Just two days after NASA engineers cleared Toyota of electronic flaws in its throttle control system, the company's battered image among US consumers had already experienced a lift. The 10 month investigation was commissioned by the US Department of Transportation to investigate the causes of unintended acceleration in Toyota Motor Corp. cars and results were released at the beginning of February.
The investigation revealed no electronic problems. Instead, 30 NASA engineers, called in by the US Department of Transportation, said floor mat interference and sticky gas pedals, both subject to recalls in Toyota cars in 2010, caused incidents of runaway vehicles. They also said that in many cases drivers mistook the accelerator for the brake.
The results of the investigation have worked in giving Toyota a big lift in consumer esteem with a swift reaction in BrandIndex scores see after US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's announcement that Toyota vehicles "are safe to drive."
Toyota Division general manager, Bob Carter said: "It's more a validation of what we've been saying all along."
In the two days after the announcement, Toyota’s BrandIndex scores significantly outpaced movement seen in the aggregate auto sector. Furthermore, Toyota’s decision not to advertise during the US Super Bowl improved perception scores.
A year ago, BrandIndex scores for Toyota plunged from industry highs after the unintended acceleration controversy received widespread media coverage.
However, the investigation has been deemed inconclusive by safety advocates and plaintiff attorneys who are suing Toyota over unintended acceleration in a multi-district class action case in the US. The attorneys contend that Toyota vehicles in unintended acceleration crashes have caused 89 deaths and 57 injuries since 2000.