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Toyota timeline shows growing problems with sticky pedals in '09

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Toyota timeline shows growing problems with sticky pedals in '09

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington -- Toyota Motor Corp. told federal regulators it saw a growing number of problems with sticky accelerator pedals in the months before it recalled 2.3 million vehicles over the issue in January.

The Japanese automaker also acknowledged more details about what it knew about problems with sticky pedals in the United States. The records confirm that Toyota engineers knew by December that it had the same problems with pedals in the United States that it had seen in Europe.

On March 24, Toyota's vice president for technical and regulatory affairs, Chris Tinto, submitted 10 pages of timelines to government investigators outlining what Toyota knew and when it acted during a series of recalls.

The documents are among 70,000 pages of records turned over to the government by Toyota and were obtained Wednesday by The Detroit News.

On Monday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed to fine Toyota $16.4 million for delaying, by at least four months, its January recall of vehicles for sticking accelerator pedals. Toyota has until April 19 to contest or accept the fine.

Toyota told NHTSA that the first incident was in July 2006, when it received a report regarding sticking of the accelerator pedal on the Avalon. Then in 2008, Toyota received four field reports from the European market on sticking accelerator pedals and got the defective parts for inspection.

Between February and June 2009, Toyota's Customer Quality Engineering-Japan, as well as pedal design and testing engineers at Toyota and its Indiana-based supplier CTS, "investigated and analyzed the likely cause of sticky accelerator pedals in Europe."

"The trend that emerged in the judgment of these personnel was that the phenomenon seemed to occur during the winter in circumstances of high humidity in right-hand drive models (in the U.K. and Ireland)," Toyota said.

Toyota personnel had reproduced the phenomenon in April 2009, first on a recovered part and then in a laboratory setting using a full vehicle.

Then in June, Toyota's Reliability Testing Group replicated the incident.

"The collective thinking was that condensation, along with wear of the friction lever assembly, likely caused accelerator pedal sticking and that the phenomenon occurred in right-hand drive vehicles because the heater duct outputs directly towards the accelerator pedal, causing condensation inside the colder pedal assembly," Toyota said.

Toyota and CTS reviewed fixes "and settled on a change to material" and "extended the length of the friction lever to prevent increased friction."

Toyota didn't explain why it didn't do more to check if this was also a problem with left-hand drive vehicles sold in the United States and elsewhere.

Toyota's European unit in April told Toyota Customer Quality Engineering-Los Angeles about the sticky accelerator pedal complaints at Galway, Ireland, one of which, in April, was replicated by Toyota in Europe.

In May, Toyota developed a fix to address the sticky accelerator pedal issue in right side drive Aygo and Yaris models by extending accelerator pedal friction levers and changing material.

In June, a bulletin was issued to Toyota distributors in the U.K. and Ireland identifying a temporary field fix utilizing replacement of CTS pedals with a Denso pedal modified in the field.

The next month, Toyota decided to make a design change for CTS accelerator pedals on a rolling basis, first in right hand drive vehicles in Europe.

Toyota says it planned to commonize the friction lever in pedals used in other markets, including the United States.

On Aug. 21, Toyota inspected a 2009 Matrix in Arizona that was the subject of a sticky accelerator pedal complaint.

That investigation was discussed in an Aug. 28 monthly report and Sept. 9 Market Impact Summary.

On Sept. 29, Toyota Europe told distributors in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malta, Norway, Poland, Turkey, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the U.K., Georgia, Kazakhstan and Romania that it had identified a production improvement

NHTSA says that Toyota knew at that point it had a problem in the United States and was legally obligated to inform the government and recall the vehicles.

Automakers are legally obligated to notify NHTSA within five days if they determine a safety defect exists.

Last fall, complaints in the U.S. started to rise.

On Oct. 13, Toyota sent an intra-company communication in Europe and Japan noting that a Toyota 2010 Corolla sold in Missouri that was the subject of a sticky accelerator pedal complaint. The part was recovered and investigated.

Between Oct. 22-28, three more reports of sticky accelerator pedals in Corollas sold in the United States were received.

In November, Toyota notified NHTSA of the three October FTRs and provided copies to NHTSA. Toyota engineers over the next two months examined the defective pedals from the Corollas, "replicating sticky pedal phenomenon in two of the three cases, and concluded that the phenomenon experienced in the United States was essentially the same as the phenomenon experienced in Europe."

Toyota didn't issue a recall until Jan. 21, two days after a meeting in Washington with NHTSA officials in Washington, where the government urged Toyota to act quickly.

Five days later, Toyota said it would stop selling 60 percent of its U.S. models for sale until it came up with a fix for its sticky pedal problems in the United States.

Toyota also explained its investigations of Toyota Tundra slow to return pedals. In January, Toyota included the Tundra as part of its recalls and its handling of issues that led up to the recall of 5.3 million vehicles for pedal entrapment issues.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100407/AUTO01/4070411/1148/auto01/Toyota-timeline-shows-growing-problems-with-sticky-pedals-in--09#ixzz0kREdmCA8

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