Toyota Challenges CNN Report on Sudden Unintended Acceleration

Lexus CNN Report

A sensationalist news story from CNN about sudden unintended acceleration in a Lexus pre-production test vehicle has been condemned by the automaker, who have called the report “grossly inaccurate” and a “worn-out fabrication.”

Citing a confidential engineering document written in Japanese, CNN ran a segment on Anderson Cooper 360 that tests of a Lexus LS 460 prototype revealed electronic software issues that resulted in “sudden unintended acceleration”, and suggested that Toyota held back this document from NHTSA & NASA investigators during their investigations.

Needless to say, Toyota was not amused with these accusations, here’s some quote from their public response:

Exhaustive investigations undertaken by some of the most respected engineers and scientific institutions in America – including NASA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Academy of Sciences – have thoroughly debunked this worn-out fabrication. Yet a group of trial lawyers suing Toyota for money and their paid advocates are continuing their efforts to manufacture controversy where none exists and have used CNN to support their narrow, self-serving agenda.

This [prototype] test, intentionally designed to artificially simulate a failed accelerator pedal sensor, demonstrated that Toyota’s electronics and fail-safes worked exactly designed within milliseconds to prevent the vehicle from accelerating. Contrary to CNN’s allegation, no “sudden unintended acceleration” occurred nor is it referenced in the Japanese language document. It was for this very reason that Toyota did not provide this document to the NHTSA in the course of its exhaustive analysis of Toyota’s electronics.

Importantly, the Japanese language document describes a condition intentionally induced during prototype testing of the ACC that has never existed in any vehicle ever produced or sold by Toyota anywhere in the world.

That CNN would use prototype testing as proof of problems with production models is beyond ridiculous, as was their interview with Lexus ES 350 owner Tanya Spotts, who claimed her car surged forward and caused her to hit a wall while parking — here’s what Toyota had to say about the Spotts incident:

In its broadcast, CNN also highlights unverified customer complaints to the NHTSA and includes reference to at least one expert paid for by lawyers suing Toyota.

With respect to the complaint by Tanya Spotts involving a low-speed parking incident, the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder conclusively demonstrates that the driver was on and off of the accelerator pedal in the seconds before impact and did not apply the brake pedal until approximately 0.4 seconds prior to impact, while travelling at 9 MPH. This data is entirely consistent with pedal misapplication.

So it’s now journalism to ignore real data and instead rely on statements from someone with a financial incentive to misrepresent the truth?

Honestly, I have no idea how this CNN report passed editorial inspection — just plain embarrassing.

View the CNN Report

Read Toyota’s Response


  • WorldofLuxury

    sigh lady… It’s about time to start using your age as an excuse for everything, ma’am.

  • Crux

    Anderson Cooper, is running out of sh*t to say. This is just ridiculous & I’m thinking about filing a lawsuit just for the heck of it. #sensationalism 

  • Winston Williams

    So Toyota/Lexus dominates Consumer Satisfaction Reports and this pops up again, I smell conspiracy again. Wonder if the tsunami started in Detroit :). 

  • BlackDynamiteOnline

    CNN will print any press release you send them. ESPN has gotten the same way.

    They’ve gotten so big, they need x amount of soap opera gossip, just to feed their channels on a daily basis……

  • WorldofLuxury

    Your filing of such a lawsuit would be more legitimate than most lawsuits being filed in the US today!

  • Sebastien Kroetsch

    I’d really love to see real journalists with balls write about how CNN tried to screw Toyota over and over again during that huge media scam.

    Great article KREW!

  • guest

    Journalism is dead… sensationalism is alive.  + id like to punch that lady in the face so she can sue me.

  • Shane From Australia

    att : Winston - As Toyota and Lexus rebounds from the SUA & multiple-recall saga, so will it’s agressive competitive edge against the Detroit3 resulting in an increase in market share ofwhich some will not like . With this – sadly – will probably come an increase in conspiracy theory’s aswell. My opinion … Toyota shold grow a set of balls and start legal action against media organisations whom misrepresent the truth.

  • BOSS

    I always hated that tool Anderson Cooper, from this stupid face to his voice and show.

  • jonathan

    At LEAST stop buying advertising time from them.

  • Mike DeLorca

    Sad that this can make CNN news after all that Toyota/Lexus went through in the past…..just shows the greed and fraudulent litigation that occurs in America…..everyone wants a peice of Toyotas’ very deep pockets and reputation. Smear so that the other automakers can steel market share as they have already.

  • emptystreets130

    No offense to anyone but people are just stupid. I mean, how come this is only happening in the US and not in other countries. It’s beyond me.

    Like someone said before Journalism is dead. All they do is dig up dirty and don’t do any real research before they put crap like this out. A true Jornalist would find supporting facts and go in depth before it gets out to the public. All CNN had was google translate, bing translate and probably someone who is learning Japanese to read Toyota’s research in active cruise control.

  • emptystreets130

    I say that we email Anderson Cooper or CNN to explain why they use a pre-production vehicle for this story? I was looking at the comments made by those people who posted on CNN and they agree that this was very unprofessional of CNN.

