Toyota is preparing to recall about 50,000 Sequoia SUVs from model year 2003 due to a defective traction control system, which can sometimes cause the vehicle to slow suddenly without input from the driver. The vehicles reportedly can slow even while the driver is pressing the gas pedal, and the brake lights will not illuminate to warn drivers of the reduced speed.
The recall has not yet been announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In the wake of a series of high-profile recalls due to reports of unintended acceleration, Toyota has begun announcing recalls to the press before the government takes action, which is an unusual practice in the auto industry.
The Sequoia recall, according to the Detroit News, “Comes 16 months after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation. It had received 50 complaints over sudden unexpected braking or slowing of the vehicles.” Toyota claims the issue “does not present an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety,” but is “recalling them in an effort to resolve NHTSA's concerns.” In a letter to the Detroit News, the company stressed that “There are no reports of crashes, injuries or fatalities associated with this alleged defect.”
The company will begin notifying customers of the recall through the mail near the end of May. Toyota dealerships, the News reports, “will replace the skid control ‘Electronic Control Unit’ and upgrade the software,” and “will cover repairs previously made since April 2002.”
Kicking Tires reports that the problem is an old, well-known one to Toyota. The company “instituted a running production change during the 2003 model year” to correct the problem on the factory line, “and published a Technical Service Bulletin” telling dealerships how to repair the problem. “Since that time, Toyota has been responding to individual owner concerns by replacing the Skid Control Engine Control Unit (ECU) in Sequoias impacted by this condition.” Toyota believes that “[o]f the approximately 50,000 vehicles included in this recall, approximately half have already been serviced under warranty.”
Some analysts are skeptical of the response, however. Responding to Toyota’s insistence that the issue does not pose a safety risk, Autoblog comments, “Obviously, if your vehicle suddenly slows unexpectedly while under acceleration without warning (and without brake lights!), that's an issue.” Toyota officials, Autoblog says, “would do well to remember their Nixon: it's not the crime, it's the cover up.”