronic controls, and its response to complaints of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles appears to have been seriously deficient”.
Toyota, to include some form of independent investigation of the electronic control issue (since Toyota would be insane not to be doing exhaustive internal research on the issue) hired Exponent, a consulting company, to look at the electronic control issue in some of the vehicles. Congress, apparently now acting as "overnight" accident reconstruction experts, and after consulting only two experts in the field and having them review and write their reports in 1 or 2 days, have decided that the study was flawed. (Please see What NHTSA and Congress should be communicating about unintended acceleration to calm the public)
In the letter to Mr. Lentz, Mr. Waxman and Mr. Stupak said Toyota had dismissed the idea rather than properly investigate it. Their assertion that it wasn't properly investigated apparently was based upon the opinion of two "experts":
From their letter "On February 19,2010, we sought a review of the Exponent report by two automotive engineering and safety experts, Dr. Michael Pecht, and Neil Hannemann. These independent experts raised multiple concerns about the value of the Exponent report
- 1) Michael Pecht, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, and director of the University's Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering (CALCE) who told the commitee that Toyota "did not conduct a fault tree analysis, a failure modes and effects analysis . . . or provide any other scientific or rigorous study to describe all the various potential ways in which a sudden acceleration event could be triggered"; "only to have focused on some simple and obvious failure causes"; used "extremely small sample sizes"; and as a result produced a report that "I would not consider . . . of value . . . in getting to the root causes of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles."
2) Neil Hanneman, “an engineer with over 30 years experience in automotive manufacturing, product design, and product development, reached a similar conclusion”, informing the Committee that the report "does not follow a scientific method" and fails to test "major categories" of potential causes of sudden unintended acceleration, including "electromagnetic interference, Radio frequency interference," "environmental conditions," the electronic control module (ECM), and "the software algorithms in the ECM."
These experts do not mention any familiarity with the electronics of Toyota so their assertions are merely as 'general observations' of the depth and breadth of the Exponent report, not whether that report combined with Toyota's own internal research most likely excludes the electronic controls as a source of the problems.
And just in case you are missing the message from Congress...Congress and these "safety experts" believe that Toyota recalled over 8 million vehicles in an attempt to HIDE some form of defect in the 'mysterious' electronic controls?? LOOKS LIKE IT IS TIME TO CALL 60 MINUTES! LETS HAVE THEM WHIP UP ANOTHER DOG N PONY SHOW LIKE THEY DID WITH THE AUDI 5000 FIASCO!! GET AN EXPERT TO DRILL A HOLE IN THE TRANSMISSION AND PUMP UP THE PRESSURE AND VOILA!! SHOWTIME!!
The letter also includes a presentation of a some flawed logic to derive the 'probable' number of likely unintended acceleration cases which Congress feels Toyota is hiding? From the letter: "These 233 incidents occurred in a broad variety of Toyota vehicles, and were reported in vehicles produced in every model year from 2001 through 2010. Assuming that the 3,430 complaints randomly selected by Toyota for review are a representative sample of the 37,900 complaints in the Toyota database, Toyota would have received an estimated 2,600 complaints of sudden unintended acceleration from Toyota and Lexus drivers between January 2000 and October 2009. These complaints would have included an estimated 760 crashes"
And the caustic letter then CONCLUDES "Sudden unintended acceleration in vehicles is a serious and highly dangerous event. Our preliminary assessment is that Toyota resisted the possibility that electronic defects could cause safety concerns, relied on a flawed engineering report, and made misleading public statements concerning the adequacy of recent recalls to address the risk of sudden unintended acceleration. We hope that tomorrow's hearing provides the Committee with additional information about Toyota's response to incidents of sudden unintended acceleration over the past decade."
Again, please see What NHTSA and Congress should be communicating about unintended acceleration to calm the public
For the full story see the NY Times Article House Panel Says Toyota Misled Public on Safety Problem.
Also see the Feb 22, 2010 Letter from House Energy and Commerce Committee to Toyota.