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Camry red flag raised in 2004

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Camry red flag raised in 2004

As early as 2004, authorities investigated reports of unintended acceleration in Toyota's best-selling model, the Camry.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration looked at incidents lasting only 1 second or less.

That limit came after a former official who went to work for Toyota shortly before the investigation began was involved in discussions with former colleagues at the safety agency, according to documents in a lawsuit filed by the estate of Guadalupe Alberto of Flint, who died in 2008 when she lost control of her 2005 Camry.

In March 2004, NHTSA began to examine complaints of sudden surges from owners of 2002 and 2003 Camrys, Solaras and Lexus ES300s, according to a deposition of Christopher Santucci, the Toyota employee who had worked for NHTSA. Toyota and NHTSA did not respond to questions about the 2004 investigation, but a NHTSA report said examination of 139 complaints found no defects.

While the issues in the 2004 investigation have not been tied to current recalls, the case raises questions of whether Toyota, which this week halted sales of eight models over acceleration concerns, can put the issue to rest without repairing older models.

Seven Toyota acceleration probes have been closed, but the company now has at least 5.4 million vehicles under recall.

Joan Claybrook, a former head of NHTSA, said the recalls suggest Toyota should have taken acceleration complaints more seriously.



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