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Toyota probe deepens amid confusion over risk

Posted February 3, 2010

— Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Toyota owners Wednesday they should stop driving their vehicles, then quickly took back his words, adding to confusion over the safety of millions of recalled cars. Toyota, for its part, tried to reassure drivers that sticky gas pedals have been rare - and the cars can be stopped in any event by firmly stepping on the brakes.

The final word from LaHood: "What I meant to say or what I thought I said was, if you own one of these cars or if you're in doubt, take it to the dealer and they're going to fix it."

The back-and-forth played out as word surfaced that Toyota Motor Corp. also has been the subject of more than 100 complaints in the U.S. and Japan about brake problems with the popular Prius gas-electric hybrid, which is not part of the recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received about 100 complaints, two of them involving crashes that resulted in injuries. In addition, Japan's transport ministry said it had received 14 complaints.

Raleigh Toyota dealership works on recalled cars Raleigh Toyota dealership works on recalled cars

Rep. Bart Stupak, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigative subcommittee, said he planned to ask Toyota about the complaints related to the Prius.

Further clouding the picture for consumers: the notion that problems could extend beyond Toyota vehicles. Federal officials have widened their investigation of malfunctioning gas pedals to see if the same problem exists in cars made by other auto companies.

The traffic safety agency said it had sent a letter to CTS, the Indiana company that made the pedals for Toyota, to find out more about the pedals it has manufactured for other auto companies, including Honda, Nissan and a small number of Fords in China. CTS has been adamant that the issues are limited to Toyota alone.

The Toyota recall in the U.S. covers 2.3 million vehicles and involves 2009-10 RAV4 crossovers, 2009-10 Corollas, 2009-10 Matrix hatchbacks, 2005-10 Avalons, 2007-10 Camrys, 2010 Highlander crossovers, 2007-10 Tundra pickups and 2008-10 Sequoia SUVs. The recalls also extend to Europe and China, covering nearly 4.5 million vehicles overall.

Toyota said the sticking gas pedal situation is unusual and "generally does not occur suddenly. In the rare instances where it does occur, the vehicle can be controlled with firm and steady application of the brakes."

LaHood said the government is considering civil penalties against the carmaker but that it appeared "Toyota is making an all-out effort to do all that they can to fix these cars."

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said plenty of questions remain.

"Obviously, there are concerns regarding the consistency of information that is entering the public domain," he said.

At Fred Anderson Toyota on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh, customers were bringing in their recalled vehicles to be checked on Wednesday.

"It's a hiccup on Toyota's part. There is a mistake on one of the parts and we are doing everything we can to fix it and take care of the customers as best we can during this unfortunate time," owner Michael Anderson said.

21 Comments

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  • MrPearce Feb 4, 10:19 a.m.

    Wildervb,

    Ford, who did not take government bailout loans, is dominating Obamaler and Government Motors as of this past year, and the recent sales data. This proves what conservatives have been saying: keep government out of business, otherwise you will learn NOTHING.

  • MrPearce Feb 3, 7:18 p.m.

    Red, I would not buy a Toyota. They are just as complicit here. First they shoved through the mat fix to make it go away, now they are shoving through a pedal fix. Is this to make it go away, or is it really the fix? My trust for Toyota is gone. No worries though, I have had zero trust of Obama or his administration either.

  • MrPearce Feb 3, 7:17 p.m.

    wildervb,

    Either La Hood and the administration are idiots, or they are playing this up to the advantage of the unions controlling GM and Obamaler.

    Take your pick. I contend it could be both :)

  • OakRapp Feb 3, 6:52 p.m.

    Bet LaHood wouldn't have made similar statements had Toyota been a Chinese company - they'd call our markers and put the whole country in Chapter 7.

  • Red Feb 3, 6:43 p.m.

    I'd still buy a Toyota with this known problem before I'd buy a Chevy of any sort.

  • doinbizzness Feb 3, 6:39 p.m.

    wildervb...you said " rooting for more Americans to lose their jobs."....what do you think will happen to many Americans working in these factories when the number 1 selling vehicle in the United States gets unfairly targeted? is there a proble ? yes of course there is something going on but is it deserving of this much negative commentary on behalf of elected/appointed government officials? another example of the Government taking a position without having facts and "Misspeaking" when they don't know what else to say.

  • wildervb Feb 3, 6:06 p.m.

    I can't believe that some people are foolish enough to believe that this is some sort of WhiteHouse lead plot to smear Toyota. Recalls happen, they've happened to all auto makers, this just happens to be a big one.

    I'm not sure what the motivation is to defend Toyota, or how this is politicized? Are Republicans now the party of Japanesse autos? Do you people even understand that Japan subsidizes its auto industry? In the past the Japanesse government has been very quick and very willing to ban US products if there was even a hint of unsafty, (US beef for example).

    I'm an American, I want our country to succeed. I'd be very happy to see GM and Ford survive and come back. There seem to be a lot of people rooting for failure, rooting for more Americans to lose their jobs.

  • MrPearce Feb 3, 6:00 p.m.

    Panther:

    There is reason to believe (and has been noted in some news stories if you research the issue), the that the transmissions in some instances are not disengaging. Additionally, because of the oddball shifter patterns, it is hard to find neutral in a panic situation in the affected cars (you should check out some of these cars, the shift patterns look like some sort of maze).

  • MrPearce Feb 3, 5:56 p.m.

    While I disagree that with prn13norm that this isn't a real problem (it is a real problem), the government is using the bad press to damage Toyota as much as possible. Though I wonder if like cash for clunkers, it will only drive buyers to other Asian makes (like Nissan, Hyundai, etc.).

    For me there are only three brands currently: Hyundai, Ford, and Nissan. Government Motors and Obamaler are dead to me as long as they are continued to be owned by their UAW contingent.

    Toyota has tentacles in Subaru, and Mazdas are a ergonomic disaster currently (even though the Mazdaspeed 3 is otherwise a nice car).

  • MrPearce Feb 3, 5:53 p.m.

    Tell the brake-to-stop line to the SHP office in CA, who when he passed cars on the interstate, noted his brakes were *on fire*.

    Cars without the brake-overrides-throttle software ain't gonna stop.

    Besides, this is not a pedal issue. This is software. It's pedal just like it was mats before. This time, they are going to revise the firmware in the cars to provide no-throttle-on-brake. They are also going to cover up the presence of the bugs that are causing these problems, but because of the firmware flash, it will never be provable.

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