What's So Special About Toyota's Star Safety System? [Archive] - Ford Inside News Community

: What's So Special About Toyota's Star Safety System?

06-29-2010, 09:00 AM
Toyota is heavily advertising its Star Safety System, but what exactly is it?
Toyota knows where to find me, if the company’s current Star Safety System advertising campaign is any indication.

Its commercials have found me watching the “NBC Nightly News.” Tracked me down DVRing “The Daily Show.” Ambushed me on “The Colbert Report.” Bombarded me through the NBA Finals. And washed over me on the Web. If ever there was an advertising campaign worthy of the term “blitz,” this is it.

The commercials are pointed straight at the heart. Moms holding babies, concerned-looking young men and entire families testify in silence, overlaid with bold red type that announces “everyone deserves to be safe,” and “peace of mind.” In the backgrounds, components assemble and disassemble themselves in a ballet of technological reassurance.

The Star Safety System is the star. The ads announce that “Toyota is the first full-line manufacturer to make the Star Safety System standard on all vehicles.”

Which leads to the inevitable question: What is a “Star Safety System?” The 30-second commercials give no clue, other than the fact that some of the dancing parts in the background seem to be brake-related.

The answer waits on Toyota’s Star Safety System Web site — along with another barrage of mothers, babies and other overly sincere humans. It turns out that the system is a package of five computer-controlled braking or vehicle-stability technologies. These are technologies that are not exclusive to Toyota and are available on most new cars, regardless of manufacturer, and have been for years.

Electronic stability control — Vehicle Stability Control, in Toyota parlance — helps maintain directional control by manipulating engine power and individual brakes. Traction control counters impending wheel spin, using the same basic engine-control and braking technologies. An antilock brake system pulses brake-line pressure to keep the wheels rolling, helping to retain steering control during a panic-stop. Electronic Brake-Force Distribution apportions braking force between wheels, maximizing each wheel’s braking capability as load and driving situations change. And Brake Assist applies full braking power automatically if the system senses that the driver is trying to perform an emergency stop.

So the Star Safety System is really a marketing invention, used only in the United States. It is a package of standard accident-prevention features, all of them invented by other companies years, if not decades, ago.

“Toyota Motor Sales is not aware of any Toyota patents on the five safety technologies, but we were innovative in combining these systems economically in nonluxury vehicles,” said Bob Zeinstra, Toyota’s manager for advertising and strategic planning in the United States.

It’s not hard to guess why Toyota is making such a push on safety, considering the company’s recent recalls over unintended acceleration. But in fact, Toyota’s recall troubles actually delayed the onset of the Star System ad blitz.

“The decision to install the Star Safety System on every Toyota was made in 2008 and was implemented in late 2009 with the major change of the Yaris,” Mr. Zeinstra said. “It was our intention to begin publicizing this industry-leading level of standard safety systems in early 2010. We were delayed a few months due to the recall publicity.”

Other automakers, notably Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and BMW, also offer all these features on every United States model and have for years. But Toyota says that it is the only “full-line manufacturer” with all five on every vehicle.

Indeed, other mass brands, including Honda, Ford and Chevy, leave off at least one of the five “Star System” features on their least-expensive models. To get Vehicle Stability Assist on the Honda Fit, for instance, you have to opt for the more-expensive nav-system-equipped Sport model. The Ford Focus Web site doesn’t mention brake assist, traction control or electronic brake force distribution. And ABS is optional on most Chevy Aveo models and is not available at all on the base model.
More... (http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/29/whats-so-special-about-toyotas-star-safety-system/)