Toyota Recall Fix Not Working, Drivers Tell Federal Safety Agency

As Toyota execs say problem solved, NHTSA receives 10 new complaints.

March 3, 2010, 9:04 PM

Mar. 4, 2010— -- Despite assurances by Toyota executives that safety recalls are solving its potentially fatal car problems, 10 new complaints submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration charge that the recall fix is not working and that problems with sudden acceleration have continued.

The new post-recall complaints were first noted in a report by Safety Research & Strategies (SRS), a private research firm based in Rehoboth, Mass. Among the complaints detailed by SRS was a driver who said that even though her 2009 Toyota Matrix had its brakes and pas pedal serviced Feb. 10, the car was still uncontrollable Feb. 26.


"I was driving about 5 MPH in a parking area with my son," the woman wrote to NHTSA. "I put my foot on the brake and I felt the car push forward… My son said "It's doing it again Mom!"

A 2008 Toyota Avalon owner said the car was backing out of a driveway a few days after being serviced "when it accelerated on its own and the car did about 3 loops around the garage area of the home causing damage to the car, benches, tree, bushes, lamp post, etc."

Another complaint says a 2010 Toyota Camry surged suddenly just five days after having its recall work done.

According to SRS, "Toyota executives are confident that their recalls will end the SUA complaints - they've said that into every microphone that's been put in front of them. Some consumers who have taken their recalled vehicles in for the fix have a different story."

In response to the new complaints, Toyota said it is "confident that Toyota vehicles are safe" and has "received the needed information to contact four of the concerned vehicle owners and are making preparations to quickly investigate their concerns."

Former ABC News producer Stewart Stogel said his 2009 Toyota Camry continues to surge, even though a Toyota dealer performed all the recall procedures.

The dealer's repair statement says that in addition to modifying the car's gas pedal, the computer in the vehicle was reprogrammed to install a brake over-ride that is supposed to kill the acceleration.

Still, "the car has lurched out of control on at least one occasion since the fix," Stogel said.

Toyota Recall

Under oath in front of Congress this week, Toyota executives proclaimed the success of their recall efforts, saying the motor company's safety problems of sudden acceleration and sticky pedals are being solved. "Toyota engineers have developed effective and durable solutions for the vehicles we have recalled," said Yoshimi Inaba, president and COO of Toyota Motor North America.

Toyota executives made no mention of the complaints from owners to the government and Toyota that the recall fix isn't working.

"I certainly think they need to reevaluate these 10 complaints aggressively, quickly, write none of them off until they've found the validity of how these people are having these complaints," said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). "If they aggressively go after every one of these complaints, look at it, diagnose it, buy the car back if needed, but get a real feel for what the problem is, then they will have done what we expected them to have done as a world-class organization in the early 2000's, instead of what they did, which was to be complacent about these safety problems."

At a third Toyota hearing, held by a Senate committee yesterday, NHTSA administrator David Strickland defended the agency's past investigations of sudden acceleration in Toyotas, and strongly disputed assertions that Toyota was able to influence NHTSA to provide favorable terms on recalls.

Strickland said that NHTSA did open investigations into the Camry complaints during the Bush administration, but was unable to find a vehicle defect.

"The investigators did a full investigation top to bottom, regardless of any type of rationale or cause for sudden acceleration and they were not able to find a defect," said Strickland. "If we cannot find a defect, we cannot go forward, we will lose a case in court."

Tuesday's hearing was in front of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, where Strickland worked for eight years as a staffer and Senior Counsel and where he was "lead staff person for the oversight of NHTSA," according to the agency's web site.

Despite his close ties to committee members, Strickland was sharply criticized over his defense of NHTSA's past performance on the Toyota sudden acceleration issue.

Committee chair Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D.-W.Va., called the previous investigations a "major letdown on NHTSA's part and the record clearly shows you stayed away."

Rockefeller said the past investigations showed a reluctance by the agency to properly look into vehicle electronics.

"They understand floor mats, they don't understand microchips," said Rockefeller.

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