  • RAL

    On my ES, one has to hardly touch the gear selector to shift into neutral.  Maybe I’m showing my ignorance, but how can the car continue to accelerate if you shift the transmission into neutral?  Can there really be anything to all the episodes of out-of-control cars?  Can all the sophisticated tests be wrong?  Toyota did what they had no choice but to do.  But besides the reworking of electronics, all the recall accomplished was exchanging our good all-weather floor mats with thin cheap replacements and chopping off our accelerator pedals.  And then there is the question of CNN’s credibility . . . Can anyone say they’ve ever been directly involved with the press without distortion? . . . not in my limited experience.  Good journalism is probably very rare.  

  • Infraboy

    It was quite onbvious from the very begenning that this entire thing was a setup joint venture with GM, Ford and the American Media to tarnish the Japanese Auto industry..

    And despiet what you may think it actually did achieve success, Toyota is no longer the top selling brand in USA..

  • Anonymous

    No unintended acceleration. just super high idle speeds. my old SC400 went 15mpg idle coasting speed. During my ownership, my right calf muscle was an inch karger than my left.  no official way to adjust this at the Lexus dealership.  it was “normal”.   if I did not clamp down on the brakes, the car would leap forward

  • emptystreets130

    I notice that on a lot of older Lexus. I was test driving a LS 400 and boy, it just jumps out when you put it into drive. I’m pretty sure there is an IAC valve that you can adjust. It was like that on my ’85 Cressida. Toyota just put a rubber cover over the adjustment screw.

  • Anonymous

    Actually I was really disappointed by this story.  I was even more disappointed when I tried to post my informed opinion about the quality of the translations on CNN and they put my post in endless moderation never to be revealed to the CNN audience.  

    My background is Phd Engineering and fluent Japanese.  To be honest, the translations are very direct literal translations, some bits good some bits bad; it would be normal for an inexperienced person to write such translations if they did not discuss with the original technical author of the document.  As an outcome of such an approach, CNN appear to have ignored the context of the document and made it into a international news article that misleads people.  All this despite Toyota trying to explain to them.  If this were part of an internal CNN investigative process that would be different, but to make it international news before the facts are established is very wrong in my opinion.  At the same time as blocking my comment, CNN allowed the same unproven dogmatic and anecdotal “my Lexus bit me on the backside” like comments from anyone…  ”My husbands an engineer and he says blah blah.”  He may well be, but how about we discuss these translations and these specific allegations?CNN are not only reporting news in a haphazard reckless and potentially biased fashion, unless there was a glitch with my browser they are also moderating their forums to give a biased and non-factual discussion.  If the US government and automakers want to protect their industry then fair enough, Japan is hardly an open field for foreign makers.  But for a news organization to be truly international as CNN aspires to be, then it should in my opinion be more fair and responsible.  If this is how they treat Toyota, I shudder to think what other misleading antics they are up to.

  • Shunichi Nagae

    I agree with what Mr. OneMoreCoffee says about the translations. I am not an engineer (meaning I am not qualified to understand the technical issue discussed in the referenced engineering document fully), but I am a Japanese and a translator, meaning I have an ordinary level of comprehension ability understanding the source document and have the professional level of competency comparing documents in two different languages. The fact that these translations are used for news report by such an esteemed international broadcaster is beyond my comprehension. Isn’t there any responsible news editor at CNN who makes sure of the integrity of their news source?

    There is one phrase which is quite important to understand the whole text, which says in my humble English:
    Full speed range ACC activated by itself 
    (For the benefit of the readers, I understand that full speed range ACC is one type of cruise control which is not introduced in US market by Toyota, so some of you may not be familiar with the name of this component.)
    According to the translations provided at CNN (According to CNN explanations, only translation 1 and translation 2 were commissioned by CNN), this phrase is translated as follows: 
    Translation 1:the cruise control activates by itself at full throttleTranslation 2:sudden unintended acceleration due to wrong judgment made by the full speed range Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) SystemTranslation 3:the accelerator malfunction that caused the vehicle to accelerate on its own

    Translation 1 seems close to mine, but for “at full throttle”. Translation 2 and 3 introduced two new ideas; “sudden unintended acceleration” and “caused the vehicle to accelerate”.  
    Not only are these CNN translations mired with various levels of interpretations (rather than to be faithful to the original text) of what is written, but also do they vary among themselves. If they are correct translations of the same one phrase, they are supposed to convey exactly the same meaning also in English in all three translations. But they are not. This alone should be enough to provide prudent CNN editors with a “smoking gun” so to speak. at full throttle? sudden unintended acceleration? accelerator malfunction causing the vehicle to accelerate on its own? Which one is true? One core message common among these three translations is to give readers an impression that the vehicle experienced a sudden unintended “acceleration”, which was a key message conveyed by the broadcaster. 

    Well, somehow I don’t see it in the original Japanese document. In Japanese “accelerate” is “kasoku” and there is NONE of that word used in the original.

    Shunichi Nagae

    (Disclaimer: I wrote this voluntarily with no obligations at no pay. Therefore, the content may or may not include wrong information. I will not bear any liability if information I offered turned out, unintentionally, to be untrue. If any reader is offended or feels unhappy, I am ready to delete any offending part according to any reasonable request.) 


  • Shunichi Nagae

    Sorry, correction: Should read as follows:According to the translations provided at CNN (According to CNN explanations, only translation 2 and translation 3 were commissioned by CNN)