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Toyota Statements on Recalls Misleading, Lawmakers Say

Feb 23, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

Some lawmakers say Toyota has been less than upfront about what's causing unintended acceleration in some of its vehicles.  While Toyota has blamed the problems on faulty floor mats and defective accelerator pedals, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are eyeing the vehicles' electronic throttle control system as the cause.

In letters to James E. Lentz, President of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the committee, and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich) write that in June 2004, the automaker and U.S. safety officials discussed a chart showing that Toyota Camrys with new electronic throttles had 400 percent more complaints regarding “vehicle speed.” Among other things, the letters point out that approximately 70 percent of the sudden unintended acceleration events in Toyota’s customer database involved vehicles that are not subject to recalls.

The letters also assert that documents submitted by Toyota appear to show that:

  • Toyota dismissed the possibility that electronic failures could be responsible for incidents of sudden unintended acceleration.
  • The one report that Toyota has produced that purports to test and analyze potential electronic causes of sudden unintended acceleration was initiated just two months ago and appears to have serious flaws.
  • Toyota's public statements about the adequacy of its recent recalls appear to be misleading.

The letters also claim that, based on a preliminary review of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) documents, it appears that NHTSA lacks the expertise needed to evaluate defects in vehicle electronic controls, and its response to complaints of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles appears to have been seriously deficient. ts.

Since September, Toyota has recalled nearly 8 million 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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