Electronically controlled throttle, braking, steering, safety and vehicle stability systems are critical to modern vehicles?especially hybrid and electric cars. Auto makers have increasingly used computer-controlled electronic systems to replace mechanical connections to save weight, improve fuel economy and enable advanced safety systems such as automatic braking.
"It does appear that this study, which was conducted by America's top scientists and engineers, should reassure the driving public that many of the more 'mediagenic' claims had no merit," said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing most of the major auto makers in the U.S. market. "We're pleased that this detailed report can be reassuring to consumers, and is similar to the extensive internal research and testing auto makers already do."
The exhaustive study should help Toyota fend off hundreds of lawsuits under litigation in federal court that blame unintended acceleration for accidents and could improve the company's quality image.
But critics contend the report didn't go far enough.
"Right now, we don't have any explanation for many of the problems, so what good did the investigation do?" said Sean Kane, whose Safety Research & Strategies, Inc. led much of the early research into electronics as a potential cause of problems.
Joan Claybrook, the president emeritus for Public Citizen, a consumer safety group that has been critical of Toyota, said the results of the government study weren't convincing.
"I think it's a failure of evaluation because there are so many cases where there was no problem with the floormat and it was clear the vehicle had runaway on its own," said Ms. Claybrook, also a former NHTSA secretary. "It has to be some vehicle related malfunction. The failure to find that is a failure of analysis."
But government officials said the evidence points to mechanical and driver problems. "Toyota's problems were mechanical, not electronic," Mr. LaHood said Tuesday.
NASA's lead engineer, Michael Kirsch, said an electronics failure couldn't be entirely ruled out. But it would be incredibly unlikely, he said, because it would require the simultaneous failure of two different systems, and would have left evidence in a car's computer system.
A lengthy investigation by the federal government into last year's Toyota recalls found that engine electronics played no role in incidents of sudden, unintended acceleration of its cars. Joe White has details."We hope this important study will help put to rest unsupported speculation about Toyota's [electronic throttle control system], which is well-designed and well-tested to ensure that a real world, uncommanded acceleration of the vehicle cannot occur," said Steve St. Angelo, the U.S. quality chief for Toyota.
In the few cases of prolonged, uncontrolled acceleration, NHTSA said slipping floor mats that trapped the gas pedal were likely the cause.
The agency had already fined Toyota $49 million for being slow to report known problems related other mechanical problems, including floor mats and sticky pedals.
The NASA/NHTSA study highlighted a delicate issue for auto makers and regulators: The vast majority of sudden acceleration incidents studied were determined to be the result of driver mistakes. The NHTSA said it will continue to study measures aimed at reducing the risks of unintended acceleration caused by drivers mistaking one pedal for another.
David Strickland, NHTSA's chief, said the agency is considering whether to require advanced technology, including brake-override systems and "black box" event-data recorders, in all passenger cars without legislative order.
NHTSA said it will also evaluate how to make cars with so-called keyless entry, or push-button start systems, easier to turn off, and will study the design of accelerator and brake pedals to learn whether redesigning pedals will make mistakes less common.
The auto industry in December fended off proposed House legislation that would have added a host of new vehicle-safety requirements that were born out of Toyota's problems.
The news came the same day the Toyota City, Japan-based company reported lower profit than a year ago as sales in Japan slipped and the yen's strength cut its profits on exports.
It posted a profit of 93.63 billion yen ($1.14 billion) in the three months ended Dec. 30, down from 153.22 billion yen in the same period a year earlier.
However, the Japanese car maker was upbeat about its outlook for its full fiscal year ending in March, raising its profit projection to 490 billion yen from 350 billion yen owing to strong overseas sales and extensive cost-cutting.
"The fact that we were able to raise our forecast indicates that our cost-cutting efforts have exceeded our own expectations," Toyota senior managing director Takahiko Ijichi said. "We think that shows we're back on the road to recovery."
Toyota's incentive spending rose by a third in 2010, according to research website Edmunds.com, and the auto maker still lost two percentage points of U.S. market share.
It held the top spot for sales direct to consumers.
"I was leaning toward the Honda Accord," said Abdul Farukhi, 27, who bought a new Camry in late December. "It looked just as good as the Camry and didn't have this baggage with the accelerator, and I was a little concerned about the resale value down the road. But the incentives were just too good on the Camry and that tipped it in their favor,"
Toyota executives have predicted that it will regain lost market share in the U.S. this year with a host of new products, including a redesigned Camry and RAV4, which are two of its most popular models.
Toyota has raised its full-year profit outlook for three straight quarters, from an initial estimate of 310 billion yen in May. The revised number for the year ending in March is still far below that of rival Honda Motor Co., which expects a 530 billion yen profit for this fiscal year, but above that of Nissan Motor Co.'s 270 billion yen estimate. Nissan reports its latest earnings on Wednesday.
The upward revision is the latest indication that the strong local currency isn't as big a threat to profitability as initially feared by Japan's auto industry. A stronger yen eats into profits Japanese car makers earn overseas when repatriated and makes made-in-Japan vehicles less price-competitive.
Unplugged and Ready to
The fuel efficient, third generation Toyota Prius melds economy and safety with innovative technology. Going green doesn't just mean great gas mileage anymore-it's about truly encompassing every aspect of efficiency. And that is what the third generation Toyota Prius stands for. Gas prices will continue to rise, and people will no doubt complain about them, but Toyota Prius owners don't seem to be fazed by it. With its 1.8 liter four cylinder engine, the Prius offers 51 miles to the gallon on the highway.
