Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition, 51551-51556 [E8-19994]

Download as PDF sroberts on PROD1PC70 with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 171 / Wednesday, September 3, 2008 / Notices 2004 and August 31, 2006, as originally manufactured, conform to many FMVSS in the same manner as their U.S. certified counterparts, or are capable of being readily altered to conform to those standards. Specifically, the petitioner claims that non-U.S. certified 2005–2006 Mercedes Benz SLK class (171 chassis) passenger cars manufactured between August 31, 2004 and August 31, 2006 are identical to their U.S. certified counterparts with respect to compliance with Standard Nos. 102 Transmission Shift Lever Sequence, Starter Interlock, and Transmission Braking Effect, 103 Windshield Defrosting and Defogging Systems, 104 Windshield Wiping and Washing Systems, 106 Brake Hoses, 109 New Pneumatic Tires, 113 Hood Latch System, 116 Motor Vehicle Brake Fluids, 124 Accelerator Control Systems, 135 Passenger Car Brake Systems, 201 Occupant Protection in Interior Impact, 202 Head Restraints, 204 Steering Control Rearward Displacement, 205 Glazing Materials, 206 Door Locks and Door Retention Components, 207 Seating Systems, 212 Windshield Mounting, 214 Side Impact Protection, 216 Roof Crush Resistance, 219 Windshield Zone Intrusion, 225 Child Restraint Anchorage Systems, and 302 Flammability of Interior Materials. In addition, the petitioner claims that the vehicles comply with the Bumper Standard found in 49 CFR Part 581. The petitioner also contends that the vehicles are capable of being readily altered to meet the following standards, in the manner indicated: Standard No. 101 Controls and Displays: (a) Inscription of the word ‘‘brake’’ on the dash in place of the international ECE warning symbol; (b) replacement of the speedometer with a unit reading in miles per hour, or modification of existing speedometer so that it reads in miles per hour; and (c) installation or activation of U.S.-version software in the vehicle’s computer system. Standard No. 108 Lamps, Reflective Devices and Associated Equipment: (a) installation of U.S.-model sidemarker lamps and headlamps; and (b) inspection of all vehicles and installation, on vehicles that are not already so equipped, of U.S.-model components to meet the requirements of this standard. Standard No. 110 Tire Selection and Rims: installation of a tire information placard. Standard No. 111 Rearview Mirrors: installation of a U.S.-model passenger side rearview mirror, or inscription of the required warning statement on the face of that mirror. VerDate Aug<31>2005 22:59 Sep 02, 2008 Jkt 214001 Standard No. 114 Theft Protection: installation of a supplemental key warning buzzer, or installation or activation of U.S.-version software to meet the requirements of this standard. Standard No. 118 Power-Operated Window, Partition, and Roof Panel Systems: installation or activation of U.S.-version software in the vehicle’s computer system to meet the requirements of this standard. Standard No. 208 Occupant Crash Protection: inspection of all vehicles and replacement of any non U.S.-model seat belts, air bag control units, air bags, and sensors with U.S.-model components on vehicles that are not already so equipped; and (b) installation or activation of U.S.-version software to ensure that the seat belt warning system meets the requirements of this standard. The petitioner states that the crash protection system used in these vehicles consists of dual front airbags and combination lap and shoulder belts at the front outboard seating positions. The seat belt systems are described as selftensioning and capable of being released by means of a single red push-button. Standard No. 209 Seat Belt Assemblies: inspection of all vehicles and replacement of any non U.S.certified model seat belts with U.S.model components. Standard No. 210 Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages: inspection of all vehicles and replacement of any non U.S.-model seat belts anchorage components with U.S.-model components. Standard No. 301 Fuel System Integrity: inspection of all vehicles and replacement of any non U.S.-model fuel system components with U.S.-model components. Standard No. 401 Interior Trunk Release: inspection of all vehicles and installation of U.S.-model components on vehicles that are not already so equipped. The petitioner additionally states that a vehicle identification plate must be affixed to the vehicles near the left windshield post to meet the requirements of 49 CFR Part 565. All comments received before the close of business on the closing date indicated above will be considered, and will be available for examination in the docket at the above addresses both before and after that date. To the extent possible, comments filed after the closing date will also be considered. Notice of final action on the petition will be published in the Federal Register pursuant to the authority indicated below. Authority: 49 U.S.C. 30141(a)(1)(A) and (b)(1); 49 CFR 593.8; delegations of authority at 49 CFR 1.50 and 501.8. PO 00000 Frm 00115 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 51551 Issued on: August 27, 2008. Claude H. Harris, Director, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance. [FR Doc. E8–20397 Filed 9–2–08; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–59–P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA), Department of Transportation. ACTION: Denial of a petition for a defect investigation. AGENCY: SUMMARY: This notice sets forth the reasons for the denial of a petition (Defect Petition DP08–001) submitted by Mr. William Kronholm to NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) by letter dated January 10, 2008, under 49 U.S.C. 30162. The Petition requests that the agency commence a proceeding to determine the existence of a defect related to motor vehicle safety within the electronically actuated throttle control system that is allegedly causing sudden and uncontrolled acceleration in model year (MY) 2006 to 2007 Toyota Tacoma pickup trucks (vehicles). After conducting a technical review of the material cited and provided by the petitioner and other information, and taking into account several considerations, including, among others, allocation of agency resources, agency priorities, and the likelihood that additional investigation would result in a finding that a defect related to motor vehicle safety exists, NHTSA has concluded that further investigation of the issues raised by the petition is not warranted. The agency accordingly has denied the petition. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Scott Yon, Vehicle Control Division, Office of Defects Investigation, NHTSA, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20590. Telephone 202– 366–0139. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Introduction Interested persons may petition NHTSA requesting that the agency initiate an investigation to determine whether a motor vehicle or item of replacement equipment does not comply with an applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standard or contains a defect that relates to motor vehicle safety. 49 CFR 552.1. Upon receipt of a properly filed petition, the agency conducts a technical review of E:\FR\FM\03SEN1.SGM 03SEN1 51552 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 171 / Wednesday, September 3, 2008 / Notices the petition, material submitted with the petition, and any additional information. § 552.6. After considering the technical review and taking into account appropriate factors, which may include, among others, allocation of agency resources, agency priorities, and the likelihood of success in litigation that might arise from a determination of a noncompliance or a defect related to motor vehicle safety, the agency will grant or deny the petition. § 552.8. sroberts on PROD1PC70 with NOTICES II. Defect Petition Background Information The Petitioner, Mr. William Kronholm of Helena, Montana, purchased a new model year (MY) 2006 Toyota Tacoma pickup (VIN 5TEUU42N26Z258969, Petitioner’s vehicle) on May 10, 2006. The vehicle is equipped with a V6 engine (4.0 L, 1GR–FE), five speed automatic transmission, air conditioning (A/C), cruise control, antilock brakes (ABS), limited slip rear differential, and four-wheel drivetrain (4WD), and was manufactured in April 2006. The Petitioner’s vehicle is also equipped with an electronically actuated throttle control system.1 The Petitioner is the primary driver of the Petitioner’s vehicle and he drove the vehicle for approximately 24,500 miles without experiencing a problem with the throttle control system. On the morning of January 5, 2008, the Petitioner and his wife drove the vehicle to a cross-country skiing area about 100 miles from their home. After skiing several hours, they returned home on Rt. 141. During the return trip, the Petitioner pulled off the road and stopped briefly at the intersection with Rt. 271. The transmission was placed in Park and the engine was left running. When the Petitioner was ready to resume the trip south on Rt. 141, he engaged Drive and allowed the vehicle to move forward under its own power (without accelerator pedal application). As he approached the intersection, and while braking and checking for oncoming traffic, he sensed that the vehicle was not slowing as expected from the brake application.2 He struggled with the vehicle for about 10 seconds, continuing to press on the brake, before regaining control of the vehicle. By this time the vehicle had moved about 7 to 10 meters beyond 1 The design of the Tacoma throttle control system is similar to that reviewed in PE04–021. Interested persons can refer to this investigation for more information on the basic design and operation of the system. 2 His wife also recognized that the vehicle was not stopping as she had expected, or that something was wrong, and she asked her husband what was going on. VerDate Aug<31>2005 22:59 Sep 02, 2008 Jkt 214001 where the Petitioner had intended to stop, coming to rest in the southbound lane of Rt. 141. He was alarmed by the event and wasn’t quite sure what had happened. However, he could not identify a specific problem with his vehicle, so he continued driving. When the Petitioner arrived at his home, he began to back the vehicle into his short driveway.3 While steering the vehicle into the driveway and using the brake to regulate the vehicle speed, the Petitioner reports that the vehicle began to accelerate suddenly in the rearward direction. He applied the brakes forcefully, which slowed the vehicle,4 but he was concerned that he was nearing the garage door. He concluded that his vehicle was out of control and, fearing a crash, he turned the ignition switch off. He estimates the duration of this event was approximately 10 seconds. He subsequently restarted the vehicle and it operated normally. Due to the similarity with his earlier incident, and since both incidents had occurred within a two hour period, he suspected that a defect with his vehicle was the likely cause. He conducted some research, including finding some related news articles and news broadcasts via Web research that reported similar occurrences on other MY 2006 and 2007 Tacoma vehicles. He also found the NHTSA Web site, where he filed his Vehicle Owner Questionnaire (VOQ) report (ODI 10214130) and conducted a VOQ search for other Tacoma reports similar to his. His search identified a number of reports for MY 2006 and 2007 Tacoma vehicles that he considered similar to the incidents he had experienced, as well as a small number of reports for peer vehicles (non-Toyota) of similar age, usage, and design type. The Petitioner took his Tacoma to a local Toyota dealer on January 7, 2008, advised it of the two incidents he had experienced, and requested that they inspect the vehicle for a potential problem or defect that caused the unintended accelerations. The dealership tested the vehicle, inspected the air intake, throttle and accelerator pedal wiring, and checked for any stored diagnostic codes or service messages in the engine control unit. The dealer also checked for any pertinent bulletins or ‘‘health’’ updates. The dealer could not duplicate the unintended acceleration, no codes were stored and no bulletins or updates were 3 There is a slight grade that would allow the vehicle to reverse without accelerator application. 4 The Petitioner states his vehicle’s rear wheels were spinning freely as he recalls hearing the sound of gravel hitting the inside of the rear wheel wells. PO 00000 Frm 00116 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 available. No repairs were made and the vehicle was returned to the Petitioner. The Petitioner filed a Defect Petition (DP) with NHTSA that was received in NHTSA on January 18, 2008. The petition identified his previous VOQ and discussed his research on Tacoma and peer vehicle VOQs with throttle control complaints. He requested that NHTSA open an investigation into sudden and uncontrolled acceleration on the MY 2006 and 2007 Toyota Tacoma vehicles. In a letter to Toyota dated January 25, 2008, the Petitioner described the two ‘‘spontaneous and uncommanded sudden acceleration incidents in the span of less than two hours’’ and the results of his search for related complaints on the NHTSA Web site. The letter takes issue with Toyota’s response to his and other complaints of sudden acceleration and requests that Toyota conduct a ‘‘full and complete investigation of the defect’’ in his Tacoma.5 ODI contacted the Petitioner on January 24, 2008, to advise that we received his petition. During this call, ODI staff briefly reviewed the specifics of the two incidents the Petitioner reported and requested that he provide the ODI numbers of the reports he identified in his petition for both the Toyota and non-Toyota vehicles. During this conversation, the Petitioner confirmed his assessment that during both incidents, his vehicle’s brake system had functioned properly and that the cause of the incidents was a failure of the throttle control system, specifically that the throttle control system opened the throttle without accelerator pedal application. In other words, the vehicle self-accelerated. In his opinion, this acceleration made the vehicle difficult to control and unsafe to operate. The Petitioner provided a list of 37 VOQ reports via e-mail, 33 for Toyota Tacoma, including the Petitioner’s report ODI 10214130, and four for nonToyota pickups.6 The Toyota Tacoma reports included 16 reports on MY 2006 and 17 reports on MY 2007 Tacoma. ODI notes that two reports (10180652 and 10181486) were submitted by the 5 See http://www.safercar.gov under VOQ report ODI 10214130 to view the 1/25/2008 letter. 