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NHTSA studies unintended-acceleration complaints in 'repaired' Toyotas

Thu, 04 Mar 2010

U.S. regulators are investigating 10 recent cases in which owners of recalled Toyota vehicles say they brought their cars in for repair and yet still experienced unintended acceleration.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has started contacting consumers about these complaints “to make sure Toyota is doing everything possible to make its vehicles safe,” agency chief David Strickland said in an e-mailed statement.

A recurrence of unintended acceleration, even after sticky gas pedals and obtrusive floor mats have been addressed by dealers, would suggest there may be other causes of the loss of speed control in Toyota vehicles.

“We are confident that Toyota vehicles are safe, and we're doing everything we can to ensure that our customers are satisfied with the repairs we are making,” Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons said in an e-mail.

Lyons said Toyota has asked NHTSA for the information needed to contact customers with post-repair complaints.

Toyota's top executives have repeatedly denied that electronic throttle-control systems may interfere with acceleration, most recently at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Tuesday. The company has hired the Exponent consulting firm to look into the matter further.

Since October, Toyota has recalled more than 6 million U.S. vehicles for unintended acceleration. The causes were attributed either to sticky gas pedals or to floor mats that entrap pedals.

The Safety Research & Strategies consulting firm reported this week that four Toyota customers complained to NHTSA last month of recurring unintended acceleration, even after their vehicles were recalled and repaired.

In one case, the owner of a 2008 Toyota Avalon reported Feb. 25 that a few days after a recall, the driver had the car in reverse and was slowly backing out of a residential carport when it accelerated on its own, the Safety Research report said.

“The car did about three loops around the garage area of the home, causing damage to the car, benches, tree, bushes, lamp post, etc.” the report said.

The owner of a 2010 Camry reported that within a week of its Feb. 12 acceleration fix, the car sped up as the driver was entering a parking space.

“I was pressing the brake,” the complainant said, according to Safety Research. “I jammed both feet into the brake. After three seconds, as my car was climbing up a snow bank, it stopped.”

The complainant added: “The fix done by Toyota is not the fix for the acceleration problem.”

Said Toyota's Lyons: “We have rigorously tested the solutions that Toyota engineers have developed, and are aggressively investigating any complaints.”

By Neil Roland- Automotive News