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The Los Angeles Times recently reported that Toyota is, once again, under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission. The investigation deals with 26 recent reports of Toyota Corolla and Matrix models from the year 2006 stalling in traffic. Sometimes the stalling occurred at highway speeds or in intersections. Clearly, this poses a huge safety concern! The complaints are another of many quality-related issues this year, including runaway vehicles; rust problems in the Toyota Tundra that can cause the spare tire to fall off into traffic; and malfunctions in the Toyota Sequoia’s electronic stability control system that can cause the brakes to seize. Toyota has recalled a whopping 4.8 million vehicles since January!

Another LA Times report revisits the sudden acceleration or runaway Toyota vehicle issue and discusses the fatal Saylor crash in particular. Investigators have concluded that, while the rubber floor mats could have been a factor, other causes, like electronic or mechanical issues, cannot be ruled out. Most shocking, however, is the discovery that the crash may have been preventable. The Lexus ES 350 involved in the crash was loaned to the Saylor family by a dealership while their vehicle was being serviced. Another customer who had used the car prior to the Saylor family experienced an acceleration incident and reported it to the dealership. Somehow the information was lost and the vehicle was put back onto the road, resulting in the death of four people! The fact that this horrible incident could have been prevented by an increased level of communication is saddening. Hopefully, safety issues will be taken more seriously from now on! This should serve as a wake up call to businesses that do not have any type of formal complaint process in place, especially one dealing with a safety related issue that could potentially cause serious injury or death. Maybe this dealership had such a policy in force and it just failed to properly train its employees. At this point in the story who knows. Hopefully it, and other dealerships can learn something from this incident.  Sadly, I  see similar stories in the defective product cases that I have been involved in. Complaints were made, they piled up, and nothing was done. Only when a serious injury or death resulted (and usually a lawsuit) was the system overhauled and re-worked.

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