Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, is facing at least a dozen lawsuits seeking class-action status over the mysterious sudden acceleration problem that had led to 19 deaths.
At least 12 actions seeking class-action status have been filed in the U.S. and Canada, California, Florida, and Louisiana with the latest filed in Texas on behalf of the Pena family who claim they had a runaway Avalon, made by Toyota.
Robert Hilliard, (and IB member) of Hilliard Munoz Guerra LLP, believes the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Corpus Christi, will include owners of all types of Toyotas from all over Texas.
He tells IB News, “The problem is not unique to the model, it’s unique to the design of the electronic throttle control system. What happens is there used to be a manual system if you press on the brake, you do not accelerate. But now Toyota has done away with that with the electronic throttle control system-intelligent (ETCS-i). It doesn’t matter if you are on the brake, suddenly you have a runaway car.”
Hilliard explains that the first time the problem manifests your life is in danger or the life of anyone who happens to be in a crosswalk, such as school children.
In the Pena’s case, Mrs. Pena was at a complete stop waiting for the traffic to pass when suddenly her 2008 Avalon accelerated, causing a crash. She was not injured. The Avalon had experienced an earlier acceleration problem as well, the complaint says.
The lawsuits follow multiple recalls by Toyota and a Jan. 26 decision by the company to stop U.S. production and sales of eight models to fix defective accelerator pedals.
Toyota has just announced a “fix,” addressing the problematic accelerator pedals on 2.3 million recalled vehicles by installing a “precision-cut reinforcement bar” in the gas pedal mechanism to make sure the pedal returns to the idle position.
Toyota say the fix worked in multiple tests and the part is on its way to dealerships. Recalled vehicles will also have floor mats refigured so they do not engage underneath the gas pedal.
But Hilliard says the fix will not work. Even the company that makes the accelerator pedal believes the fix will not work, he says.
“Nobody understands why the ETCS-i overtakes the brakes, but a manual override would prevent runaway Toyotas.”
Brake Override System
The Washington Post reports that years ago when Toyota Motor began hearing complaints of runaway cars, the company filed to install a “brake override” system, even as other automakers turn to the technology to fix malfunctions. With a brake override, the driver can stop a car with the brake even if the accelerator is depressed and the car is revving at full throttle.
Volkswagen, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have that system installed in some of their vehicles, some as far back as a decade. The Post reports that General Motors installs brake override in most of its automobiles.
The problems with Toyotas are leaving dealers in the dark.
Hilliard says the latest instruction from company headquarters that dealers are passing onto their customers is to turn off the key if you experience sudden acceleration. But switching the car off will also cut the electronic steering.
“The fix does not work. Don’t drive them, take them in. The dealers don’t know what to do. With the Penas, they gave them a loaner, a Toyota,” says Hilliard.
“Electronics are not part of the issue,” Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, said in a conference call, reports Bloomberg. The company has pinpointed the cause and has an effective solution, he said.
Toyota sent repair kits to dealers, whose mechanics will insert a metal replacement plate into the pedals of recalled vehicles, the company said. New cars will have a redesigned pedal, Lentz said. #