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Toyota Blasts CNN's Revisiting Of "Unintended Acceleration" Issue As "Irresponsible" And "Grossly Innaccurate"

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On: Tue, Mar 6, 2012 at 9:53AM | By: Andrew W Davis


Toyota Blasts CNN's Revisiting Of "Unintended Acceleration" Issue As "Irresponsible" And "Grossly Innaccurate"

Here’s how Toyota put it in its March 1 press release:

“In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, CNN has irresponsibly aired a grossly inaccurate segment on Anderson Cooper 360 that attempts to resurrect the discredited, scientifically unproven allegation that there is a hidden defect in Toyota’s electronic throttle control system that can cause unintended acceleration.”

And it gets uglier from there....

“Exhaustive investigations undertaken by some of the most respected engineers and scientific institutions in America—including NASA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Academy of Sciences—have thoroughly debunked this worn-out fabrication. Yet a group of trial lawyers suing Toyota for money and their paid advocates are continuing their efforts to manufacture controversy where none exists and have used CNN to support their narrow, self-serving agenda.”

Now it’s all Japanese to me, but CNN’s story centers on their translation of an internal Toyota document that covers the tests being performed on a prototype vehicle. CNN says it admits that—in the face of nearly all evidence to the contrary—there really is an “unintended acceleration” issue and that Toyota has knowingly continued to protest its innocence whilst building faulty cars.

Toyota, naturally, continues to protest its innocence whilst building sentences that—barely—avoid using foul language:

“CNN's story was premised on an egregiously inaccurate translation of a Toyota document produced in litigation that references a stress test evaluation conducted on a prototype (preproduction) vehicle in development. For example, CNN’s mistranslation contains the phrase 'sudden unintended acceleration.' These words never appear in the Japanese language document referenced by CNN. The translation of [phrase in Japanese] which appears in the document, actually translates to "by itself” (as it does in the first translation by CNN) or “on its own”… and [another phrase in Japanese] correctly translates to "starts out.” This phrase “starts out on its own” is used to refer to the fact that the adaptive cruise control (ACC) was preparing to resume its pre-set speed. This is not a reference to sudden unintended acceleration. In fact, notes from the translator hired by CNN explicitly acknowledge that: ‘I added these words based on my understanding of the context.’”

You can read the rest of their press release below, but I recommend you check out the segment CNN aired first so that you can see the things that have gotten Toyota so revved up.

As a journalist I naturally want to assume that CNN wouldn’t have aired that story if it didn’t have rock-solid proof, but as a thinking person I have to admit that their “proof” seems rickety at best.

Still, in the interest of fairness, here is the "response" letter from someone PR Newswire calls "Steve Berman, managing partner at Hagens Berman andco-lead counsel for the economic loss plaintiffs in the Toyota sudden, unintended acceleration litigation":

"We believe that CNN's report confirms what we intend to prove in court, that Toyota knows much more about sudden, unintended acceleration in its vehicles than it has publicly acknowledged. We intend to prove in court that Toyota's actions regarding this problem have endangered public safety and is insulting to those who have suffered economic losses or, even worse, injuries or death due to Toyota's negligence."

[Now I'm not saying that CNN gave the attorney a "heads up" about its soon-to-air anti-Toyota piece so that such a "rebuttal" would be "ready to go" as soon as Toyota reacted to what aired, but I WILL mention the fact that said "rebuttal" appeared "on the wire" hard on the heels of Toyota's release. Just sayin'...]

Regardless, once again we have a ping-pong-style debate similar to the one that centered on what someone’s definition of “is” is, but in this particular case I find it noteworthy that it was in reaction to THIS particular TV segment that Toyota decided to drop the nice-guy attitude and draw a hard line in the sand about its no longer taking such accusations lying down.

So way to go, CNN, by apparently kicking them when they were down once too often you finally proved that gentle-giant Toyota has teeth and claws and knows how to use them. If it were me, I'd stop poking the bear, at least until the courts have had their say. Just because it hasn't torn your arms off yet doesn't mean it never will....

TOYOTA PRESS RELEASE FOLLOWS:

Toyota Responds to CNN Story Tonight

In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, CNN has irresponsibly aired a grossly inaccurate segment on Anderson Cooper 360 that attempts to resurrect the discredited, scientifically unproven allegation that there is a hidden defect in Toyota’s electronic throttle control system that can cause unintended acceleration.

Exhaustive investigations undertaken by some of the most respected engineers and scientific institutions in America—including NASA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Academy of Sciences—have thoroughly debunked this worn-out fabrication. Yet a group of trial lawyers suing Toyota for money and their paid advocates are continuing their efforts to manufacture controversy where none exists and have used CNN to support their narrow, self-serving agenda.

“CNN's story was premised on an egregiously inaccurate translation of a Toyota document produced in litigation that references a stress test evaluation conducted on a prototype (preproduction) vehicle in development. For example, CNN’s mistranslation contains the phrase 'sudden unintended acceleration.' These words never appear in the Japanese language document referenced by CNN. The translation of [phrase in Japanese] which appears in the document, actually translates to "by itself” (as it does in the first translation by CNN) or “on its own”… and [another phrase in Japanese] correctly translates to "starts out.” This phrase “starts out on its own” is used to refer to the fact that the adaptive cruise control (ACC) was preparing to resume its pre-set speed. This is not a reference to sudden unintended acceleration. In fact, notes from the translator hired by CNN explicitly acknowledge that: ‘I added these words based on my understanding of the context.’”

This test, intentionally designed to artificially simulate a failed accelerator pedal sensor, demonstrated that Toyota’s electronics and fail-safes worked exactly designed within milliseconds to prevent the vehicle from accelerating. Contrary to CNN’s allegation, no “sudden unintended acceleration” occurred nor is it referenced in the Japanese language document. It was for this very reason that Toyota did not provide this document to the NHTSA in the course of its exhaustive analysis of Toyota’s electronics. There is simply no basis for CNN’s assertion that Toyota withheld this document from the government or that it would have made any difference in the conclusions of the unprecedented engineering analysis conducted by NASA and the NHTSA.

Importantly, the Japanese language document describes a condition intentionally induced during prototype testing of the ACC that has never existed in any vehicle ever produced or sold by Toyota anywhere in the world.

In its broadcast, CNN also highlights unverified customer complaints to the NHTSA and includes reference to at least one expert paid for by lawyers suing Toyota. With respect to the complaint by Tanya Spotts involving a low-speed parking incident, the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder conclusively demonstrates that the driver was on and off of the accelerator pedal in the seconds before impact and did not apply the brake pedal until approximately 0.4 seconds prior to impact, while travelling at 9 MPH. This data is entirely consistent with pedal misapplication.

Complaints like this are not unique to Toyota. In fact, in 2011 alone the NHTSA received consumer claims of low speed unintended acceleration events while parking for vehicles from twelve manufacturers other than Toyota.

It is ironic and disheartening that a document that actually reinforces Toyota’s robust vehicle design and pre-production prototype testing to validate the safety of its vehicles in development was the centerpiece of this segment. Notwithstanding CNN’s irresponsible, inaccurate broadcast, we are gratified that Toyotas are once again widely recognized by leading independent evaluators as among the safest and most reliable in the world.”




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