Toyota Crash Data Points to Driver Error
Let the rehabilitation begin.
6:03 PM, Jul 14, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
One study calculates Toyota lost $250 million in brand equity (about 1/4 of what BP's lost in the oil spill) during the media and Congressional furor over its alleged problems with "sudden acceleration." But a new study, conducted by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests the once-dominant car company didn't deserve all of its bad press:
Toyota is still culpable for problems with "sticky" accelerators and floor mat issues, but overall, the results of the study are reminiscent of a similar "sudden acceleration" scare with the Audi 5000 in 1989. That scare was also shown to be driver error in a NHTSA study.
There were precious few who questioned the "sudden acceleration" narrative, so busy was everyone flagellating a large corporation and doing flashy, fake reenactments of "sudden acceleration" crashes.
But those who know "sudden acceleration" hysteria best— those caught up in the lawsuits post-Audi scare— studied the data and suggested driver error and media hysteria might be the actual problem. I wrote about the "Argument against Toyota media hysteria" in March:
I wonder how much coverage the NHTSA study results will get in comparison to the original accusations? I've been telling people about the possibility of driver error for months, and they mostly think I'm a conspiracy theorist, illustrating how deeply ingrained the media's first take on this story is.
Kudos to Michael Fumento, Theodore Frank, Richard Schmidt and Megan McArdle for staying above the ritual freak-out. It should be noted that Toyota also didn't do itself that many favors with its early p.r. response, but that doesn't justify the huge price it has paid thanks to a perfect storm of unexamined data, media hype, and salivating class-action litigators.
So, as a solid to Toyota, I offer the first in a series of "Every Toyota Has a Story," ads, which are part of the brand's rehabilitation, and which I found kind of delightful:
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