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Toyota knew about accelerator problems in 2007

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Report: Toyota knew about accelerator problems in 2007

02/01/2010, 2:40 PMBY DREW JOHNSON

Although Toyota didn’t formally address an accelerator pedal defect that prompted the recall of 2.3 million vehicles until January 21, 2010, a new report indicates Toyota potentially knew about the deadly defect as early as 2007.

According to The Detroit News, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated problems with Toyota’s accelerator pedal mechanism as far back as 2007. The red flags were prompted by a number of complaints of unintended acceleration filed by Toyota Tundra owners.

At the time, Toyota blamed the problem on improper installation of floor mats. However, many of the Tundra-related accelerator complaints involved a pedal that was “sticky” or slow to return to idle. Although Toyota never revealed the accelerator pedal problem to the NHTSA, the Japanese automaker changed the design of its pedal, citing a material that was used to manufacture the pedal could swell under humid conditions. Toyota said it “considered it to be a drivability issue unrelated to safety,” according to The Detroit News.

Then, in late 2008, Toyota began fielding similar sticky accelerator pedal complaints from its European operation. The automaker opened an investigation in March 2009, but failed to warn any U.S. agencies of potential danger.

Nicole Nason, NHTSA administrator from 2006 until late 2008, says the NHTSA did all it could when the issue first surfaced in 2007, but admits the U.S. government is heavily reliant on facts provided by automakers. Toyota only provided information involving faulty floor mats, thereby avoiding an in-depth investigation involving the company’s accelerator pedals. However, with all information now in hand, Nason says it is “extremely coincidental” that Toyota’s latest recall involves those vehicles involved in the NHTSA’s original 2007 probe.

Although no definitive link between the 2007 investigation and last month’s recall has been discovered, we expect to hear more on the situation this month. The U.S. government has scheduled two hearings with the NHTSA and Toyota.



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