6 ODI numbers for MY 2006 Tacoma: 10152011, 10172030, 10183012, 10184332 (Canadian vehicle), 10184375, 10184416, 10184759, 10185253, 10186996, 10191371, 10201595, 10202727, 10211100, 10212718, 10214130, 10215598. For MY 2007 Tacoma: 10180652, 10181411, 10181486 (same complainant as 10180652), 10182045, 10187789, 10197535, 10198196, 10199820, 10201655, 10202283, 10207528, 10208120, 10208868, 10208890, 10212294, 10212602, 10212656. For non-Toyota products: 10166548, 10183144, 10199048, 10203722. E:\FR\FM\03SEN1.SGM 03SEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 171 / Wednesday, September 3, 2008 / Notices same complainant, and one (10184332) was submitted by a Canadian consumer. In response to the petition, ODI opened Defect Petition (DP) 08–001 on January 31, 2008. ODI sent an Information Request (IR) letter to Toyota on February 8, 2008, with a response due date of March 28, 2008. The IR letter sought information relating to a range of potential consumer complaints and defined the MY 2004 7 to 2008 Tacoma models as the subject vehicles.8 Toyota requested and was granted extensions to the original response date, with partial submissions made on the agreed upon dates, and the submission was completed on April 25, 2008.9 Toyota also conducted a technical meeting with ODI on May 21, 2008. III. NHTSA Review—VOQ Data ODI began its assessment of the petition by attempting to contact each of the persons who had submitted a VOQ report on a Tacoma, as identified by the Petitioner. We interviewed 26 of the 31 consumers.10 In the interviews, consumers described events that could be attributed to a throttle control system issue. Their concerns stemmed from a variety of vehicle operating conditions and driving circumstances. Some owners described events similar to the Petitioner’s allegations, in that unintended acceleration occurred on vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission while slowing or stopped. Other complainants described unintended acceleration that was minor in comparison to the events that the Petitioner described. Other owners described events that varied significantly from what the Petitioner reported. For example, some consumers described events that occurred on manual transmission vehicles at highway speeds when the clutch was depressed, while others reported that a condition only occurred after the 51553 accelerator pedal had been depressed significantly (intentionally) or only when the cruise control or A/C system was engaged. Some consumers reported events occurring when more than one of these conditions was present. After the initial interviews, ODI elected to expand its analysis to include a broader representation of Tacoma reports in the VOQ complaint database. Noting that the DP subject vehicles were of a consistent design type (generation) from MY 2005 through MY 2008,11 we searched the complaint database to identify all reports potentially involving the throttle control system for MY 2005 and later Tacoma vehicles. Table 1 shows the number of Tacoma VOQ reports, by MY, that include an allegation possibly related to the throttle control system. We attempted to interview each person who submitted a report. We have interviewed 64 of these 97 consumers (about 66%). TABLE 1—UNIQUE TACOMA THROTTLE CONTROL SYSTEM COMPLAINTS, THROUGH 5/31/2008 MY ........................................................................................ Complaints ........................................................................... 2005 18 2006 36 2007 38 2008 5 Totals 97 sroberts on PROD1PC70 with NOTICES As shown in Table 1, there were fewer reports for MY 2005 Tacoma reports than for MY 2006 and 2007. When vehicles share a common design configuration over more than one model year, there typically tends to be higher rates of reports on the older vehicles than the newer ones. The trend found here may reflect an abnormal variability or another factor such as more recent publicity. Based on the report descriptions and the interviews conducted, ODI separated the consumer complaints into (1) those that may involve the throttle control system, (2) those that did not relate to the throttle control system (or that relate to a different system or component), and (3) those that we could not categorize, often because of limited information. The analysis revealed that some VOQs implicate more than one of the above issues, resulting in a total of 104 discrete complaints in these three categories. Of the 104 complaints, 59 relate or may relate to the throttle control system. These complaints include allegations of high idle speed on cold start; short duration (less than one second), small magnitude vehicle surges while the vehicle is at rest and in gear (possibly related to A/C system operation); excessive engine speed and transmission downshifts when the cruise control is engaged and the vehicle encounters an uphill grade; and failure of the engine to return to ‘‘idle’’ in a normal manner while at highway speeds when the clutch is depressed for shifting (termed by Toyota as ‘‘catalyst protection’’). Regarding the vehicle’s throttle control system, we note that NHTSA’s Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance (OVSC) conducted testing on a MY 2007 Tacoma for compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 124, Accelerator Controls in September 2007. In a November 23, 2007, report, OVSC indicated that the Tacoma throttle control system is compliant with the requirements set forth in FMVSS No. 124.12 OVSC completed this testing prior to the opening of DP08–001. Of the 59 complaints that may be related to the vehicle’s throttle control system, two of the complaints (about three percent) related to high idle speed on cold start. None of these reports allege a crash or injury. NHTSA’s Vehicle Research and Test Center (VRTC) conducted testing to compare two MY 2008 Tacoma (four- and sixcylinder engines with automatic transmissions) to 15 other non-Tacoma vehicles. The objective was to determine the engine RPM and the sustaining brake pedal force (effort required to maintain a stationary position) during cold start.13 For the vehicles tested, the Tacoma idle speeds and pedal forces were both above the average of the 17 vehicles tested but within the range of values measured. Thirty-seven of the 59 complaints (about 63 percent) related to a short duration, small magnitude vehicle surge increase while the vehicle is at rest and in gear. None of these reports allege a crash or injury. In assessing the safety consequence of these at-rest surge complaints, we note first that these events occur only on vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions. Like many other vehicles, the Tacoma idle speed varies depending on whether the A/C compressor is engaged. We note also that the A/C compressor operates 7 The MY 2004 vehicles are an earlier design version that used different engines and body style. 8 This was done to ensure a comprehensive sample of the types of complaints Toyota received. 9 Some portions of the response were submitted with a request for confidentiality. 10 The five remaining consumers failed to respond to requests for an interview, or could not be contacted. 11 At MY 2005, the Tacoma vehicle line underwent a major design revision from the MY 2004 vehicle, with a new body style and powertrain being introduced. 12 See http://nhthqnwws111.odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/ acms/docservlet/Artemis/Public/OVSC/2007/ Test%20Reports/TRTR–639126–2007.PDF for vehicle specification, test results, and details on obtaining more information. 13 This work was completed prior to the opening of DP08–001 also. VerDate Aug<31>2005 22:59 Sep 02, 2008 Jkt 214001 PO 00000 Frm 00117 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\03SEN1.SGM 03SEN1 sroberts on PROD1PC70 with NOTICES 51554 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 171 / Wednesday, September 3, 2008 / Notices when the front windshield defroster is enabled, regardless of the state of the A/ C compressor switch. In our IR to Toyota, we asked the company to explain the functionality of the Tacoma A/C system and how it affects the idle speed. According to Toyota’s response, there is a modest increase in idle speed when the AC compressor engages. With this functionality, it is possible for the vehicle to inch forward if, after it is stopped and in gear, the driver applies only enough braking to prevent the vehicle from rolling forward under normal conditions without the A/C engaged and the A/C compressor subsequently engages. However, a small additional brake force suppresses this forward movement. Some of these 37 consumers, typically those with 4WD, reported that within about five seconds after stopping the vehicle, they experienced a surge that felt like a sharp jolt in the vehicle as though a following driver had tapped the rear bumper (some consumers reported looking in the rearview mirror to see if this was the case). The duration of the jolt was very short (< 1 second), would occur only once per stop, and occurred randomly—perhaps on a weekly basis or less frequently. Consumers did not report a simultaneous change in engine speed, so it is unclear if this issue involves the vehicle’s throttle control system.14 We were not able to simulate this event on a vehicle. However, to the extent that these events could be related to the throttle control system, we note that consumers reported they easily controlled vehicle movement with normal brake force. Eleven of the 59 complaints (about nineteen percent) involve excessive engine speed and transmission downshifts when the cruise control is engaged and the vehicle encounters an uphill grade. None of these reports allege a crash or injury. We note that this occurs only on vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions and cruise control, and that it appears to be more prevalent on the four cylinder models. We identified VOQ report ODI 10183271 that provided detailed information regarding this issue. The report states that while on the interstate with the cruise control engaged and set within a speed range of about 65 to 75 miles per hour, if the vehicle encounters an uphill grade, the vehicle will first downshift to a lower gear, then apply additional throttle, resulting in the 14 Some consumer’s have alleged that the vehicle’s drivetrain or suspension causes the condition. VerDate Aug<31>2005 22:59 Sep 02, 2008 Jkt 214001 engine revving to a high RPM.15 The VOQ alleges that the combined effect of downshifting then opening the throttle can cause a yaw or loss of control condition and that a crash could result, and that a near crash incident occurred on one occasion.16 We interviewed this consumer 17 and discussed the results of testing conducted on his vehicle by a local Toyota dealer. He provided a description of what he learned from Toyota’s testing, and agreed to allow us to inspect his vehicle. We met with him on March 12, 2008, and test drove the vehicle on local interstates where he had previously experienced the alleged event. We connected a commercially available test device to the vehicle’s diagnostic connector to monitor throttle and transmission data. We confirmed that when the vehicle cruise control is set to a specific speed range and it encounters an incline, the transmission will downshift to second gear and the engine will rev to a high RPM. However, we could not confirm that the transmission downshift preceded the throttle application. To the contrary, the data showed that the transmission downshift was in response to throttle opening, similar to what would occur if the operator were to manually apply the accelerator pedal under similar circumstances (same speed range, on an incline). We do not perceive a significant safety risk related to this phenomenon. Nine of the 59 complaints (about 15 percent) relate to an alleged failure of the engine to return to ‘‘idle’ in a normal manner while at highway speeds when the clutch is depressed for shifting (what Toyota describes as catalyst protection). One of these reports alleges a crash with no injury, as discussed below. We note first that this event only occurs on vehicles equipped with four cylinder engines and manual transmission. The condition is typically described in reports as a failure of the engine to return to normal idle speed and an increase in engine speed that occurs when the clutch is depressed while shifting from 4th to 5th gear (see ODI 10150731, 10157923, 10175527, and 10208505). In its IR response, Toyota described the system used on four cylinder 15 He states that he met with a Toyota technical representative and observed the results of test work they conducted. The consumer claims that the test results verified the system operated in the manner described in his report, though he did not obtain copies of the test results. 16 See the VOQ report ODI 10183271 for details of the near loss of control incident that was alleged. 