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Auto blogThu, 16 May 2013 09:29:00 EST
A total of 22.6 million current and former Toyota owners have been sent notices that they may be eligible to receive compensation from the automaker for damages related to the unintended acceleration fiasco that has dominated headlines in 2009 and 2010. The total payout may be as high as $1.63 billion, according to The Detroit News.
Steve Berman, a lawyer for the owners, calls the potential deal "a landmark, if not a record, settlement in automobile defects class action litigation in the United States." Still, there's some debate about whether or not Toyota's proposed settlement is fair, as it includes $30 million for safety research and driver education programs - in other words, Toyota seems to be suggesting that drivers need more education on how to drive their correctly working and fully functional vehicles. For those keeping track, Toyota would also be paying lawyer fees of $200 million.
A US District Judge in California is scheduled to hold a so-called "fairness hearing" on June 14 that could decide the fate of this particular settlement. Further courtroom wrangling will be required to hash out any wrongful death suits levied against Toyota stemming from unintended acceleration claims, as those are not part of this class-action suit.
We're set to record Autoblog Podcast #329 tonight, and you can drop us your questions and comments via our Q&A module below. Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven't already done so, and if you want to take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.
Discussion Topics for Autoblog Podcast Episode #329
Subcompact sales slump, yet again
Turbocharging isn't really Toyota's specialty, and the Japanese automaker isn't being shy about acknowledging it. Koei Saga, a senior managing officer in charge of drivetrain research and development, says that eschewing turbos and increasing displacement of engines using the Atkinson cycle can produce better power gains without sacrificing fuel economy, Automotive News reports.
Toyota is investing heavily in larger-displacement Atkinson-cycle engines in addition to turbocharged engines, but Saga doesn't think the automaker will use turbocharging across many product lines. He apparently remains unconvinced that the technology "makes the world better."
In Toyota's eyes then, Atkinson cycle engines do make the world better, and here's how. Their pistons complete four processes - intake, compression, power and exhaust - in one revolution of the crankshaft, and the power stroke is longer than the compression stroke. Traditional Otto cycle engines require two crankshaft revolutions to accomplish those same four operations and have equal-length compression and power strokes. Atkinson cycle engines are more efficient, but less power dense, though increasing displacement can offset that shortfall.