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Congressional Hearings Set on Toyota Recalls

Jan 29, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

At least two congressional committees will soon hold hearings into recent recalls involving millions of Toyota vehicles, and the reports of sudden acceleration that prompted those recalls.  Meanwhile, Toyota's latest recall for a sudden acceleration issue has expanded to include vehicles in Europe and China.

 The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on the issue next Thursday, while the House Energy and Commerce Committee will take up the matter on February 25.

In letters to the company and to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Henry A. Waxman, asked to see documentation from Toyota and the agency on when they first learned about potential safety defects, actions they had taken to investigate and resolve them, and data on the agency’s investigation of consumer complaints and Toyota’s response to the complaints.

The committee said sudden unintended acceleration in all Toyota vehicles had resulted in 19 deaths in the U.S. over the last decade – twice the number of deaths associated with similar events in cars built by all other automakers combined.

Earlier this month, Toyota announced it was recalling 2.3 million Toyota vehicles in the U.S. because the accelerator pedal can stick, causing unintended acceleration. The recall involved 2009-2010 RAV4, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Matrix, 2005-2010 Avalon, certain 2007-2010 Camrys, 2010 Highlander, 2007-2010 Tundra, 2008-2010 Sequoia. A week later, Toyota suspended production and sales of those models to deal with the issues that caused the problem.

Now the Associated Press is reporting that Toyota has informed Chinese authorities it will start a recall in February for 75,500 RAV4 vehicles that were manufactured in China between March 2009 and January 2010. Toyota is still unsure how many vehicles could have the defect in Europe, the Associated Press said, but as many as 9 million Toyotas could end up being recalled on three continents.

The company is also expanding a floor mat recall to include five models — 2008-2010 Highlander, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Venza, 2009-2010 Matrix, and 2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe, a General Motors Corp. vehicle that shares parts with the Matrix. The original recall, which was issued last fall, involved 4.2 million vehicles, including the 2007-2010 Camry, 2005-2010 Avalon, 2004-2009 Prius, 2005-2010 Tacoma, 2007-2010 Tundra, 2007-2010 Lexus ES350 and 2006-2010 IS250/IS350.

Toyota maintains that the unintended acceleration incidents that prompted the floor mat recall in the fall involves a separate issue from the recall issued for the sticking accelerator pedals, although some vehicles were included in both recalls.

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