But don't let the engine fool you. The Toyota Prius packs a lot
of punch and offers the same, if not more, storage capacity than most
other mid-size vehicles. Starting at $22,800, the Toyota Prius melds
spectacular economy and safety with innovative technology that gives the
driver peace of mind on the road.
The Toyota Prius takes economy to the next level. "The Toyota Prius is currently the leader in gas mileage when it comes to hybrid vehicles," says David Nappa, president of Dayton Toyota in South Brunswick." And compared to gas-powered vehicles, Prius hybrids have helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4.5 million tons since its introduction 10 years ago." And more than 1 million Toyota Priuses have been sold-over half that amount in the U.S. alone.
Mr. Nappa says that despite the waning economy Prius sales are up. "We notice that as gas prices go up, so do Prius sales. And Toyota is predicting that the Prius will become the best-selling car in America over the next 10 years."
But it"s not just the fuel efficiency that attracts consumers to the Prius. The Prius combines a gas engine with an electric motor to achieve maximum efficiency. Sales professional Jeff Marcus sees firsthand how customers view the Prius. "We have people who are not only looking to save money on fuel, but they're also concerned about the environment. And the great thing about the Prius is that it doesn't have to be plugged in like other electric-powered cars."
And the Toyota Prius has a large following. "Prius enthusiasts are the most loyal customers. They know they're getting a great car, with more than enough room, without having to worry about breaking the bank at the gas pump," Mr. Marcus says. And when you get about 595 miles on a single tank of gas, it's no wonder the Toyota Prius was named the most fuel efficient mid-sized vehicle.
Ann Roman of Monroe Township loves the fuel economy of her Toyota Prius. "My 2008 Prius has about 100,000 miles on it, and I love it. I have six kids, and they all borrow the car-and I don't have to harass them to fill the tank. I feel like I can drive it forever without having to fill up, and when I do, it's far less expensive than any other car I've ever owned."
So what does Ms. Roman think of the rising gas
prices forecasted for 2011? "Gas prices can go up, that's
fine. I never have to worry about gas prices with this
The Prius' fuel efficiency is only one of the many things that sets it apart. It also includes technology that helps maximize safety and comfort. As an option, drivers can enjoy the Prius' Advanced Technology Package and Safety Connect.
Safety Connect allows the driver to
stay in touch with emergency services in the event of an accident by
contacting police or paramedics immediately. In addition, Safety Connect
offers Stolen Vehicle Location. This technology is able to locate the
stolen vehicle by using GPS technology, thereby maximizing the
likelihood of the vehicle being recovered.
Other safety options include Lane Keep Assist and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, among others. Lane Keep Assist uses innovative technology to read lane markers and apply slight torque to the steering wheel to help keep the car in the center of the lane. So not only does the Toyota Prius help a driver after a collision, it also helps them avoid potential collisions by alerting drivers if they begin to veer into a different lane unknowingly.
Dynamic Radar Cruise Control is designed
to assist drivers once they have engaged the cruise control. If the
vehicle senses it's coming upon a mass (such as another vehicle) while
the cruise control is engaged, the Prius will automatically slow down to
avoid a potential collision.
When drivers are able to seat five people comfortably in a vehicle that offers a smooth ride and lots of storage, you get passionate car owners. Eileen Spiewak of Perrineville loves her 2010 Prius for just that reason.
"I have back problems, so getting in and out of cars-and even
sitting in cars for long periods of time-has always been a challenge for
me. But our Prius is wonderful. My husband and I drove straight to
Florida, only stopping once, and I had no
Dayton Toyota experiences a lot of customers transitioning to the Toyota Prius from other mid-sized cars. "On our trip, we were able to fit three weeks' worth of luggage in it," Ms. Spiewak says. "And even better-we spent only about $75 in gas driving to and from Florida. My daughter was so impressed that she bought one too.'
And the comfort that the Toyota Prius provides extends to the temperature control offered by the vehicle. The power tilt/slide moonroof with Solar Powered Ventilation System ensures that a comfortable temperature is maintained in the car at all times.
The technology uses an electric fan to draw
outside air into, through and out of the vehicle once the inside
temperature reaches 68 degrees Fahrenheit. 'The great thing about this
technology,' Mr. Marcus says, 'is that it is completely solar powered,
so this feature does not use any electricity from the vehicle itself in
regulating temperature. So the efficiency of this vehicle is enormous.
There is no doubt in my mind that Prius sales will continue to
Dayton Toyota is approximately seven miles from Princeton, located at 2291 U.S. Route 130 in South Brunswick. If you have any questions or want to learn more about the third generation Toyota Prius, contact Jeff Marcus at 732-979-5336 or email him at JMarcus@DaytonToyota.com
Dayton Toyota donates $1,000 to local food pantry
South Brunswick Social Services, a local food pantry, was recently awarded a $1,000 gift from Dayton Toyota on behalf of its customers and associates.
The donation came at a good time for the food pantry, which has seen an increasing need for donations. This holiday season, a record number of families have been forced to turn to them for help.
Dayton Toyota President David Nappa realized their need for assistance. "Many area families have had to rely on help from the food pantry, especially in times like these. At Dayton Toyota we are grateful
that the support of our loyal customers allows us to do what we can to help." Nappa said.
Lou Anne Wolf, Social Services director for South Brunswick, expressed sincere thanks. "This very generous donation will help needy families in our community who often go without proper food, shelter and essential medical care."
Dayton Toyota, New Jersey's first Toyota dealership, has consistently supported the community for the last 50 years.
Pictured Left to Right: Hillari Yuengel and John Agnese
of Dayton Toyota; David Nappa, president of
Dayton Toyota; Lou Anne Wolf, South
Brunswick Social Services director; and Tara
Nino-Mancuso and Michael Hart of Dayton Toyota.