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Toyota Caught in Scandal: Falsified Crash Test Data Exposed

Published by Tamar Hela.

Toyota Caught in Scandal: Falsified Crash Test Data Exposed

Embarrassment all around for the world's biggest automaker by volume, Toyota Motor Corp. The Japanese automaker and its compact-car subsidiary, Daihatsu, were caught falsifying the data of crash test results for four new models. These cars were intended to be sold in countries that have relatively weak safety standards.

The revelation exposed how the cars used in the crash tests underwent some modifications not to be applied to the actual cars intended for customer sales. It also exposed a major gap between safety standards in developing countries and the more developed ones.

Among the four cars tested, two models have already entered showrooms. More than 88,000 have been sold in South East Asia, the Middle East, and South America. Meanwhile, the other two models haven't yet gone into production. One of them is a car labeled as a Perodua, a Malaysian car automaker partially owned by Daihatsu.

Almost all of the cars exposed, however, still bear the Toyota brand. Other than Perodua Axia (sold in Malaysia), these cars are Toyota Yaris Ativ (Asia, Mexico, and the Middle East) and Toyota Agya (Ecuador). The fourth car is yet unnamed, as it's still a "model in development."


Modified Door Panels to Pass the Tests

What modifications were made to these cars to cheat their way in a crash test? Toyota and Daihatsu's statements revealed that the modifications were made to the door panels.

Reuters reported that a "notch" was added to the inner door linings as a way to "minimize the rise in testing that the door interior could break with a sharp edge and cause injury to an occupant when the side airbag deployed in an accident." This modification was not included in the vehicle's actual production.

Fortunately, the modification and the falsified safety test result were discovered quickly after a whistleblower report in April 2023. However, around 88,000 cars with the rigged test result have already been sold to customers. 76,280 Toyota Yaris Ativ cars and 11,834 Perodua Axia cars have found their way into the market. Perhaps the company's saving grace right now is it hasn't received any reports of injuries or accidents involving the falsified side-crash test.

Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda apologized for what he termed an "unacceptable violation" of consumer trust. He also said, per Reuters, that the companies would continue to investigate how the side panel of Yaris and other models had been changed for safety testing.

"We'll proceed with a detailed investigation from here on," Toyoda said, "but promise to decisively understand what happened at the site, investigate the true intentions, and sincerely work to prevent a recurrence." He also emphasized the company would need time to do that.

For now, no one knows yet who was the original instigator of the idea to rig the doors for the crash tests. Also unknown is how widespread the information about the rigging is in the company. Whether the higher-ups had approved the rigging is also still a mystery. However, Daihatsu stated, it had reported this whole issue to regulatory agencies and stopped shipment of the affected models.

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The Future for Toyota and Daihatsu

Daihatsu is currently pausing all shipments of the affected vehicles until they're retested "in the presence of the reviewing organization and certification authority." But there's been no announcement of any recalls of the affected cars.

The subsidiary also announced that there was no need for customers using the affected models to take any action to continue using them.

Another plan Toyota has in the books is after the falsified crash test data was exposed, to introduce the modifications on models yet to be produced. This is perhaps to guarantee that the crash test results match the actual production.

In his statement, Toyota, who was succeeded as Toyota company CEO by Koji Sato in April 2024, made a reference to the company's massive "recall problem in 2009." Back then, close to 10 million cars were recalled due to the accelerator pedals getting jammed by the floor mats.

He said, "When the large-scale recall problem occurred in 2009, I myself made a promise to customers around the world that Toyota would not run away, hide or lie... The Toyota Group will work as one and do our best to regain the trust of our customers as soon as possible."

As a company well known for its close observation of rulebooks and regulations, Toyota seems keen on making it up for the customers.


Other Toyota Recalls

Despite careful engineering and meticulous testing, several Toyota cars have been recalled due to various malfunctions. This year alone, several models in the United States have already been recalled for different problems.

  • June 2024: Over 145,000 Toyota Grand Highlander and Lexus TX SUVs were recalled due to a malfunction with airbags that could potentially fail to deploy in a crash.
  • May 2024: A recall was issued for 102,000 Toyota Tundra and Lexus LX vehicles because of faulty engines that could stall and lose power.
  • April 2024: Toyota Prius and Prius Prime models were recalled due to an issue with the door latch that could cause the doors to open unexpectedly.

How to check if your vehicle has been recalled

You can check whether your vehicle has been recalled or has safety issues. The first method is to check from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Checking with NHTSA

  1. Go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration page.
  2. Search by Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This is the most recommended method. Find your VIN on your car's windshield, a sticker inside the driver's door jamb, or in the registration documents.
  3. Or search by license plates. This is a new feature that is not yet available in all states.
  4. Click "search" and wait for the website to display the results.
  5. If your car has no open recalls, it will say "No open recalls found."
  6. If there's a recall, the NHTSA website will give you details such as a recall summary, potential safety risks, and what needs to be fixed. It will also tell you how to get the car repaired at an authorized dealer. Recalled cars can be repaired for free.

Checking with the manufacturer

  1. Look up your car manufacturer's official website. Major manufacturers like Toyota have a dedicated section for recalls. This is the Toyota recall page.
  2. Enter your VIN or model and year.
  3. Follow the instructions on the website to see if your car's been affected by a recall.

Other tips to check for your car's safety

Another website that's handy for checking whether a recall has affected your car is the Kelley Blue Book. You can also sign up for email alerts from NHTSA to get notified about future recalls.

When you buy a used car, continually check the recalls page regularly. The car might be functional, but it may have unknown safety issues that would only be discovered later on.

If your car turns out to be under recall, don't delay the repairs. (Remember: repairs are free for recalled cars under federal law.) It's highly crucial that you address safety issues as soon as possible.


Final Thoughts on the Toyota-Daihatsu Falsified Data Incident

While it's still embarrassing to think that an automaker of Toyota's class and renown could be falsifying data of any kind, the company has at least taken responsibility for it. It quickly owns up to the mistake and launches a thorough investigation. It's also a good thing that no major incident related to the fraud has occurred.

However, safety is still important. Despite Daihatsu halting deliveries of the affected vehicles, there are still those that have been shipped to showrooms and customers. Owners of the affected vehicles would do well to perform a thorough check and maintenance on their vehicles to ensure the vehicles' safety.

Follow A1 Auto Transport's blog for more news on the automotive and shipping industries.

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Tamar Hela is one of our featured writers at A-1 Auto Transport, researching everything from AI auto shipments out of China to what paperwork is required to move long distance. We can safely say she's become well versed in all things shipping and logistics while making the information easy to digest and understandable. 

Tamar has been a copywriter for over 16 years and was trained in the 7-Figure Copywriting Accelerator course through American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI). She's also an incredibly seasoned copyeditor, having previously been the Chief Editor and Publishing Director for Cosby Media Productions, based in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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