17 The complainant is an engineer who owns a four cylinder Tacoma with automatic transmission. PO 00000 Frm 00118 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 vehicles to protect the long-term durability of the catalytic converter, a component of the emissions control system. Toyota reported that under certain operating conditions and when the accelerator pedal is not being depressed (i.e., an overrun condition), the vehicle’s catalytic converter can be damaged if there is inadequate air flow through the engine. In simplified terms, the throttle control system opens the throttle without driver input to provide a minimal airflow through the engine. This can produce a temporary elevated idle speed if the clutch is depressed. However, according to Toyota’s IR response, the air flow increase by the throttle control system is limited so that it does not result in a net power output to the vehicle. Toyota advised that while increased air flow diminishes engine braking (deceleration caused by engine drag in an overrun condition), it cannot produce vehicle acceleration. VRTC testing of a MY 2006 Tacoma equipped with a four cylinder engine and manual transmission verified that the catalyst protection feature operated as Toyota described.18 We confirmed that the strategy is only implemented when the transmission is in 4th or 5th gear and note that when the clutch was depressed we observed free-wheel engine speeds as high as 3,000 RPMs. However, at the road speeds where this occurred (60 to 75 MPH), and with the limited amount of airflow involved, the effect on vehicle control, though perhaps annoying to consumers, did not appear to be consequential. One VOQ report (ODI 10152011) alleged that this operation caused the operator to lose control of his vehicle and crash on a rural/semi-urban Colorado roadway. However, the road was snow-covered at the time of the crash. Based on the information in the report, the vehicle was travelling at a high speed when the crash occurred (70 MPH on a snow-covered rural/semiurban road). Since speed and road conditions may have been a factor, the incident described in this report is of little probative value with regard to the alleged defect described in the petition. Beyond the 59 reports, ODI identified 19 reports that did not relate to the throttle control system, or that relate to a different system or component. Fourteen of these appear to have been caused by floor mat interference with the accelerator pedal, including 4 crashes and 3 injuries. The other five reports were related to dual pedal application, where the operator inadvertently depresses both the 18 Also, Toyota demonstrated this system to ODI during the May 21, 2008, technical meeting. E:\FR\FM\03SEN1.SGM 03SEN1 51555 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 171 / Wednesday, September 3, 2008 / Notices accelerator pedal and the brake pedal when intending to apply the brake only. One of these reports alleges a minor crash with no injury (ODI 10221144). These five complaints involve vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions. When dual pedal application occurs, the vehicle moves forward further than the driver intends. During ODI interviews, complainants reported that they had inadvertently applied both the brake and gas pedals at the same time. Three complainants determined this prior to filing VOQs (ODI 10210488, 10221144, and 10223599), one concluded it after filing and disclosed it during the interview (ODI 10208868), and one mentioned that this may have been a factor during our interview (ODI 10198196). To the extent that causes are identified that are not related to the electronic throttle control system but which may raise possible safety defect issues, such as floor mat interference or pedal placement, ODI will continue to examine them as part of our regular screening process and will open investigations if warranted. In a few reports, consumers questioned the design of the pedal configuration, suggesting that the pedals were too close to one another (lateral separation) or that there was insufficient step-over 19 clearance. We note that, dimensionally speaking, the pedal configuration of the MY 2005 to 2008 Tacoma is typical of other light trucks and passenger vehicles. Some complainants noted that they had been wearing larger or stiffer than usual shoes, such as work boots, when the dual pedal application occurred, and they reported that this was a factor in the occurrence. Related to this topic, ODI interviewed the Petitioner and inspected his Tacoma at his home on March 26, 2008. In an earlier interview, the Petitioner advised that he was wearing his cross-country ski boots (shoes) when his two incidents occurred, so we took this opportunity to look at them. The cross country ski shoes (Merrell brand, men’s size 91⁄2), unlike down-hill ski boots, are similar in size and width to a work boot with the exception of an extension at the toe of the boot that acts as a binding for the ski. The binding is of the same thickness as the sole of the shoe and it extends forward (outward) from the shoe about 5⁄8 of an inch. During a test drive, we noted that the Petitioner used his right foot to operate the brake and gas pedal, and that he lifts and relocates his foot when he transitions from one pedal to another.20 Considering that the shoes may have played a role in his incidents, we discussed the issue of dual pedal application with the Petitioner. He noted that he skied two to three times per year, that he typically drove with his ski shoes on to save time at the ski facility, and that he had never had a problem before. Additionally, he noted that he had made this same trip using the Tacoma a few times the prior ski season without incident. We asked the Petitioner to assess the vehicle with his ski shoes on to see if he could apply both pedals at the same time and to advise us of his findings. He subsequently reported that it was possible for him to inadvertently hit both pedals while wearing the ski shoes but that his foot had to be in an abnormal orientation for this to occur, one that would be plainly obvious to him. In his estimation this was not the cause of his two incidents. Finally, for the remaining 26 complaints, these are reports where we have assessed the available information from the complainants, yet we are unable to identify a cause that may be related to the vehicle’s throttle control system or, in many cases, any specific cause or explanation. These reports allege 13 crashes with four injury allegations (one minor, two moderate, one severe). In some cases, the VOQ was inconclusive and the consumer filing the VOQ could not be contacted for an interview. However, in no instances did the complainants report or allege a specific component failure or replacement, the illumination of a warning indicator, the detection of a stored trouble or fault code, or the identification of any other physical evidence supporting a vehicle-based problem. The incidents occur randomly and are therefore unable to be reproduced for testing or further analysis.21 IV. NHTSA Review—Toyota IR Response Data ODI reviewed the information Toyota provided in its IR response for the MY 2005 to 2008 vehicles.22 We reviewed the population data and provide the number of vehicles by MY and transmission type in Table 2. TABLE 2—VEHICLE POPULATION BY MY AND TRANSMISSION TYPE 2005 Auto .................................................................. Manual ............................................................. Totals ........................................................ 2006 111,625 40,013 151,638 2007 152,727 42,441 195,168 2008* 134,665 31,156 165,821 83,828 19,105 102,933 Totals 482,845 132,715 615,560 *—partial MY. sroberts on PROD1PC70 with NOTICES We reviewed Toyota’s responses to several other questions to ensure we fully understood any product or design changes, the studies of issues relevant to the alleged defect conducted by Toyota, the design and operation of the systems that interact with the throttle control system, and Toyota’s assessment of the possible problem with the Tacoma throttle control system. We did not identify any information indicating a product- or component-based issue that could explain or cause a throttle control system failure. We conducted a limited review of the responses to questions regarding the complaint and warranty data. Our review of the field report, legal claim,23 and warranty claim data did not identify any concern or trend. We also conducted an analysis of the consumer complaints as described below. Table 3 shows the count of consumer complaints by MY. 19 This is the difference in the height (distance) of the pedals from the floor board. 20 The toe of the Petitioner’s foot is oriented to the right of his heel when he applies either the brake or gas pedal. 21 As an example of the type of analysis possible, for the Petitioner’s vehicle, we have interviewed the Petitioner (multiple times), interviewed his wife (she was a passenger for one of the incidents), conducted a physical inspection of the Petitioner’s vehicle, reviewed the Petitioner’s vehicle service and warranty history, test driven the Petitioner’s vehicle, and monitored the Petitioner’s vehicle diagnostic/control system using a commercially available diagnostic tool; the Petitioner’s vehicle has not exhibited another incident as of this date. 23 The legal claims were duplicative of the consumer reports, which were also reviewed. VerDate Aug<31>2005 22:59 Sep 02, 2008 Jkt 214001 PO 00000 Frm 00119 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\03SEN1.SGM 03SEN1 51556 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 171 / Wednesday, September 3, 2008 / Notices TABLE 3—CONSUMER COMPLAINT COUNTS BY MY FROM TOYOTA’S IR RESPONSE 2005 Consumer Complaints ......................................................... sroberts on PROD1PC70 with NOTICES We based our review of the Toyota consumer complaints on the information provided in the IR response. We first note that the trend we saw in the VOQ data—that the MY 2006 and 2007 vehicles were overrepresented (or MY 2005 was under represented)—does not appear in the consumer complaint data submitted by Toyota. In fact, Toyota’s consumer complaint data do not suggest any identifiable reporting trend for any MY(s). In reading the consumer complaint reports, we noted most were similar to the complaints identified in the VOQ reports. Accordingly, we followed the same approach used for VOQ reports and conducted an analysis of a random sample of consumer complaints. We reviewed 133 reports 24 from MYs 2005 to 2008 and identified 142 separate complaint types. ODI categorized 96 (about 68%) of the complaints as potentially related to the vehicle’s throttle control system, 23 (about 16%) as not related to the throttle control system (or related to a different system or component), and 23 (about 16%) as not permitting us to identify a cause that relates to the vehicle’s throttle control system.25 These proportions are similar to the VOQ analysis. For the crashes and injuries reported in the Toyota IR response, we reviewed the reports for the MY 2006 and 2007 Tacoma (since these were the subject of the DP request) where a crash or injury was alleged. From these reports, we identified 33 unique incidents. Eight of these incidents, with three injuries, were duplicates of reports to ODI that we had reviewed. For the remaining 25 reports unique to the Toyota response, we determined that four reports, with no injuries, fell outside the scope of the alleged defect (these involved brake system or other unrelated issues), two involved dual pedal application errors, and six involved other issues not related to the throttle control system. For the 24 We actually reviewed 143 reports but deemed 10 reports fell outside the scope of the alleged defect. 25 As with the VOQ reports, these consumer complaints did not contain evidence of a vehicle causation but were simply allegations that the vehicle had suffered a throttle control systemrelated incident. Based on this analysis, we estimate that of the 257 MY 2006 and 2007 Toyota consumer complaints, about 40 would be in this category. This number will be reflected as the manufacturer failure counts in the closing resume for DP08–001. VerDate Aug<31>2005 22:59 Sep 02, 2008 Jkt 214001 2006 176 2007 167 remaining 13 crash allegations, with one injury allegation, we were unable to make an assessment of the underlying cause of the crash.26 Conclusion ODI’s review of the petition, assessment of VOQs, interviews of persons who filed VOQs, testing, and review of Toyota’s IR response reveals that about three-quarters of the complaints involved various explained aspects of the Tacoma’s throttle control system that do not seem to present a significant safety risk under most circumstances, or did not involve a failure of the throttle control system. For the remaining quarter, although there may have been an issue with the throttle control system as one possible explanation, we have been unable to determine a throttle control related or any underlying cause that gave rise to the complaint. For those vehicles where the throttle control system did not perform as the owner believes it should have, the information suggesting a possible defect related to motor vehicle safety is quite limited. In our view, additional investigation is unlikely to result in a finding that a defect related to motor vehicle safety exists with regard to the Tacoma’s throttle control system or a NHTSA order for the notification and remedy of a safetyrelated defect as alleged by the petitioner at the conclusion of the requested investigation. Therefore, in view of the need to allocate and prioritize NHTSA’s limited resources to best accomplish the agency’s safety mission, the petition is denied. This action does not constitute a finding by NHTSA that a safety-related defect does not exist. The agency will take further action if warranted by future circumstances. Authority: 49 U.S.C. 30162(d); delegations of authority at 49 CFR 1.50 and 501.8. Issued on: August 25, 2008. Daniel C. Smith, Associate Administrator for Enforcement. [FR Doc. E8–19994 Filed 9–2–08; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–59–P 26 None of the 25 reports contained any specific evidence of a failure of the throttle control system. PO 00000 Frm 00120 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2008 90 Total 13 446 DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS Enhanced-Use Lease of VA Property for the Improvement and Operation of the Memorial Stadium at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Chillicothe, OH AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Notice of Intent To Enter into an Enhanced-Use Lease. ACTION: SUMMARY: The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) intends to enter into an enhanced-use lease of approximately 4.273 acres of underutilized land and improvements at the VA Medical Center in Chillicothe, Ohio. The selected lessee will finance, preserve, improve, design, build, operate, manage and maintain the property, which includes the VA Memorial Stadium and its accessory facilities (e.g., bleachers, dressing rooms, concession buildings, playground, and a grassy area adjacent to the stadium). As consideration for the lease, the lessee will be required to make annual capital improvements, pay VA fair market annual rent, and allow VA to use the stadium at no cost for mission-related events at least 5 times annually during the lease term. The value of the consideration meets or exceeds the net present value of the property to be leased. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Edward Bradley, Office of Asset Enterprise Management (044C), Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20420, (202) 461–7778 (this is not a tollfree number). Title 38 U.S.C. 8161 et seq. states that the Secretary may enter into an enhanceduse lease if he determines that implementation of a business plan proposed by the Under Secretary for Health for applying the consideration under such a lease for the provision of medical care and services would result in a demonstrable improvement of services to eligible veterans in the geographic service-delivery area within which the property is located. This project meets this requirement. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: E:\FR\FM\03SEN1.SGM 03SEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 171 (Wednesday, September 3, 2008)]
[Notices]
[Pages 51551-51556]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-19994]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA), 
Department of Transportation.

