Toyota Declares Its Acceleration Problem Fixed

Federal investigators still examining possible electronic cause.

February 1, 2010, 2:33 PM

Feb. 1, 2010 — -- Toyota declared the problem of random acceleration in its vehicles completely fixed today.

Jim Lentz, U.S. president of the car company, said with the recall of vehicles with "sticky" gas pedals and an earlier recall of cars with allegedly ill-fitting floor mats, there was no other known defect that could cause its cars to take off on their customers.

But federal investigators are not so confident. According to a Department of Transportation official, while investigators say they have no evidence so far, they continue to pursue reports from Toyota owners that some kind of electronic malfunction or computer glitch may also be involved.

Across the country, there were big smiles at Toyota dealerships. In addition to the recalls, the dealers had been told to suspend sales on eight popular models until the acceleration problem was addressed.

" It's going to be great," said Ernie Boch Jr. of Boch Toyota in Norwood, Mass., the nation's second largest Toyota dealer. "We'll be back in business." Boch said that up to 60 percent of his inventory was comprised of vehicles on the do-not-sell and recall lists.

Toyota dealers plan to stay open around the clock starting Thursday to fix what they were told was just a tiny flaw inside the gas pedal assembly.

Said Boch, "What was happening in there? Something not good."

Toyota said excessive wear on these gear teeth, caused by moisture, made them stick and kept the pedal from returning to normal when the driver's foot was off the pedal.

The addition of a small metal plate gave the pedal more spring, so it overcame the stickiness.

Toyota's Lentz launched a media blitz today to formally announce the fix, offering an apology to consumers, and saying, "We are redoubling our efforts to ensure that this does not happen again."

But given the reports of deaths and accidents over the last six year linked to runaway Toyotas, questions continue to be raised about whether Toyota tried to hide the problem.

Nicole Nason, who headed the government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2006 to 2008, oversaw the first recall connected to the problem of random acceleration in 2007.

"I know Toyota has said it has provided information to the government over a period of years," said Nason, "but it really has come out, very, very, slowly, drip, drip, drip.

Toyota's Lentz insisted today in an interview with ABC News that the company had been honest with the government and its customers.

Lentz denied that the car company had hidden problems with acceleration in its vehicles, or was trying to blame sticky gas pedals for a problem that may originate in the car's electrical system instead.

ABC News asked Lentz if it was true that Toyota had been covering up problems with runaway acceleration in its vehicles for years.

Lentz responded by saying, "Right now, what's important is we're here to get the news out to our customers."

Asked again to answer allegations of a cover-up, Lentz stated flatly, "There is no cover-up."

"How long have you known about this problem of the runaway cars," asked ABC News, "not just the sticky gas pedals?"

"It's a lot of detail that goes into this," said Lentz. "We've been upfront. We're taking care of customers right now. What's most important is that our customers know there is a fix. They're going to be able to get their cars repaired this week."

ABC News asked Lentz if all problems with the cars had been fixed, including any electronic problems.

"I'm confident that there are no electronic problems," answered Lentz.

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