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DATE News (chronologically)
08/15/07
industry news
Lexus safety probe widens
Federal regulators have stepped up an investigation into 98,454 Lexus ES 350 sedans after amassing 40 reports of unintended acceleration, including eight crashes and 12 injuries, along with cases in which drivers said their cars stopped only after an accident.

Toyota Motor Co. told safety officials that the problem appeared to be caused by loose floor mats and contends that it dealt with the flaw through a mailing to customers earlier this year. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided to continue its investigation last week to verify whether Toyota's efforts were sufficient. Sudden acceleration problems carry a unique stigma in the U.S. auto industry, due to the collapse of the Audi brand in the late 1980s following a "60 Minutes" report alleging runaway vehicles. Federal safety officials later cleared Audi, but it took years for the company to clear its name with customers.

While some auto safety advocates maintain that several models still suffer from sudden acceleration, NHTSA has investigated hundreds of such complaints over the past two decades but rarely found any defects. Most of the complaints have been blamed on drivers mistaking the accelerator for the brake.

But in the Lexus investigation, NHTSA verified several of the complaints. One driver told the agency the vehicle had hit speeds of 100 m.p.h. over a 6-mile stretch of freeway due to the problem. A Michigan woman said the problem caused her to lose control of her Lexus, triggering a rollover crash on I-75 that totaled her car. NHTSA does not release the names of people who file complaint.

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