ACTION: Denial of a petition for a defect investigation.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This notice sets forth the reasons for the denial of a 
petition (Defect Petition DP08-001) submitted by Mr. William Kronholm 
to NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) by letter dated 
January 10, 2008, under 49 U.S.C. 30162. The Petition requests that the 
agency commence a proceeding to determine the existence of a defect 
related to motor vehicle safety within the electronically actuated 
throttle control system that is allegedly causing sudden and 
uncontrolled acceleration in model year (MY) 2006 to 2007 Toyota Tacoma 
pickup trucks (vehicles).
    After conducting a technical review of the material cited and 
provided by the petitioner and other information, and taking into 
account several considerations, including, among others, allocation of 
agency resources, agency priorities, and the likelihood that additional 
investigation would result in a finding that a defect related to motor 
vehicle safety exists, NHTSA has concluded that further investigation 
of the issues raised by the petition is not warranted. The agency 
accordingly has denied the petition.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Scott Yon, Vehicle Control 
Division, Office of Defects Investigation, NHTSA, 1200 New Jersey 
Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20590. Telephone 202-366-0139.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Introduction

    Interested persons may petition NHTSA requesting that the agency 
initiate an investigation to determine whether a motor vehicle or item 
of replacement equipment does not comply with an applicable Federal 
motor vehicle safety standard or contains a defect that relates to 
motor vehicle safety. 49 CFR 552.1. Upon receipt of a properly filed 
petition, the agency conducts a technical review of

