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The recent death of a Massachusetts man has put the spotlight on the Ford Motor Company and its handling of the recall of its Windstar minivan. The van itself was recalled back in August due to rear axles that could snap. The vans date from 1998 to 2003 and initially Ford was reluctant to issue the recall (as was the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) as Ford insisted it wasn’t a safety issue.
The death of Sean Bowman, however, is certainly challenging that assertion and thanks to an ABC News report highlighting the family’s tragedy we now have some pretty shocking video of just what could happen when a rear axle breaks. The official government test video clearly shows just how dramatic and dangerous a snapping rear axle could be, with the side stability bars used on the car the only things preventing it from rolling over.
The death of Sean Bowman has caused Ford to reexamine the Windstar recall, and even expand it to include 37,000 move vehicles, including those in Utah – which are at risk due to extreme corrosion caused by road salt.
UPDATE: NHTSA is now investigating the Windstar for rusting subframe issues. Click here to read the story.
See the video after the jump:
After Toyota recently debunked an ABC News report about sudden acceleration in its vehicles, the Japanese automaker has now decided to take on CNN, after the news outlet reported that Toyota knew about sudden acceleration issues as far back as 2002.
The story by CNN‘s special investigations unit reports that in a secret document Toyota admitted to electronic issues related to the throttle, even saying that in 2002, “Toyota had a sudden acceleration problem and that according to Toyota’s own technical service bulletin, the problem was electronic.”
Toyota has responded, essentially debunking the document and exposing CNN‘s faulty reporting; the “secret document” being a 2002 Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) published by Toyota and sent to all of its dealers as well as being publicly available online through several government and independent websites as well as through Toyota’s own site: https://techinfo.toyota.com. In fact, the 2002 TSB was discussed by Toyota Motor Sales USA President Jim Lentz during his appearance before the Congressional testimony looking into Toyota’s recall woes.
As for the content of the TSB, Toyota says that the issue was never sudden acceleration but rather, “a drivability issue at speeds of between 38 and 42 miles per hour at light throttle.” the TSB continues, “This condition was strictly related to a function internal to the transmission torque converter under certain throttle conditions. It manifested as a slight rocking motion, or surge, while holding steady throttle at the specific speed window. This issue was in no way related to any kind of sustained acceleration.”
Toyota contests the misinterpretation of the word “surge” in the document, which is says has been taken out of context. Toyota’s statement says that, “The term surge has been used across the industry for many years to describe a condition where there is a very slight slow-down and speed-up perception (typically two miles per hour or less) while holding steady throttle at low to moderate speeds.” Toyota also says almost every other automaker has issued a similar TSB, with 80 such TSBs being published in the last 10 years.
It would appear as though CNN has now followed after ABC News, with horribly poor investigative journalism that puts ratings ahead of integrity, research and fact checking.
See the official Toyota release and CNNs original story after the jump:
After ABC News admitted a piece of footage from its Runaway Toyota story was staged and Toyota debunked the method by which the news outlet’s expert created the runaway car, the automaker has now sent a letter to ABC News asking for a formal apology and retraction. And while there’s no mention of a lawsuit, it’s certainly implied, with the words: “Toyota reserves the right to take any and every appropriate step to protect and defend the reputation of our company and its products from irresponsible and inaccurate claims.” Frankly we wouldn’t be surprised to see a lawsuit filed considering the undue fuel this poured on the Toyota recall fire.
To summarize the facts, ABC News ran a story by reporter Brian Ross, entitled, “Expert: Electronic Design Flaw Linked to Runaway Toyotas.” In the story Ross even got behind the wheel of a Toyota, when the expert, Professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University, created a condition whereby the car had an, “unintended acceleration.” The story aired the night before Proff. Gilbert appeared at a government hearing on the issue of recalled Toyota vehicles. Since, Toyota has not only drawn into question Proff. Gilbert’s motivation, as his work was funded by a so-called safety group that receives its funding from law firms (several of which are suing Toyota), but it has also debunked the method by which Proff. Gilbert created the unintended acceleration. In fact, Toyota showed that the “unintended acceleration,” was more of an “intentional manipulation” and that the circumstances by which Proff. Gilbert was able to achieve such a result are, “virtually impossible to occur in real-world conditions.” In addition, Toyota hired experts at Stanford University who were able to replicate Gilbert’s method in a Subaru, Honda, Ford and Chevy.
Toyota claims that ABC News “rushed out the report” to be broadcast the night before the congressional hearing while denying Toyota the ability to review the piece or respond. The letter clearly states that according to Toyota, Ross, “failed in his basic duty as a journalist” by not disclosing the source of Proff. Gilbert’s funding.
For its part, ABC News has responded to the Toyota letter, without apology or retraction, stating that it did in fact let Toyota know about the original “Expert: Electronic Design Flaw Linked to Runaway Toyotas” story before it ran, to which Toyota did not at the time comment on. In addition, ABC news says it was justified in reporting on Proff. Gilbert’s claims just as it was justified in reporting on Toyota’s response.
We have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ve heard on the ongoing tiff between Toyota and ABC News.
GALLERY: Toyota Retraction Letter to ABC News
GALLERY: ABC News Response
ABC News has now admitted that a part of the video it used to illustrate the unintended acceleration of a Toyota model in a recent report was faked. The video, outlining a tactic used by professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University to cause an unintended acceleration in a Toyota product, was not an actual shot of the car’s tachometer during the sudden acceleration, but a clip of the tachometer sweeping across the screen while the car was in park. Sure, it makes for great TV, with the rpms rising suddenly, but it’s not accurate. As such, it has called into question the validity of the entire ABC News story, which could have far greater consequences.
After all, just days after the story ran, Professor Gilbert appeared before the House Committee’s investigation into Toyota’s ongoing recall crisis with his report. Toyota has since debunked Prof. Gilbert’s findings showing that his method of creating an unintended acceleration is unnatural and not likely to occur in real world circumstances. Toyota and a third-party engineering firm (funded by Toyota) also showed that using Prof. Gilbert’s method, they were able to produce unintended acceleration in many different vehicles from other automakers. Conversely, Prof. Gilbert’s research was paid for in part by safety advocate group Safety Research & Strategies, which in turn receives funding from law firms suing Toyota.
ABC News has since used a different shot and issued, not an apology, but a reason for the original footage, saying the cameraman could not get a good picture and so a different clip was used.
“This was a misjudgment made in the editing room,” said ABC News spokeswoman Emily Lenzner. “They should have left the shaky shot in. But I want to make clear that the two-second shot that was used did not change the outcome of the report in any way. It was not like ABC was trying to alter the footage. There was no staging. There was no dramatization. It was an editing mistake.”
This isn’t the first time the report’s validity has been called into question either, as automotive personality and host of Autoline Detroit, John McElroy, recently challenged the ABC News story, recalling the 1987 60 Minutes story over unintended acceleration in Audis that was later proved to be absurd as well as a 1993 Dateline NBC story over exploding Chevy pickups that was later retracted after a General Motors investigation proved it was rigged.
[Source: Associated Press]