Toyota has seen better months than February when the automaker recalled millions of vehicles amidst a sticky pedal and unintended acceleration problem that led to sales decline of 8.7 percent. To win back the consumer, Toyota offered incentives including extended warrantees, auto maintenance plans and zero percent financing, and it appears to be working as Toyota sales in the United States are up 47 percent for the first 8 days of March compared to last year.
David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), spoke in front of Congress today and told the Energy and Commerce subcommittee his agency did its job in handling the recall: “I don’t see Toyota as an indicative example of failure. I see it as NHTSA doing its job. I think Toyota and the wide-ranging recalls that it’s executed, that’s the kind of response I would want as an administrator.”
Strickland also told Members that his agency would look more thoroughly into electronic throttle technologies as some lawmakers are calling for federal standards for data recorders on automobiles – similar to a black box on an airplane. But just how dangerous was it to drive around in a recalled Toyota? Statistically speaking, not very says Carnegie Mellon Professor and risk expert Paul Fischbeck. He calculated the unintended acceleration increased the risk of driving only 2 percent. To put this in perspective Fischbeck said,
“Walking a mile is 19 times or 1,900 percent more dangerous than driving a mile in a recalled Toyota. Driving while using a cell phone would increase risk much more than the chance of having a stuck accelerator. The stuck accelerator problem does make driving riskier and needs to be fixed. But at the same time, the increased risk is very small.”
So when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood responded to the Toyota recalls by saying, “stop driving it”, hopefully he didn’t mean to walk instead.