[[Page 51552]]

the petition, material submitted with the petition, and any additional 
information. Sec.  552.6. After considering the technical review and 
taking into account appropriate factors, which may include, among 
others, allocation of agency resources, agency priorities, and the 
likelihood of success in litigation that might arise from a 
determination of a noncompliance or a defect related to motor vehicle 
safety, the agency will grant or deny the petition. Sec.  552.8.

II. Defect Petition Background Information

    The Petitioner, Mr. William Kronholm of Helena, Montana, purchased 
a new model year (MY) 2006 Toyota Tacoma pickup (VIN 5TEUU42N26Z258969, 
Petitioner's vehicle) on May 10, 2006. The vehicle is equipped with a 
V6 engine (4.0 L, 1GR-FE), five speed automatic transmission, air 
conditioning (A/C), cruise control, antilock brakes (ABS), limited slip 
rear differential, and four-wheel drivetrain (4WD), and was 
manufactured in April 2006. The Petitioner's vehicle is also equipped 
with an electronically actuated throttle control system.\1\ The 
Petitioner is the primary driver of the Petitioner's vehicle and he 
drove the vehicle for approximately 24,500 miles without experiencing a 
problem with the throttle control system.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ The design of the Tacoma throttle control system is similar 
to that reviewed in PE04-021. Interested persons can refer to this 
investigation for more information on the basic design and operation 
of the system.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    On the morning of January 5, 2008, the Petitioner and his wife 
drove the vehicle to a cross-country skiing area about 100 miles from 
their home. After skiing several hours, they returned home on Rt. 141. 
During the return trip, the Petitioner pulled off the road and stopped 
briefly at the intersection with Rt. 271. The transmission was placed 
in Park and the engine was left running.
    When the Petitioner was ready to resume the trip south on Rt. 141, 
he engaged Drive and allowed the vehicle to move forward under its own 
power (without accelerator pedal application). As he approached the 
intersection, and while braking and checking for oncoming traffic, he 
sensed that the vehicle was not slowing as expected from the brake 
application.\2\ He struggled with the vehicle for about 10 seconds, 
continuing to press on the brake, before regaining control of the 
vehicle. By this time the vehicle had moved about 7 to 10 meters beyond 
where the Petitioner had intended to stop, coming to rest in the 
southbound lane of Rt. 141. He was alarmed by the event and wasn't 
quite sure what had happened. However, he could not identify a specific 
problem with his vehicle, so he continued driving.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ His wife also recognized that the vehicle was not stopping 
as she had expected, or that something was wrong, and she asked her 
husband what was going on.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    When the Petitioner arrived at his home, he began to back the 
vehicle into his short driveway.\3\ While steering the vehicle into the 
driveway and using the brake to regulate the vehicle speed, the 
Petitioner reports that the vehicle began to accelerate suddenly in the 
rearward direction. He applied the brakes forcefully, which slowed the 
vehicle,\4\ but he was concerned that he was nearing the garage door. 
He concluded that his vehicle was out of control and, fearing a crash, 
he turned the ignition switch off. He estimates the duration of this 
event was approximately 10 seconds. He subsequently restarted the 
vehicle and it operated normally.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \3\ There is a slight grade that would allow the vehicle to 
reverse without accelerator application.
    \4\ The Petitioner states his vehicle's rear wheels were 
spinning freely as he recalls hearing the sound of gravel hitting 
the inside of the rear wheel wells.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Due to the similarity with his earlier incident, and since both 
incidents had occurred within a two hour period, he suspected that a 
defect with his vehicle was the likely cause. He conducted some 
research, including finding some related news articles and news 
broadcasts via Web research that reported similar occurrences on other 
MY 2006 and 2007 Tacoma vehicles. He also found the NHTSA Web site, 
where he filed his Vehicle Owner Questionnaire (VOQ) report (ODI 
10214130) and conducted a VOQ search for other Tacoma reports similar 
to his. His search identified a number of reports for MY 2006 and 2007 
Tacoma vehicles that he considered similar to the incidents he had 
experienced, as well as a small number of reports for peer vehicles 
(non-Toyota) of similar age, usage, and design type.
    The Petitioner took his Tacoma to a local Toyota dealer on January 
7, 2008, advised it of the two incidents he had experienced, and 
requested that they inspect the vehicle for a potential problem or 
defect that caused the unintended accelerations. The dealership tested 
the vehicle, inspected the air intake, throttle and accelerator pedal 
wiring, and checked for any stored diagnostic codes or service messages 
in the engine control unit. The dealer also checked for any pertinent 
bulletins or ``health'' updates. The dealer could not duplicate the 
unintended acceleration, no codes were stored and no bulletins or 
updates were available. No repairs were made and the vehicle was 
returned to the Petitioner.
    The Petitioner filed a Defect Petition (DP) with NHTSA that was 
received in NHTSA on January 18, 2008. The petition identified his 
previous VOQ and discussed his research on Tacoma and peer vehicle VOQs 
with throttle control complaints. He requested that NHTSA open an 
investigation into sudden and uncontrolled acceleration on the MY 2006 
and 2007 Toyota Tacoma vehicles. In a letter to Toyota dated January 
25, 2008, the Petitioner described the two ``spontaneous and 
uncommanded sudden acceleration incidents in the span of less than two 
hours'' and the results of his search for related complaints on the 
NHTSA Web site. The letter takes issue with Toyota's response to his 
and other complaints of sudden acceleration and requests that Toyota 
conduct a ``full and complete investigation of the defect'' in his 
Tacoma.\5\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \5\ See http://www.safercar.gov under VOQ report ODI 10214130 to 
view the 1/25/2008 letter.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    ODI contacted the Petitioner on January 24, 2008, to advise that we 
received his petition. During this call, ODI staff briefly reviewed the 
specifics of the two incidents the Petitioner reported and requested 
that he provide the ODI numbers of the reports he identified in his 
petition for both the Toyota and non-Toyota vehicles. During this 
conversation, the Petitioner confirmed his assessment that during both 
incidents, his vehicle's brake system had functioned properly and that 
the cause of the incidents was a failure of the throttle control 
system, specifically that the throttle control system opened the 
throttle without accelerator pedal application. In other words, the 
vehicle self-accelerated. In his opinion, this acceleration made the 
vehicle difficult to control and unsafe to operate.
    The Petitioner provided a list of 37 VOQ reports via e-mail, 33 for 
Toyota Tacoma, including the Petitioner's report ODI 10214130, and four 
for non-Toyota pickups.\6\ The Toyota Tacoma reports included 16 
reports on MY 2006 and 17 reports on MY 2007 Tacoma. ODI notes that two 
reports (10180652 and 10181486) were submitted by the

