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‘Repaired’ Toyotas hit strife

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‘Repaired’ Toyotas hit strife

Deja vu: Toyota's safety recall program has been called into question again after about 60 complaints from customers who say cars are still suffering unintended acceleration.

US Toyota owners complain of unintended acceleration in recalled vehicles

8 March 2010


TOYOTA’S unintended acceleration nightmare is unlikely to go away in a hurry after about 60 Toyota drivers whose cars had been fixed in the massive safety recall have lodged complaints with United States authorities that their vehicles have again suffered wayward throttle control.

US road safety watchdog National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has passed on the “verifiable information” from the drivers to Toyota, which says it will investigate.

So far, Toyota has recalled more than eight millions vehicles globally in a variety of recalls, most to rectify the unintended acceleration issue that it first blamed on incorrectly installed floor mats fouling accelerator pedals and then on sticky pedals from a particular US supplier.

It has consistently denied that the problem could be traced to electronic throttles in some vehicles.

But congressional investigators have written to Toyota bemoaning the lack of supporting documentation to prove the company's claim that its testing had proved unintended acceleration problems had nothing to do with electronic throttles.

They said Toyota had made “repeated assertions that no electronic defects contribute to incidents of unintended acceleration”.

Left: Toyota Motor Sales USA president James Lentz. Below: Congressman Henry Waxman.

House energy and commerce committee chairman, Californian Democrat Henry Waxman, did not hold back when he wrote to Toyota Motor Sales USA president James Lentz: “Despite our repeated requests, the record before the committee is most notable for what is missing: the absence of documents showing that Toyota has systematically investigated the possibility of electronic defects that could cause sudden unintended acceleration.”

The congressional committee now wants Toyota to produce employees with direct knowledge of the tests to stand before the committee to be quizzed.

Toyota says it will co-operate with the request, saying it would also supply a report by independent engineering consultant Exponent which it had hired to look at the issue.

“Toyota has offered to demonstrate the results of our further research and would welcome committee representatives to observe those demonstrations,” it said in a statement on Friday.

The electronic throttle theory was propelled on to the front pages when a professor from Southern Illinois University, David Gilbert, went before the Waxman committee saying he had been able to duplicate the electronic throttle problem in a Toyota vehicle.

Toyota has fired back at the allegations, describing Mr Gilbert’s test as erroneous and a “contrivance in a laboratory”.

“Toyota and Exponent’s evaluation conclusively demonstrates that Professor Gilbert’s experiment requires rewiring and artificially manipulating a vehicle’s electrical system and his results can be reproduced on other manufacturers’ vehicles,” Toyota said.

“Exponent also concluded that the condition artificially applied to a Toyota vehicle by Professor Gilbert is extraordinarily unlikely to occur naturally and, instead, represents a contrivance in a laboratory.”

Toyota said it was taking seriously reports of unintended acceleration in recalled cars, and was moving quickly to evaluate the vehicles and interview owners.

“Although most of these reports have yet to be verified, Toyota has been and remains committed to investigating all reported incidents of sudden acceleration in its vehicles quickly,” the company said in a statement.

“Toyota wants to hear directly from its customers about any problems they are experiencing with their vehicles.

“The results of the evaluations have been submitted to NHTSA for review.

“Though these reports involve a tiny fraction of the more than one million vehicles dealers have repaired to date, Toyota takes them extremely seriously.

“As NHTSA is now reviewing the results of our evaluations, it is inappropriate for Toyota to provide specific information about the company’s conclusions.

“However, the evaluations have found no evidence of a failure of the vehicle electronic throttle control system, the recent recall remedies or the brake override feature.”

The flames of Toyota’s recall woes have been fanned by recent reports that the company is being sued by relatives of an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer and three members of his family who died in a fiery crash in a loan Lexus last year – an incident that focused attention on the issue.

The US Transportation Department says it is investigating reports of 52 deaths resulting from unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Reassurances from Toyota executives, including Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyota, before the congressional committee that the car-maker was doing everything in its power to make its car safe were undermined last when documents were tabled before the congressional committee showing that former Toyota Motor North America president Jim Press warned fellow executives of declining safety and quality issues in 2006.

Meanwhile, Toyota is retrofitting recalled vehicles with advanced brake-override systems and would install it as standard in all new vehicles from 2011.

The software fix automatically slows a vehicle if it receives signals both to accelerate and brake, potentially overriding any unintended acceleration cause.

US regulators say they might make to the fix mandatory for all new vehicles sold in the country.



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