TRAVERSE CITY, MI – In an impassioned speech before attendees at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars, aMotor Corp. executive says he is completely confident there are no defects in the auto maker’s electronic throttle-control system.
“Today as I sit in front of you, and asNorth America’s chief quality officer, I want to tell you I am 100% confident there is nothing wrong with our electronic-control system,” says Steve St. Angelo, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Mfg. North America Inc. and head of the auto maker’s North American Quality Task Force.
“That’s good news for Toyota, good news for our customers and that’s good news for all of you, because all of our systems are so similar; you know that,” he says.
St. Angelo came to his conclusions after traveling to Japan almost every other week since March to study Toyota’s quality systems and testing operations as part of an investigation into unintended sudden acceleration, following a California accident a year ago that claimed four lives.
“I went to the proving grounds where they test for electromagnetic interference and drove cars. I’ve talked to technicians. I talked to engineers. I saw so much data, it is coming out of my ears,” he says.
St. Angelo also visited dealerships and spoke with technicians one-on-one.
He finally was convinced after spending a long day at Exponent Inc., an independent electronics-testing company Toyota has hired to investigate possible problems with its vehicle electronics and throttle controls.
“I got there early in the morning and left there at 10:30 at night,” St. Angelo tells the audience. “It was unbelievable. I saw almost every electronic throttle-control system in the world. Yes, many of your cars, maybe all of your car systems, were there when they did their evaluation.
“They had electronic throttle-control systems from the mid-1990s. They went through their analysis so carefully. And they can’t find anything.
“And I asked them, ‘Are you sure you did it far enough?’ They all looked at me and said, ‘We are engineers; we are scientists; we thrive on finding problems. We want to find something, but we can’t.’”
St. Angelo says he had a personal conversation with Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda, who told him there were no electronic problems, but ordered him to look for them anyway and go to the possible sources and look first hand.
“You must see it yourself and understand it yourself,” St. Angelo says Toyoda told him. “Take every rock, every stone and see what’s under there. All the doors in Toyota are open for you.”
Despite being convinced there are no electronic problems, St. Angelo says the auto maker “will not stop digging” and will continue with its investigation.
“And once we get the reports from our independent groups, we will analyze that because maybe they can find something where we can improve.”
Through June, the traditional quality leader conducted 10 recall campaigns snaring 3.6 million cars and trucks. Sticky accelerator pedals represented the lion’s share, about 2.2 million vehicles, along with ill-fitting floor mats.
In June, Toyota agreed to pay a $16.4 million fine from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. because it waited five months to notify U.S. officials that some of its accelerator pedals could stick.