Another week has flashed by and still the Toyota recall issue rumbles on.

One highlight was watching live – from eight timezones east (ain’t the internet wonderful?) – Toyota’s carefully staged rebuttal of the ‘sudden acceleration’ demonstration conducted by Southern Illinois University’s Professor David Gilbert and broadcast by ABC News. The Toyota techies’ response was that the vehicle’s electronics “were rewired and reengineered in multiple ways, in a specific sequence, and under conditions that are virtually impossible to occur in real-world conditions without visible evidence; Toyota vehicle electronic systems were actively manipulated to mimic a valid full-throttle condition and that substantially similar results were successfully created in vehicles made by other manufacturers”.

The blogosphere on all this has made interesting reading. ABC was caught out initially including footage showing the Avalon’s tachometer needle soaring, which was actually shot when the car was parked, and altered what was on its website but the row rumbled on across the internet. Past incidents when one or other of the news networks has ‘enhanced’ similar stories related to alleged vehicle defects were also recalled, suggesting objectivity can get lost in the race to get visually spectacular video to air.

Still unanswered, despite Toyota’s response to the ABC report, as several bloggers and industry observers have noted, is whether or not there is still some, all but impossible to trace rogue software in there somewhere, that occasional, unpredictable spike that perhaps could have caused the well-publicised incident last Monday involving a 2008 Prius near San Diego and another one a few days later in New York.

The Audi sudden-acceleration events of the 1980s resulted in transmission shift interlocks and I have a suspicion that, when all this is over, anyone selling cars in the US is going to have to install a ‘black box’ recording a wider range of parameters than at present, including a means to identify and explain incidents of unexpected acceleration. Apparently, there was such a device in the San Diego Prius but not enough data was recorded to answer why the car suddenly speeded up.

In other news, we keep hearing 21 April from the Fiat camp, suggesting some sort of restructure and spin-off of the auto division, and maybe closer integration with Chrysler, will be part of the five-year plan due for announcement that day.

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Still with Fiat, we also learned that the new Multiair technology, just launched here in the 1.4-litre petrol powered Alfa Romeo MiTo, will also eventually be used in diesels and GM agreed to reinstate 661 US dealers terminated in the post Chapter 11 sort-out. Meanwhile, The Chairman, in a speech in his Texas home town, hinted strongly that Uncle Sam might see early payback of federal funds and maybe even make a profit from the stake.

BRIC markets are a constant source of interest these days and this week’s news included, just today, the Thai launch of Nissan’s important new March/Micra subcompact, adding another model to that country’s growing roster of Nissan exports around the Asia-Pacific region. We also learned this week of more BYD plans for the US (what chance they buy the doomed Toyota NUMMI plant?), Mexican export business for Ford’s new South African-built Figo (nee previous generation European Fiesta), the possible chop for GAZ’s recycled Chrysler and a nice new pickup truck/ute/bakkie from Peugeot Brazil. Never a dull moment in the autosphere…

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts
Deputy/News Editor