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Charlottesville, Virginia

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Paul Thomson
Paul Thomson
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Toyota Continues to Cause Trouble

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The Charleston Gazette reported on a lawsuit filed in November in West Virginia, that claims 13 Toyota and Toyota-made Lexus models with an electronic throttle-control system (ETCS) that allegedly have "a dangerous propensity to suddenly accelerate without driver input and against the intentions of the driver." The model years go back as far as 2002 and 1998 for Lexuses. Toyota, who has come under fire for sudden acceleration problems in the past several months, recalled millions of vehicles this month, including popular models such as the Camry, Avalon, RAV4, and Tundra. However, "in the United States, the recall includes eight models, and goes back as far as 2005, and does not include any cars made by the automaker’s Lexus division."

This strange disconnect between the models that include the problematic ETCS becomes even more suspicious when it is noted that during "an investigation by a federal agency in 2004, the information provided by Toyota officials was limited in scope so as to exclude incidents that lasted longer than one second or where the driver couldn’t stop the unwanted surge by applying the brake." This caused the most serious incidents and fatal crashes to be excluded from the investigation. The lawsuit states, "Toyota, through [Toyota Motor North America], thus deceptively concealed from [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration], as well as from the news media and consumer safety groups that monitor NHTSA safety defect investigations, an entire universe of potentially relevant customer complaints."

When acceleration problems first emerged into the public due to a fatal crash in California, the company tried to blame the problem on floor mats and urged customers to remove mats until a solution was found. However, a subsequent fatal accident in which floor mats had been removed, revealing that there is clearly a deeper issue. It seems evident that the ETCS is to blame, because there is not a foolproof override system, found in other company’s vehicles with electronic systems.

There is some question that political connections could be to blame for the lack of responsible action from Toyota or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A mutually beneficial relationship between the two could be to blame for the half-hearted recalls and investigations. Perhaps these recent events will cause NHTSA to get its house in order.