Thursday, March 4, 2010

Toyota owners say fixes didn't work

WASHINGTON — Some Toyota owners say they're still having trouble with unintended acceleration after their recalled cars were repaired, and the Transportation Department said Wednesday it is looking into their complaints.
The complaints raise new questions about whether Toyota's remedy will solve the problem. David Strickland, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in a statement the agency is reaching out to consumers about the complaints "to get to the bottom of the problem and to make sure Toyota is doing everything possible to make its vehicles safe."

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

The government has received a limited number of acceleration reports from the Toyota owners whose floor mats or gas pedals have been fixed. Toyota and the government are investigating potential electrical problems as part of the Japanese automaker's recall of more than 8 million vehicles worldwide.

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NHTSA has linked 52 deaths to crashes allegedly caused by Toyota's acceleration problems. The company has blamed mechanical causes or drivers pressing the wrong pedal and repaired about 1 million vehicles, but Toyota has said it is looking into electronics as a potential cause.

Toyota did not immediately comment on the new complaints.

Drivers had close calls with Toyotas

Stewart Stogel, 49, of Mount Vernon, N.Y., said his 2009 Camry accelerated to about 15 mph on a street near his home on Saturday, five days after a dealership trimmed the gas pedal and installed new brake override software as part of the floor mat recall. The car didn't stop for several seconds. Stogel said he barely avoided going down an embankment and hitting a wall.

Stogel said the car had accelerated two previous times, and both times Stogel said he took it to dealerships to be checked. In one case it was inspected by a Toyota corporate technician who could find nothing wrong, he said.

Carolyn Kimbrell, 59, a retired office assistant in Whitesville, Ky., said her 2006 Toyota Avalon accelerated last weekend as she pulled up to her mailbox near her home — about a week after the car had been fixed. Kimbrell had just returned from a shopping trip to the mall with her 9-year-old granddaughter.

Kimbrell's car dealer on Feb. 20 inserted a small piece of metal into the gas pedal mechanism to eliminate friction that was causing the pedal problems. The dealer is scheduled to provide a separate fix to prevent the accelerator pedal from becoming trapped in the floor mat.

Kimbrell said she wonders if the company's fix will solve the problem.

AP writer Stephen Manning contributed to this report.

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