Toyota has suspended sales of eight of its most popular vehicle models while the motor company investigates sticking accelerator pedals, following reports by ABC News' Brian Ross that examined incidents of random acceleration, some of which resulted in fatalities.
Toyota dealers across the country have been instructed not to sell the 2009-2010 RAV4, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Matrix, 2005-2010 Avalon, 2010 Highlander, 2007-2010 Tundra, 2008-2010 Sequoia, and certain 2007-2010 Camry models.
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"This action is necessary until a remedy is finalized," said Group Vice President and Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter in a statement today. "We're making every effort to address this situation for our customers as quickly as possible."
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In addition to suspending sales of the eight models, Toyota has also stopped production at five different factories in Texas, Kentucky, Indiana and Canada, involving more than 20,000 employees.
The major announcement comes just days after Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles to correct the sudden unexplained acceleration in some of its models, after ABC News informed the company that the latest in a long series of investigative reports on the issue was about to air.
Safety expert Sean Kane told ABC News that since last fall, when Toyota said it had solved the acceleration problem with proposed changes to gas pedals and a recall of 4.2 million cars with suspect floor mats, more than 60 new cases of runaway Toyotas have been reported.
In the most tragic incident, on the day after Christmas, four people died in Southlake, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, when a 2008 Toyota sped off the road, through a fence and landed upside down in a pond. The car's floor mats were found in the trunk of the car, where owners had been advised to put them as part of the recall.
"There's one thing that didn't cause the accident," said Southlake police spokesman Lt. Ben Brown.
Toyota Accelerator Problem
Federal safety investigators have joined in the investigation, according to Lt. Brown.
Toyota executives had insisted in November that the recall of the floor mats in certain models and a proposed redesign of the accelerator pedal would fix the problem.
Reports of possible electronic problems or on-board computer glitches were strongly denied by the Toyota executives. "There is no evidence to support these theories," said Bob Daly, a Toyota executive.
But the continued reports of runaway Toyotas since the November recall have shaken the company's firm denials.
In another case, in New Jersey, a Toyota owner was able to make it to a local dealer with his car racing out of control, even though he says his foot was not on the gas pedal and the floor mats were not involved.
Kevin Haggerty, a salesman from Pittstown, New Jersey, said he had seen an ABCNews.com report about how to control a car experiencing unexpected acceleration -- by shifting into neutral.
With his brakes smoking, and the engine racing, Haggerty summoned a Toyota manager to witness what was happening with his car.
Haggerty says after consulting with Toyota, the local dealer replaced the gas pedal and throttle and their sensors.
"We now have that evidence right in front of Toyota, they're witnessing it and they can't walk away from it," said safety analyst Kane, who is with the private firm Safety Research & Strategies.
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