Toyota Says It Has Found Fix; LAT and NYT Articles Raise More Questions

by Ben Somberg

February 01, 2010

Toyota is on the media offensive this morning, announcing that it has found the problem (sticking pedals, it says) and is fixing it. Some articles indicated NHTSA has signed off or given "clearance" for the plan, but Toyota specifically noted that while NHTSA had reviewed its plan, it has not "signed off" on it, as it doesn't have the power to do so.

Two articles in particular have raised further questions.

The LATimes published its investigation over the weekend, questioning whether sticky gas pedals are the whole problem:

Federal vehicle safety records reviewed by The Times also cast doubt on Toyota's claims that sticky gas pedals were a significant factor in the growing reports of runaway vehicles. Of more than 2,000 motorist complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles over the last decade, just 5% blamed a sticking gas pedal, the analysis found.

What's more, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has conducted eight investigations into sudden-acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles over the last seven years, none of which identified a sticking pedal as a potential cause.

The New York Times today fronts its investigation, finding:

At almost every step that led to its current predicament, Toyota underestimated the severity of the sudden-acceleration problem affecting its most popular cars. It went from discounting early reports of problems to overconfidently announcing diagnoses and insufficient fixes.

...

Toyota’s safety problems may prove to be a hard lesson for the N.H.T.S.A., as well. Six separate investigations were conducted by the agency into consumer complaints of unintended acceleration, and none of them found defects in Toyotas other than unsecured floor mats.

In at least three cases, the agency denied petitions for further investigative action because it did not see a pattern of defects and because of a “need to allocate and prioritize N.H.T.S.A.’s limited resources” elsewhere, according to agency documents.

Meanwhile, the House Energy & Commerce Committee has announced it will hold a hearing about the issue on February 25.

Tagged as: Toyota NHSTA
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