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DATE News (chronologically)
03/05/10
automotive
Toyota woes continue
About 731 owners of Toyota vehicles not covered by two recent recalls have reported sudden acceleration complaints to U.S. auto safety regulators in the past six weeks, a Free Press analysis found.

The growing crowd of complaints, representing about half of the 1,460 received by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since Jan. 15 about Toyota models and sudden acceleration, adds to evidence that Toyota still hasn't identified all possible causes of the problem.

NHTSA also said Wednesday it had identified 10 complaints from Toyota owners who had vehicles fixed under recall only to have sudden unintended acceleration again. The agency said it was calling those owners for details.

"If Toyota owners are still experiencing sudden acceleration incidents after taking their cars to the dealership, we want to know about it," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland in a statement.

Under growing pressure from Congress, NHTSA has launched three probes into whether Toyota was slow to alert regulators to safety defects, and whether its recalls cover enough models.

One example: the Toyota RAV4 SUV. When Toyota announced in January that it was recalling 2.3 million models for sticking gas pedals, it only covered 2009 and 2010 model year RAV4s built in Canada that had a pedal from supplier CTS. RAV4s assembled in Japan were excluded, and no RAV4s are part of Toyota's floor mat recall.

The Free Press analysis shows NHTSA has had 77 complaints about sudden acceleration in all RAV4 models since Jan. 15. Of those, six were covered by the pedal recall. At least 59 were vehicles built in Japan.

The owner of one Canadian-built model told NHTSA in a complaint that the vehicle still was accelerating without him pressing the pedal after the dealer installed a metal shim in the pedal as part of the recall.

Toyota executives have told Congress that the two recalls solved all causes of sudden acceleration they were aware of. They also said the automaker's electronic engine controls had "absolute reliability," and had never failed in a way that could produce sudden acceleration.

"Toyota is constantly investigating customer concerns, identifying defect trends and taking appropriate actions," said spokesman Brian Lyons.

Toyota has never fully explained why it had to be pressured by NHTSA into recalling vehicles for sudden acceleration problems following 3,400 complaints from U.S. owners dating to 2004.

NHTSA says those complaints tie the problem to 52 deaths, although the agency has verified only five linked to the problem.

One complaint from the owner of a 2010 Camry says that after her visit to a dealership to have its gas pedal replaced and a brake-override system installed, the car surged on her in a parking lot, and was climbing up a snow bank while she had both feet on the brake pedal.

"The whole event took 5-6 seconds before the car suddenly stopped," the owner said. "The fix done by Toyota is not the fix for the acceleration problem."

Lyons said Toyota was "aggressively investigating" the reports.

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