[[Page 51553]]

same complainant, and one (10184332) was submitted by a Canadian 
consumer.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ ODI numbers for MY 2006 Tacoma: 10152011, 10172030, 
10183012, 10184332 (Canadian vehicle), 10184375, 10184416, 10184759, 
10185253, 10186996, 10191371, 10201595, 10202727, 10211100, 
10212718, 10214130, 10215598. For MY 2007 Tacoma: 10180652, 
10181411, 10181486 (same complainant as 10180652), 10182045, 
10187789, 10197535, 10198196, 10199820, 10201655, 10202283, 
10207528, 10208120, 10208868, 10208890, 10212294, 10212602, 
10212656. For non-Toyota products: 10166548, 10183144, 10199048, 
10203722.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In response to the petition, ODI opened Defect Petition (DP) 08-001 
on January 31, 2008. ODI sent an Information Request (IR) letter to 
Toyota on February 8, 2008, with a response due date of March 28, 2008. 
The IR letter sought information relating to a range of potential 
consumer complaints and defined the MY 2004 \7\ to 2008 Tacoma models 
as the subject vehicles.\8\ Toyota requested and was granted extensions 
to the original response date, with partial submissions made on the 
agreed upon dates, and the submission was completed on April 25, 
2008.\9\ Toyota also conducted a technical meeting with ODI on May 21, 
2008.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ The MY 2004 vehicles are an earlier design version that used 
different engines and body style.
    \8\ This was done to ensure a comprehensive sample of the types 
of complaints Toyota received.
    \9\ Some portions of the response were submitted with a request 
for confidentiality.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

III. NHTSA Review--VOQ Data

    ODI began its assessment of the petition by attempting to contact 
each of the persons who had submitted a VOQ report on a Tacoma, as 
identified by the Petitioner. We interviewed 26 of the 31 
consumers.\10\ In the interviews, consumers described events that could 
be attributed to a throttle control system issue. Their concerns 
stemmed from a variety of vehicle operating conditions and driving 
circumstances. Some owners described events similar to the Petitioner's 
allegations, in that unintended acceleration occurred on vehicles 
equipped with an automatic transmission while slowing or stopped. Other 
complainants described unintended acceleration that was minor in 
comparison to the events that the Petitioner described. Other owners 
described events that varied significantly from what the Petitioner 
reported. For example, some consumers described events that occurred on 
manual transmission vehicles at highway speeds when the clutch was 
depressed, while others reported that a condition only occurred after 
the accelerator pedal had been depressed significantly (intentionally) 
or only when the cruise control or A/C system was engaged. Some 
consumers reported events occurring when more than one of these 
conditions was present.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ The five remaining consumers failed to respond to requests 
for an interview, or could not be contacted.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    After the initial interviews, ODI elected to expand its analysis to 
include a broader representation of Tacoma reports in the VOQ complaint 
database. Noting that the DP subject vehicles were of a consistent 
design type (generation) from MY 2005 through MY 2008,\11\ we searched 
the complaint database to identify all reports potentially involving 
the throttle control system for MY 2005 and later Tacoma vehicles. 
Table 1 shows the number of Tacoma VOQ reports, by MY, that include an 
allegation possibly related to the throttle control system. We 
attempted to interview each person who submitted a report. We have 
interviewed 64 of these 97 consumers (about 66%).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ At MY 2005, the Tacoma vehicle line underwent a major 
design revision from the MY 2004 vehicle, with a new body style and 
powertrain being introduced.

                                      Table 1--Unique Tacoma Throttle Control System Complaints, Through 5/31/2008
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MY.................................................................            2005             2006             2007             2008           Totals
Complaints.........................................................              18               36               38                5               97
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As shown in Table 1, there were fewer reports for MY 2005 Tacoma 
reports than for MY 2006 and 2007. When vehicles share a common design 
configuration over more than one model year, there typically tends to 
be higher rates of reports on the older vehicles than the newer ones. 
The trend found here may reflect an abnormal variability or another 
factor such as more recent publicity.
    Based on the report descriptions and the interviews conducted, ODI 
separated the consumer complaints into (1) those that may involve the 
throttle control system, (2) those that did not relate to the throttle 
control system (or that relate to a different system or component), and 
(3) those that we could not categorize, often because of limited 
information. The analysis revealed that some VOQs implicate more than 
one of the above issues, resulting in a total of 104 discrete 
complaints in these three categories.
    Of the 104 complaints, 59 relate or may relate to the throttle 
control system. These complaints include allegations of high idle speed 
on cold start; short duration (less than one second), small magnitude 
vehicle surges while the vehicle is at rest and in gear (possibly 
related to A/C system operation); excessive engine speed and 
transmission downshifts when the cruise control is engaged and the 
vehicle encounters an uphill grade; and failure of the engine to return 
to ``idle'' in a normal manner while at highway speeds when the clutch 
is depressed for shifting (termed by Toyota as ``catalyst 
protection'').
    Regarding the vehicle's throttle control system, we note that 
NHTSA's Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance (OVSC) conducted testing on 
a MY 2007 Tacoma for compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety 
Standard (FMVSS) No. 124, Accelerator Controls in September 2007. In a 
November 23, 2007, report, OVSC indicated that the Tacoma throttle 
control system is compliant with the requirements set forth in FMVSS 
No. 124.\12\ OVSC completed this testing prior to the opening of DP08-
001.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ See http://nhthqnwws111.odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/acms/docservlet/
Artemis/Public/OVSC/2007/Test%20Reports/TRTR-639126-2007.PDF for 
vehicle specification, test results, and details on obtaining more 
information.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Of the 59 complaints that may be related to the vehicle's throttle 
control system, two of the complaints (about three percent) related to 
high idle speed on cold start. None of these reports allege a crash or 
injury. NHTSA's Vehicle Research and Test Center (VRTC) conducted 
testing to compare two MY 2008 Tacoma (four- and six-cylinder engines 
with automatic transmissions) to 15 other non-Tacoma vehicles. The 
objective was to determine the engine RPM and the sustaining brake 
pedal force (effort required to maintain a stationary position) during 
cold start.\13\ For the vehicles tested, the Tacoma idle speeds and 
pedal forces were both above the average of the 17 vehicles tested but 
within the range of values measured.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ This work was completed prior to the opening of DP08-001 
also.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Thirty-seven of the 59 complaints (about 63 percent) related to a 
short duration, small magnitude vehicle surge increase while the 
vehicle is at rest and in gear. None of these reports allege a crash or 
injury. In assessing the safety consequence of these at-rest surge 
complaints, we note first that these events occur only on vehicles 
equipped with automatic transmissions. Like many other vehicles, the 
Tacoma idle speed varies depending on whether the A/C compressor is 
engaged. We note also that the A/C compressor operates

