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Toyota was legally required to stop selling models

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U.S.: Toyota was legally required to stop selling models

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington -- Federal regulators said today that Toyota Motor Corp. was legally required to stop selling the eight models it recalled last week.

Toyota took the extraordinary step of halting the sale of the vehicles late yesterday over issues of "sticky acceleration pedals" because it hasn't yet found a fix.

"Toyota has a legal obligation to stop the sale of new vehicles that would be affected under the recall," National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokeswoman Karen Aldana said today.

Last Thursday, Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles after two recent incidents in New Jersey and Texas were under investigation by NHTSA. But Toyota had a legal requirement to stop selling the models. It isn't clear why Toyota continued to sell the models for another five days.

The vehicles that Toyota told its dealers to stop selling are:

• 2009-2010 RAV4

• 2009-2010 Corolla

• 2009-2010 Matrix

• 2005-2010 Avalon

• Certain 2007-2010 Camry

• 2010 Highlander

• 2007-2010 Tundra

• 2008-2010 Sequoia

Toyota had been aware of issues with the pedals for more than two years but in June 2008 declared reports of sticky pedals were a "driveability" rather than a safety issue.

Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said Tuesday that Toyota had voluntarily taken the step of halting sale of the models -- but also said the company had a legal requirement to stop selling the models.

Michels said Toyota was working with customers who had raised concerns about continuing to drive recalled vehicles.

As part of the halt in sales, Toyota will halt production at six North American assembly plants, and reduce production at an engine plant in Alabama.

The key issue is that in this recall, Toyota hadn't found a fix.

In November, Toyota recalled 4.26 million vehicles over sudden acceleration issues, saying it would replace accelerator pedals and initially shorten pedals in current models. But Toyota was allowed to continue selling vehicles for weeks even though it didn't begin the recall campaign until this month.

The new administrator, David Strickland, a former Senate aide, was sworn in on Jan. 4 and was making his first public speech this morning since taking over. For nearly a year, NHTSA was without a permanent administrator.

Strickland said he has been having meetings with automakers and said he wanted to work together.

"We will be accountable to the American public for whom we serve," Strickland said at the SAE government meetings in Washington. "NHTSA cannot regulate in a vacuum."

He noted that 37,000 people were killed in traffic crashes last year. "37,000 people is way too much," Strickland said. "We have to keep working."

From The Detroit News:


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