Lawyers suing Toyota claim a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) from 2002 proves the company knew there was an electronic cause for the current unintended acceleration issue. It doesn't. But that's not stopping CNN from claiming it does.
We thought the mainstream media had learned a lesson about checking out technical details before they run a story after Brian Ross of ABC News saw his staged death ride debunked. Guess again. Now trial lawyers attempting to push a class action lawsuit have dropped a TSB from 2002 into the hands of CNN and other outlets that they claim "proves" Toyota knew about the recent spate of unintended acceleration problems ahead of current recalls. False.
The document shows there were unintended acceleration complaints regarding Toyota V6 Camrys from 2002 and 2003 during "light throttle input at speeds between 38-42 mph." Toyota responded to the complaints by adjusting the calibration on the engine control module. Note that this in no way proves the current issue is caused by electronics, it just shows there was a problem with electronics on one year of the Camry, which Toyota identified and repaired. The engine affected, the 1MZ-FE, isn't even offered in the Camry anymore. The change to a new platform and new engine lineup would have drastically changed the ECM between the sixth-gen Camry and the current seventh-generation 2007-2010 Camry. Claiming the 2002 TSB is related to Toyota's current sudden unintended acceleration problems is sort of like claiming a screen recall on an iPhone is related to a recall on a first-generation iPod click-wheel.
Still, Clarence Ditlow from the trial lawyer-funded Center For Auto Safety says this:
"If you look at this document, it says electronics...It says the fix is reprogrammed in the computer. It doesn't say anything about floor mats."
Yes, he's right, it does say electronics. Yes, they're both beige and boring cars, but it's a beige and boring car built on an entirely different platform. And yes, of course it doesn't say anything about floor mats — they're separate issues.
But, if we're going to compare apples to apples, then let's mention that this specific instance of a 38-40 MPH surge does nothing to explain the out-of-control Lexus that was traveling up to 125 MPH when it killed the driver and his family. Nor does it explain why that car's gas pedal melted.
CNN goes further in their report, biting on the claim of a government conspiracy:
The internal Toyota document was given to CNN by a group of attorneys now seeking a nationwide class-action lawsuit against the company. Ditlow said the document — not previously made public — indicates Toyota knew much earlier about an electronic connection to sudden acceleration problems. He also said the bulletin was apparently ignored or hidden from the public not only by Toyota, but also by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"The government is really hiding this information from the consumer," Ditlow told CNN. "They're in a conspiracy with the auto industry to keep these out of the public's sight."
That's completely ludicrous. A quick search of NHTSA's Office of Defect Investigation website finds the 2002 TSB very easily. So we guess it's really only hidden from consumers who don't have access to the Internet.
The biggest benefit with this whole unintended acceleration debacle is how much it's highlighting the question of "who to believe?" when it comes to whether your vehicle is safe. Safety groups, the mainstream media and Toyota themselves — all of them will now be forced to fall under the harsh light of public scrutiny. We're hopeful this means consumers will now start learning more, educating themselves and seeking multiple opinions — rather than taking any organization or company at their word.