[[Page 51554]]

when the front windshield defroster is enabled, regardless of the state 
of the A/C compressor switch.
    In our IR to Toyota, we asked the company to explain the 
functionality of the Tacoma A/C system and how it affects the idle 
speed. According to Toyota's response, there is a modest increase in 
idle speed when the AC compressor engages. With this functionality, it 
is possible for the vehicle to inch forward if, after it is stopped and 
in gear, the driver applies only enough braking to prevent the vehicle 
from rolling forward under normal conditions without the A/C engaged 
and the A/C compressor subsequently engages. However, a small 
additional brake force suppresses this forward movement.
    Some of these 37 consumers, typically those with 4WD, reported that 
within about five seconds after stopping the vehicle, they experienced 
a surge that felt like a sharp jolt in the vehicle as though a 
following driver had tapped the rear bumper (some consumers reported 
looking in the rearview mirror to see if this was the case). The 
duration of the jolt was very short (< 1 second), would occur only once 
per stop, and occurred randomly--perhaps on a weekly basis or less 
frequently. Consumers did not report a simultaneous change in engine 
speed, so it is unclear if this issue involves the vehicle's throttle 
control system.\14\ We were not able to simulate this event on a 
vehicle. However, to the extent that these events could be related to 
the throttle control system, we note that consumers reported they 
easily controlled vehicle movement with normal brake force.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \14\ Some consumer's have alleged that the vehicle's drivetrain 
or suspension causes the condition.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Eleven of the 59 complaints (about nineteen percent) involve 
excessive engine speed and transmission downshifts when the cruise 
control is engaged and the vehicle encounters an uphill grade. None of 
these reports allege a crash or injury. We note that this occurs only 
on vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions and cruise control, 
and that it appears to be more prevalent on the four cylinder models. 
We identified VOQ report ODI 10183271 that provided detailed 
information regarding this issue. The report states that while on the 
interstate with the cruise control engaged and set within a speed range 
of about 65 to 75 miles per hour, if the vehicle encounters an uphill 
grade, the vehicle will first downshift to a lower gear, then apply 
additional throttle, resulting in the engine revving to a high RPM.\15\ 
The VOQ alleges that the combined effect of downshifting then opening 
the throttle can cause a yaw or loss of control condition and that a 
crash could result, and that a near crash incident occurred on one 
occasion.\16\
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    \15\ He states that he met with a Toyota technical 
representative and observed the results of test work they conducted. 
The consumer claims that the test results verified the system 
operated in the manner described in his report, though he did not 
obtain copies of the test results.
    \16\ See the VOQ report ODI 10183271 for details of the near 
loss of control incident that was alleged.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    We interviewed this consumer \17\ and discussed the results of 
testing conducted on his vehicle by a local Toyota dealer. He provided 
a description of what he learned from Toyota's testing, and agreed to 
allow us to inspect his vehicle. We met with him on March 12, 2008, and 
test drove the vehicle on local interstates where he had previously 
experienced the alleged event. We connected a commercially available 
test device to the vehicle's diagnostic connector to monitor throttle 
and transmission data. We confirmed that when the vehicle cruise 
control is set to a specific speed range and it encounters an incline, 
the transmission will downshift to second gear and the engine will rev 
to a high RPM. However, we could not confirm that the transmission 
downshift preceded the throttle application. To the contrary, the data 
showed that the transmission downshift was in response to throttle 
opening, similar to what would occur if the operator were to manually 
apply the accelerator pedal under similar circumstances (same speed 
range, on an incline). We do not perceive a significant safety risk 
related to this phenomenon.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \17\ The complainant is an engineer who owns a four cylinder 
Tacoma with automatic transmission.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Nine of the 59 complaints (about 15 percent) relate to an alleged 
failure of the engine to return to ``idle' in a normal manner while at 
highway speeds when the clutch is depressed for shifting (what Toyota 
describes as catalyst protection). One of these reports alleges a crash 
with no injury, as discussed below. We note first that this event only 
occurs on vehicles equipped with four cylinder engines and manual 
transmission. The condition is typically described in reports as a 
failure of the engine to return to normal idle speed and an increase in 
engine speed that occurs when the clutch is depressed while shifting 
from 4th to 5th gear (see ODI 10150731, 10157923, 10175527, and 
10208505).
    In its IR response, Toyota described the system used on four 
cylinder vehicles to protect the long-term durability of the catalytic 
converter, a component of the emissions control system. Toyota reported 
that under certain operating conditions and when the accelerator pedal 
is not being depressed (i.e., an overrun condition), the vehicle's 
catalytic converter can be damaged if there is inadequate air flow 
through the engine. In simplified terms, the throttle control system 
opens the throttle without driver input to provide a minimal airflow 
through the engine. This can produce a temporary elevated idle speed if 
the clutch is depressed. However, according to Toyota's IR response, 
the air flow increase by the throttle control system is limited so that 
it does not result in a net power output to the vehicle. Toyota advised 
that while increased air flow diminishes engine braking (deceleration 
caused by engine drag in an overrun condition), it cannot produce 
vehicle acceleration.
    VRTC testing of a MY 2006 Tacoma equipped with a four cylinder 
engine and manual transmission verified that the catalyst protection 
feature operated as Toyota described.\18\ We confirmed that the 
strategy is only implemented when the transmission is in 4th or 5th 
gear and note that when the clutch was depressed we observed free-wheel 
engine speeds as high as 3,000 RPMs. However, at the road speeds where 
this occurred (60 to 75 MPH), and with the limited amount of airflow 
involved, the effect on vehicle control, though perhaps annoying to 
consumers, did not appear to be consequential.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \18\ Also, Toyota demonstrated this system to ODI during the May 
21, 2008, technical meeting.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One VOQ report (ODI 10152011) alleged that this operation caused 
the operator to lose control of his vehicle and crash on a rural/semi-
urban Colorado roadway. However, the road was snow-covered at the time 
of the crash. Based on the information in the report, the vehicle was 
travelling at a high speed when the crash occurred (70 MPH on a snow-
covered rural/semi-urban road). Since speed and road conditions may 
have been a factor, the incident described in this report is of little 
probative value with regard to the alleged defect described in the 
petition.
    Beyond the 59 reports, ODI identified 19 reports that did not 
relate to the throttle control system, or that relate to a different 
system or component. Fourteen of these appear to have been caused by 
floor mat interference with the accelerator pedal, including 4 crashes 
and 3 injuries. The other five reports were related to dual pedal 
application, where the operator inadvertently depresses both the

[[Page 51555]]

