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Replacing Floor Mats, Pedals on Toyotas Might Not End Unintended Acceleration Problems

Feb 24, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

A top Toyota executive conceded yesterday that fixing floor mats and accelerator pedals might "not totally" solve unintended acceleration problems. James E. Lentz, the president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A, made the concession during more than 2 hours of testimony before the House Commerce and Energy Committee yesterday.

The hearing was the first of three  called to investigate how Toyota and federal safety officials handled the sudden acceleration problem. Toyota’s Chief Executive, Akio Toyoda,  is scheduled to appear today before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Lentz testified yesterday that the floor mat and accelerator fix would only “solve the problems that we know of," and said the automaker still hasn’t ruled out electronics as a potential cause of sudden acceleration.  According to Los Angeles Times, Lentz said his company was awaiting results of two studies of electronics in Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Up until now, Toyota has denied that electronics played role in the sudden acceleration issues.

Transportation secretary Ray LaHood also testified before the committee. According to The New York Times, he faced critical questions about past decisions by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) not to vigorously pursue company recalls. LaHood promised to investigate complaints that the computerized electronic systems were involved in Toyota sudden acceleration incidents, the Times said. LaHood maintained that faulty floor mats and accelerator pedals posed the most serious danger, but stopped short of saying that the recent recalls would solve the entire acceleration problem in Toyota cars.

Since September, Toyota has recalled millions of vehicles worldwide for issues involving unintended 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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