Toyota SUA Victims Call for Comprehensive Recalls

Jan 27, 2010, 11:51 ET from Don Slavik

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Jan. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The family of crash victim Anne Ezal called on Toyota Motor Corporation to widen its unintended acceleration recall remedy program to include some of the most troubled model years: the 2002-2006 Camry.

Anne Ezal died on February 25, 2007, after the 2005 Camry she was riding in accelerated over a cliff and crashed in the sea below. Anne and her husband, Bulent Ezal, were headed to lunch at the Pelican Point Restaurant in Pismo Beach, California. The restaurant is located on the edge of a cliff, above the Pacific Ocean, with the parking lot adjacent to the restaurant. Ezal rode the brake as he approached a parking space and had come to almost a complete stop, when the Camry suddenly accelerated, jumping a small curb, crashing through a fence and over the bluff. The vehicle fell 70 feet to the rocks below, and turned over once, coming to rest in the surf. Anne Ezal died of her injuries in the crash. Bulent Ezal later recovered.

Yesterday, Toyota Motor Sales announced that it was halting sales of eight models with sticking accelerator pedals it had recalled less than a week ago, until the remedy is applied to the vehicles still unsold. The recall population was mostly aimed at 2009-2010 vehicles. In September, Toyota recalled 3.8 million vehicles for misplaced floor mats, and later launched a repair campaign to re-design the accelerator pedals and the floor mats, and – in some models – add a brake-to-idle feature that would safely bring a runaway vehicle to a halt. The automaker, however, has not recalled some of its most popular and problem-plagued model years. An analysis of consumer complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for speed control problems shows that the 2002-2006 Camry has generated more complaints of unintended acceleration than any other Toyota model or range of model years.

"Incredibly, these vehicles have not been eligible for any of the numerous fixes Toyota has been scrambling to apply since September," says Donald Slavik, of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C., a Milwaukee attorney representing the Ezal family and another victim and her family in the San Francisco Bay area. "It's outrageous that Toyota is expending more effort into restoring its battered brand, than actually fixing the vehicles that need it most. They have a repair -- the brake-to-idle feature -- that can be applied to all these vehicles, regardless of sticky pedals, misplaced floor mats or an electronic glitch. This would prevent a loss-of-control crash. Toyota owners and passengers have died needlessly in sudden unintended acceleration incidents, while the company has tried to blame the victims. It's time for Toyota to implement the safety override on all its recalled vehicles."  

Toyota introduced an electronic throttle system into the Camrys in 2002. Since then, the 2002-2006 model years have been the subject of four investigations:

  • In March 2004, NHTSA opened Preliminary Evaluation PE04-021 to investigate SUA in 2002-2003 Toyota Camry, Camry Solara and Lexus ES300 vehicles after 37 complaints and 30 crashes resulting in 5 injuries. The agency's Office of Defects Investigation closed it after four months, without identifying a defect trend.

  • In July 2005, another Camry owner, Jordan Ziprin of Phoenix, Arizona, petitioned NHTSA to open a defect investigation into SUA involving 2002-2005 Camry vehicles, after Ziprin crashed his 2002 Camry. The agency closed the brief investigation, after concluding that it could not identify a vehicle-based defect that would have produced the engine surge Ziprin described.

  • In 2006, a second Camry owner, William B. Jeffers III of Garner, North Carolina, also asked the agency to investigate surging engines in 2002-2006 Camrys. In March 2007, just after the Ezal crash, NHTSA again closed the investigation with no defect finding.

  • In August 2007, NHTSA's ODI opened a fourth probe into SUA involving 2002-2008 Camry and Lexus ES350 vehicles. After a two-month investigation, the agency concluded that misplaced all-weather floor mats were entrapping the accelerator pedal. In September 2007, Toyota issued a recall for all-weather floor mats in 2007-2008 Camry and Lexus ES 350 vehicles.

Despite repeated requests for investigations and several Toyota recalls, the 2002-2006 Camrys have never been eligible for any of the campaigns. Slavik, who is also engineer, said that Toyota should immediately retro-fit the Camrys with the brake-to-idle feature, an important fail-safe for drivers when the vehicle suddenly surges out of control.

"We urge Toyota to do the right thing – get to the root of the sudden unintended acceleration problem in the older Toyotas and, until then, deliver an important measure of prevention to all Toyota owners as soon as possible – before another tragedy occurs," Slavik said,

Slavik is also investigating sudden unintended acceleration crashes involving Toyotas that occurred in Nevada and Virginia.


SOURCE Don Slavik