Toyota vs Audi and unintended acceleration

Toyota has taken the unprecedented step of shutting down production of eight of their automobile manufacturing lines until they can figure out what is causing the unintended acceleration of their vehicles. This “automatic acceleration option” is similar to the problem Audi faced with their 5000 model in the 1980s. Audi’s approach to the problem did not result in a factory shut-down, just a decimation of its sales in the United States for many years.

The similarities to how the two companies reacted initially is striking:

  1. Audi and Toyota both blamed the problem initially on the driver (to mitigate liability?)
  2. Audi and Toyota both blamed the problem on floor mats

From there the stories diverge. Audi had 107 reported complaints to the National Highway Safety Administration by early 1982. They did not fix the problem until 1986, all the time stating it was not a real problem. Toyota, on the other hand, has reacted swiftly to the problem, even though reports are that they do not know what the cause is or how to fix it … yet.

Will Toyota suffer the way Audi did? I don’t think so. They will take a hit to prestige and bottom line, but their reputation is likely to stay in tact and people are unlikely to stay away from the brand once the problem is solved. Two lessons they are following: Do what Tylenol did when they had their poisoning scare many years ago, and don’t do what Audi did.


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9 Responses to Toyota vs Audi and unintended acceleration

  1. John LeBlanc says:

    You twit! Audi was completely exonerated of wrongdoing. ’60 Minutes’ fabricated a story with no basis in fact. Just as you are doing. I hope you don’t call yourself a journalist.

    • Mitch/Ralph says:

      I may indeed be a twit and I do not claim to be a journalist, however your outrage is misplaced. Audi did in fact act on an NHTSA demand for investigation in 1986. Audi did in fact provide a shift lock “fix.” Audi themselves, in a statement made by James Wolter, said that Audi regreted saying it was “driver error.”

      The point of my post, which was apparently not made well for you, is not that Audi was at fault, any more than Tylenol was at fault, but rather how Audi dealt with the issue versus how Toyota is dealing with their similar issue.

  2. Chris Carrier says:

    Hmmm… I’d always thought the Audi problem was actually traced to a close proximity between the gas and brake pedals. That the cause was a combination between poor design and driver error.

  3. Chris Carrier says:

    Also, I might add that Toyota appears to have known about the problem for years. I’m not sure that their reaction can be considered swift.

  4. abcarman says:

    I don’t know if you are a twit or not. But I do think that LeBlanc makes a good point. If you are going to compare the Audi and Toyota “unintended acceleration” issues you need to point out that Audi’s situation was exacerbated by the fabricated 60 Minutes report. Most of the complaints were not filed until after the report ran. You state “they did not fix the problem until 1986”. And what was the solution for a vehicle that supposedly leaps forward when the driver has their foot on the brake? What Audi agreed to do was add a “shift lock” that kept an “unskilled” operator from putting the car in gear without putting their foot on the brake.
    With Audi it was not a vehicle problem it was an operator problem – with Toyota it remains to be seen what is behind the problem.

    • Mitch/Ralph says:

      To be clear, our purpose in the post was not to suggest that either company was “at fault.” In discussing the Audi story in other contexts over the years Mitch has always stated that the problem does not appear to have been real. That is not the point of this post. Audi’s brand was destroyed for several years because of how they handled the situation. Toyota may have an even greater problem than Audi did in terms of reality. However, how they handle the communications issues may have a greater impact on them then the “facts.”

  5. Bill says:

    You have the AUDI angle completely wrong. They were taking off because drivers were mistakenly stepping on the gas instead of the brake. It was driver error. In my opinion, we will eventually find a similar outcome with Toyota. There is NO vehicle in production whose engine can over power full effort braking.

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  7. Harley says:

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