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Feds look at Toyota electronics as source of accelerator defects

Tue, 02 Feb 2010

The U.S. Department of Transportation is looking into whether Toyota Motor Corp.'s problems with unintended acceleration can be traced to defects in the electrical controls rather than just the mechanical problems cited by the automaker, a Transportation official said Tuesday.

“We're not finished with Toyota and are continuing to review possible defects and monitor the implementation of the recalls,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

When asked whether the federal review includes possible electrical problems with Toyota vehicles, a Transportation official who asked not to be identified responded in an e-mail, “Yes.”

Toyota spokesman Jim Wiseman could not be immediately reached for comment about the expanded federal review.

Since announcing its recalls and a production halt last week, Toyota has maintained that problems with unintended acceleration were limited to floor mat interference and sticky accelerator pedals.

Shinichi Sasaki, Toyota's vice president in charge of quality, on Tuesday denied accusations that electronic malfunctions were contributing to the reports of unintended acceleration.

“We have not come across any case in which we have found a malfunction,” Sasaki said in an interview in Japan. “But if any additional reports arise, we will conduct testing using all technology at our disposal.”

Also, in a full-page advertisement that ran in many U.S. newspapers Tuesday, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. President Jim Lentz said: “We have launched a comprehensive plan to permanently fix the vehicles we've recalled because in rare instances, accelerator pedals can, over time, become slow to release or get stuck. We know what's causing this and what we have to do to fix it.”

But Safety Research & Strategies, a consulting firm, said in a posting on its Web site: “Neither floor mats nor sticking accelerator pedals explain many, many incidents” of unintended acceleration.

By Neil Roland- Automotive News