After months of testing, NASA has rule that the sudden acceleration problem in some Toyota and Lexus vehicles does not appear to be electrical in nature. Automotive News reports that Toyota is ecstatic over the news, as sales have dipped significantly since the string of nearly 10,000 accident reports began. While sales numbers may recover, the Toyota brand reputation may never be what it once was, said Efraim Levy of Standard & Poor’s Equity Research in New York.
Toyota: A brand in recovery
The sudden acceleration problem was not the specific reason why more than 8 million Toyotas were recalled globally, but it is in the minds of a doubting public who may view Toyota quality with some degree of suspicion.
U.S. Toyota sales in 2010 dropped by a significant 0.4 percent during a time when the industry as a whole was on an 11-percent upswing, and a rash of lawsuits and $48.8 million in federal fines damaged the Japanese automaker’s reputation. According to London-based market research firm Interbrand, the firestorm cut Toyota’s brand brand image value by 16 percent, to $25.7 billion. Toyota remains Japan’s most valued automotive brand.
NASA can’t find defect in Toyota’s electronic throttle control
The common belief among experts was that the electronic throttle control system in Toyota vehicles was the culprit responsible for various sudden acceleration accidents, yet NASA could find no defect in that component that could conclusively cause spikes of sudden acceleration. However, this doesn’t wipe the slate clean for Toyota, says Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at IHS Automotive of Lexington, Mass.
“There really were people killed and injured. There really were runaway cars,” said Lindland. “They are saying it was mechanical and not electronic. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It doesn’t end the fallout.”
Toyota blames driver error
All the joint exploratory venture by NASA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could determine is that defective floor mats could cause Toyota accelerator pedals to stick to the floor. This mirrored Toyota’s previous statement on the matter. Toyota and the NHTSA have shared the consensus opinion that driver error is the most likely cause of the sudden acceleration.
Toyota gets clean bill of health from NASA
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