After Consumer Reports warned of roll over problems with the Lexus GX, Toyota announced that they will halt sales of the vehicle. Now, they’ve asked to use the magazine’s test track so their own team of engineers can attempt to duplicate the test. Consumer Reports declined—undaunted, Toyota will recreate the track at a test facility in Japan. When a driver experiences a sudden acceleration problem, Toyota ushers in their SMART “swift market analysis and research team” to investigate and in some cases (like the case involving the Prius driver in San Diego) discredit them. When a professor of automotive technology testified before Congress about possible electrical problems with Toyota’s electronic engine control system, Toyota hired Exponent Inc. to refute the professor’s findings, point-by-point. Is this a concerted effort to defend an automaker from unfair claims or a PR campaign to protect its image and reputation? Are there legitimate concerns (beyond the pedal) about what’s causing Toyotas to accelerate out of control?
Sean Kane, founder & president of Safety Research & Strategies; founder of the Vehicle Safety Information Resource Center