Imagine this scenario. You and your family are travelling in a car and suddenly you are aware of two things, the engine is screaming and the car is accelerating. You remove your foot from the gas pedal, nothing happens, and you realise something is wrong. My first reaction would be to hook my right foot under the gas pedal and see if I can pull it back up because the chances are it’s caught on the rubber mat that I bought after I bought the car (therefore nothing to do with the manufacturer). If that doesn’t work or I don’t have time to fiddle with floor mats I would put the car into neutral (that works for manual or automatic), turn the hazard lights on, apply the brakes and pull over to the side of the road before turning off the car engine and hyperventilating. This would be the behaviour of most rational people.
But not in America apparently. In the land of the free, the first thing you do when the accelerator pedal sticks and the car gathers speed is get your cell phone out to tell someone what is happening and give them a second by second account until you hit something and die. And that’s what is at the root of Toyota’s global troubles at the moment. They have been selling their cars to morons and they’re now paying the price.
I have owned (and still own) several Toyotas and they are marvelous and reliable cars. My 20 year old Hilux Double Cab hit a goat in the Kalahari Gemsbok Park and rolled several times before coming to rest on its side. I had a few bits of glass stuck in my arm but apart from that I was fine. Toyota saved my life on that day. The damage was repaired and I still drive the bakkie every day because it is the only vehicle I own that can cope with Jo’burg’s pot holed roads. Most Toyotas sold will never give any trouble and will last for years. But a car is a machine and just like your washing machine, lawn mower and computer something unforeseen could go wrong. Since it’s highly unlikely that Toyota wanted to trash their good reputation by deliberately producing cars with faulty accelerators or unreliable brakes we must assume that these problems were unforeseen. Even if the company had reports of problems years ago that would be no real reason to panic Toyota owners and recall every car.
My very reliable LG dishwasher refused to work a few weeks ago and I ran the risk of water leaking all over my absurdly expensive wooden laminate floor. Once wood laminate comes into contact with litres of water it expands and you have to have the floor relaid. It turned out that the pump had failed on the dishwasher but I don’t think LG recalled all dishwashers just in case the pumps were faulty.
When you buy a piece of machinery you surely must know that there is the risk that something will go wrong. Cars are so well made these days that they are virtually idiot proof. But occasionally something does go wrong and that’s when the human brain should kick in. If a man can safely land a jet airliner on the River Hudson and have no casualties then surely a driver can avert certain death by simply putting a car’s gear lever into neutral. Apparently not. Maybe Toyota should ask prospective buyers to take an intelligence test in future.