accelerator pedal and the brake pedal when intending to apply the brake 
only. One of these reports alleges a minor crash with no injury (ODI 
10221144). These five complaints involve vehicles equipped with 
automatic transmissions. When dual pedal application occurs, the 
vehicle moves forward further than the driver intends. During ODI 
interviews, complainants reported that they had inadvertently applied 
both the brake and gas pedals at the same time. Three complainants 
determined this prior to filing VOQs (ODI 10210488, 10221144, and 
10223599), one concluded it after filing and disclosed it during the 
interview (ODI 10208868), and one mentioned that this may have been a 
factor during our interview (ODI 10198196). To the extent that causes 
are identified that are not related to the electronic throttle control 
system but which may raise possible safety defect issues, such as floor 
mat interference or pedal placement, ODI will continue to examine them 
as part of our regular screening process and will open investigations 
if warranted.
    In a few reports, consumers questioned the design of the pedal 
configuration, suggesting that the pedals were too close to one another 
(lateral separation) or that there was insufficient step-over \19\ 
clearance. We note that, dimensionally speaking, the pedal 
configuration of the MY 2005 to 2008 Tacoma is typical of other light 
trucks and passenger vehicles. Some complainants noted that they had 
been wearing larger or stiffer than usual shoes, such as work boots, 
when the dual pedal application occurred, and they reported that this 
was a factor in the occurrence.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \19\ This is the difference in the height (distance) of the 
pedals from the floor board.
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    Related to this topic, ODI interviewed the Petitioner and inspected 
his Tacoma at his home on March 26, 2008. In an earlier interview, the 
Petitioner advised that he was wearing his cross-country ski boots 
(shoes) when his two incidents occurred, so we took this opportunity to 
look at them. The cross country ski shoes (Merrell brand, men's size 
9\1/2\), unlike down-hill ski boots, are similar in size and width to a 
work boot with the exception of an extension at the toe of the boot 
that acts as a binding for the ski. The binding is of the same 
thickness as the sole of the shoe and it extends forward (outward) from 
the shoe about \5/8\ of an inch. During a test drive, we noted that the 
Petitioner used his right foot to operate the brake and gas pedal, and 
that he lifts and relocates his foot when he transitions from one pedal 
to another.\20\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \20\ The toe of the Petitioner's foot is oriented to the right 
of his heel when he applies either the brake or gas pedal.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Considering that the shoes may have played a role in his incidents, 
we discussed the issue of dual pedal application with the Petitioner. 
He noted that he skied two to three times per year, that he typically 
drove with his ski shoes on to save time at the ski facility, and that 
he had never had a problem before. Additionally, he noted that he had 
made this same trip using the Tacoma a few times the prior ski season 
without incident. We asked the Petitioner to assess the vehicle with 
his ski shoes on to see if he could apply both pedals at the same time 
and to advise us of his findings. He subsequently reported that it was 
possible for him to inadvertently hit both pedals while wearing the ski 
shoes but that his foot had to be in an abnormal orientation for this 
to occur, one that would be plainly obvious to him. In his estimation 
this was not the cause of his two incidents.
    Finally, for the remaining 26 complaints, these are reports where 
we have assessed the available information from the complainants, yet 
we are unable to identify a cause that may be related to the vehicle's 
throttle control system or, in many cases, any specific cause or 
explanation. These reports allege 13 crashes with four injury 
allegations (one minor, two moderate, one severe). In some cases, the 
VOQ was inconclusive and the consumer filing the VOQ could not be 
contacted for an interview. However, in no instances did the 
complainants report or allege a specific component failure or 
replacement, the illumination of a warning indicator, the detection of 
a stored trouble or fault code, or the identification of any other 
physical evidence supporting a vehicle-based problem. The incidents 
occur randomly and are therefore unable to be reproduced for testing or 
further analysis.\21\
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    \21\ As an example of the type of analysis possible, for the 
Petitioner's vehicle, we have interviewed the Petitioner (multiple 
times), interviewed his wife (she was a passenger for one of the 
incidents), conducted a physical inspection of the Petitioner's 
vehicle, reviewed the Petitioner's vehicle service and warranty 
history, test driven the Petitioner's vehicle, and monitored the 
Petitioner's vehicle diagnostic/control system using a commercially 
available diagnostic tool; the Petitioner's vehicle has not 
exhibited another incident as of this date.
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IV. NHTSA Review--Toyota IR Response Data

    ODI reviewed the information Toyota provided in its IR response for 
the MY 2005 to 2008 vehicles.22 We reviewed the population data and 
provide the number of vehicles by MY and transmission type in Table 2.

                                                 Table 2--Vehicle Population by MY and Transmission Type
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      2005              2006              2007              2008*            Totals
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Auto..........................................................           111,625           152,727           134,665            83,828           482,845
Manual........................................................            40,013            42,441            31,156            19,105           132,715
    Totals....................................................           151,638           195,168           165,821           102,933          615,560
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
*--partial MY.

    We reviewed Toyota's responses to several other questions to ensure 
we fully understood any product or design changes, the studies of 
issues relevant to the alleged defect conducted by Toyota, the design 
and operation of the systems that interact with the throttle control 
system, and Toyota's assessment of the possible problem with the Tacoma 
throttle control system. We did not identify any information indicating 
a product- or component-based issue that could explain or cause a 
throttle control system failure.
    We conducted a limited review of the responses to questions 
regarding the complaint and warranty data. Our review of the field 
report, legal claim,\23\ and warranty claim data did not identify any 
concern or trend. We also conducted an analysis of the consumer 
complaints as described below. Table 3 shows the count of consumer 
complaints by MY.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \23\ The legal claims were duplicative of the consumer reports, 
which were also reviewed.

[[Page 51556]]



                       Table 3--Consumer Complaint Counts by MY From Toyota's IR Response
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       2005            2006            2007            2008            Total
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Consumer Complaints.............             176             167              90              13             446
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    We based our review of the Toyota consumer complaints on the 
information provided in the IR response. We first note that the trend 
we saw in the VOQ data--that the MY 2006 and 2007 vehicles were over-
represented (or MY 2005 was under represented)--does not appear in the 
consumer complaint data submitted by Toyota. In fact, Toyota's consumer 
complaint data do not suggest any identifiable reporting trend for any 
MY(s).
    In reading the consumer complaint reports, we noted most were 
similar to the complaints identified in the VOQ reports. Accordingly, 
we followed the same approach used for VOQ reports and conducted an 
analysis of a random sample of consumer complaints. We reviewed 133 
reports \24\ from MYs 2005 to 2008 and identified 142 separate 
complaint types. ODI categorized 96 (about 68%) of the complaints as 
potentially related to the vehicle's throttle control system, 23 (about 
16%) as not related to the throttle control system (or related to a 
different system or component), and 23 (about 16%) as not permitting us 
to identify a cause that relates to the vehicle's throttle control 
system.\25\ These proportions are similar to the VOQ analysis.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \24\ We actually reviewed 143 reports but deemed 10 reports fell 
outside the scope of the alleged defect.
    \25\ As with the VOQ reports, these consumer complaints did not 
contain evidence of a vehicle causation but were simply allegations 
that the vehicle had suffered a throttle control system-related 
incident. Based on this analysis, we estimate that of the 257 MY 
2006 and 2007 Toyota consumer complaints, about 40 would be in this 
category. This number will be reflected as the manufacturer failure 
counts in the closing resume for DP08-001.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    For the crashes and injuries reported in the Toyota IR response, we 
reviewed the reports for the MY 2006 and 2007 Tacoma (since these were 
the subject of the DP request) where a crash or injury was alleged. 
From these reports, we identified 33 unique incidents. Eight of these 
incidents, with three injuries, were duplicates of reports to ODI that 
we had reviewed. For the remaining 25 reports unique to the Toyota 
response, we determined that four reports, with no injuries, fell 
outside the scope of the alleged defect (these involved brake system or 
other unrelated issues), two involved dual pedal application errors, 
and six involved other issues not related to the throttle control 
system. For the remaining 13 crash allegations, with one injury 
allegation, we were unable to make an assessment of the underlying 
cause of the crash.\26\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \26\ None of the 25 reports contained any specific evidence of a 
failure of the throttle control system.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Conclusion

    ODI's review of the petition, assessment of VOQs, interviews of 
persons who filed VOQs, testing, and review of Toyota's IR response 
reveals that about three-quarters of the complaints involved various 
explained aspects of the Tacoma's throttle control system that do not 
seem to present a significant safety risk under most circumstances, or 
did not involve a failure of the throttle control system. For the 
remaining quarter, although there may have been an issue with the 
throttle control system as one possible explanation, we have been 
unable to determine a throttle control related or any underlying cause 
that gave rise to the complaint. For those vehicles where the throttle 
control system did not perform as the owner believes it should have, 
the information suggesting a possible defect related to motor vehicle 
safety is quite limited. In our view, additional investigation is 
unlikely to result in a finding that a defect related to motor vehicle 
safety exists with regard to the Tacoma's throttle control system or a 
NHTSA order for the notification and remedy of a safety-related defect 
as alleged by the petitioner at the conclusion of the requested 
investigation. Therefore, in view of the need to allocate and 
prioritize NHTSA's limited resources to best accomplish the agency's 
safety mission, the petition is denied. This action does not constitute 
a finding by NHTSA that a safety-related defect does not exist. The 
agency will take further action if warranted by future circumstances.

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 30162(d); delegations of authority at 49 
CFR 1.50 and 501.8.

    Issued on: August 25, 2008.
Daniel C. Smith,
Associate Administrator for Enforcement.
[FR Doc. E8-19994 Filed 9-2-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P