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NHTSA Opens New Toyota Investigations

Feb 17, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

NEWS UPDATE: FOX Business News, Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 - Toyota Faces Class-Action Lawsuits (Click here to view video)

NEWS UPDATE: CBS 4 Miami, Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 - Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against Toyota (Click here to view video)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) appears to be taking a more aggressive stance towards Toyota.  The agency just announced two new investigations of Toyota’s recent recalls involving sudden acceleration, and is demanding that the automaker turn over an extensive list of documents.

According to a report in The Detroit News, the aim of two new NHTSA probes will be to determine if Toyota acted promptly when it issued the recalls over sudden acceleration. One investigation will focus on whether or not Toyota followed a law that requires automakers to notify NHTSA within five days of determining a safety defect. The second will determine if Toyota has recalled all vehicles with the potential for a sticky accelerator pedal or pedal entrapment in floor mats.

The Washington Post is reporting that the document requests were made in three letters totaling 53 page. In the letters, the NHTSA asked Toyota to provide a wide range of documents, including consumer complaints, reports from auto dealers, sales figures, design changes and third-party arbitration proceedings. It also asked for information about earlier Toyota recalls in Europe.

The NHTSA’s aggressive stance signals a shift at the agency, which usually ends vehicle defect investigations once an automaker issues a recall.  According to The Washington Post, if Toyota is found to have violated regulations, it could face a civil fine of up to $16.4 million.

Since last fall, Toyota has recalled millions of cars for problems involving sudden acceleration and faulty brakes. It all started in September, when Toyota announced it was recalling and replacing floor mats on approximately 4.2 million vehicles which were allegedly causing accelerator pedals in the vehicles to become stuck in the depressed position, leading to uncontrollable and rapid acceleration of the vehicle. On January 21, Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles due to accelerator pedals on those vehicles becoming stuck in a depressed position, causing unexpected and unsafe acceleration.

As we’ve reported previously, the NHTSA has now received more than 2,000 complaints of sudden, unintended acceleration with Toyota and Lexus vehicles that involve 34 deaths and hundreds of accidents since 2000.

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