Toyota Shows Off U.S. Safety Center Created After Record Recalls

Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The Toyota Motor Corp logo at a dealership in Richmond, California.

Three years after recalling a record number of cars for defects that may cause unintended acceleration, Toyota Motor Corp. is seeking attention for something different — promoting automotive safety.

Toyota today flew top executives into Washington to promote its year-old Collaborative Safety Research Center, which it created in the wake of the recalls and ensuing storm of negative congressional and media attention.

Japanese executives, the head of the research effort, and researchers working with the center’s funding sought to dazzle that same media, as well as others from the auto industry and a table full of NASCAR team owners, with its partnerships and early research findings.

(Did you know that the median speed for crashes when people drive off the road for no apparent reason is 49 mph? That 45 percent of those people didn’t brake at all before the crash?)

Toyota, based in Toyota City, Japan, announced the creation of the U.S. center in January 2011 at the Detroit auto show. It was a sort of self-imposed plan to make amends and improve its image after its chief executive officer reluctantly appeared before U.S. Congress members.

With a $50 million budget over five years, the center’s mission is to work with universities, hospitals and U.S. regulators to rearch vehicle safety issues such as perils to teen and senior drivers and pedestrian safety.

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