There's an interesting report out today by Edmunds.com on the issue of unintended acceleration -- the problem Toyota is famously facing right now. The company looked at NHTSA data for the "Big Six" -- Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Nissan and Toyota -- and found that every one has consumer complaints filed against them for unintended acceleration.
Toyota has the dubious distinction of leading the pack, though -- Edmunds says the number of complaints filed against it exceed the rest of the Big Six combined.
And while you might be tempted to say that it's because of the media exposure, it seems that there's more to it than that. Edmunds analyzed complaints filed before and after September 30, 2009 - since Toyota announced its safety advisory regarding potential floor mat interference on September 29, 2009. Looking at 2005 to 2010 models, Edmunds found 601 complaints filed after the advisory went out and the media scuffle began. But in nearly five years prior to the advisory, Toyota had 532 complaints.
Toyota's rate of complaints was the highest, at 4.81 per 100,000 vehicles sold. Ford was second at 3.12, followed by Chrysler at 1.72, Honda at 1.46, Nissan at 1.07, and GM at 0.81.
What's going on here? I expected the numbers to jump when the media got hold of the story, especially since some of it bordered on the ridiculous (people sobbing on camera in front of vehicles not connected to any of the recalls, and the Toronto Star running a photo of a woman who now carries a rosary in her car after it jumped a curb) and all manner of Nervous Nellies and Lawsuit Larrys came out of the closet. But the numbers didn't change all that drastically from the years when no one made a fuss about it, and now it seems that Toyota isn't alone.
Maybe cost-cutting has gone too far. After all, we've got expensive systems like anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control and TPMS mandated or about to be mandated on every vehicle; we've got power accessories and fancy stereos pretty much across the board; and people still want their cars to cost $15,000. You don't get something -- or in this case, everything -- for nothing, and maybe that's the root of the problem.