Toyota Recall: NHTSA Demands Documents from Automaker

Government questions whether Toyota acted quickly enough in recent recalls.

ByABC News
February 15, 2010, 11:26 AM

Feb. 15, 2010 — -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has demanded documents from Toyota to determine if the company acted quickly enough in three recent major car recalls affecting nearly 6 million vehicles.

"Safety recalls are very serious matters and automakers are required to quickly report defects," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Regulators asked for the documents as part of an investigation into how and when the automaker discovered alleged problems with sticky gas pedals and floor mats, and whether the defects were identified via consumer complaint or factory testing. According to federal law, car makers must notify the government within five days of finding a safety defect.

Officials also want to know whether Toyota covered all affected models in its recent recalls.

"Our top priority is safety and we expect that all manufacturers address automotive safety issues quickly and in a forthright manner," said David Strickland, NHTSA's top official.

The three recalls were announced in September 2007, October 2009 and January 2010. The first two recalls involved alleged interference by floor mats with gas pedals, while the third was supposed to address "sticky" gas pedals.

The letter was sent to Chris Tinto, a former NHTSA official who is now Toyota's vice president for regulatory affairs in Washington. Tinto was formerly with NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation. After leaving NHTSA to work for Toyota, Tinto helped negotiate a limited scope for the first investigation of random acceleration in Toyotas – so-called "Runaway Toyotas" – in 2004.

An ABC News investigation found that federal safety investigators agreed to exclude reports of the most serious cases of alleged "runaway Toyotas" after the intervention of Tinto and another former safety official, Chris Santucci, who were hired to be Washington, D.C. representatives of Toyota.

The letter was sent to Chris Tinto, a former NHTSA official who is now Toyota's vice president for regulatory affairs in Washington. Tinto was formerly with NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation. After leaving NHTSA to work for Toyota, Tinto helped negotiate a limited scope for the first investigation of random acceleration in Toyotas – so-called \"Runaway Toyotas\" – in 2004.

An ABC News investigation found that federal safety investigators agreed to exclude reports of the most serious cases of alleged \"runaway Toyotas\" after the intervention of Tinto and another former safety official, Chris Santucci, who were hired to be Washington, D.C. representatives of Toyota.","publishedDate":"2010-02-15T16:26:32Z","contributors":[{"name":"ABC News","url":"","role":"","logo":"","logoAlt":""}],"authorsStr":"ABC News","modifiedDate":"2010-02-16T19:29:41Z","section":"Blotter","wordCount":302,"relatedTags":{"heading":"Related Topics","tags":[]},"lead":{"ratio":"16x9","disableForMobile":false,"type":"xl","mediaType":"image","alignCaptionToBody":true},"ads":{"Sticky":{"kvps":{"test":true}},"RightRail":{"kvps":{"test":true}},"InlineBox":{},"InlineOutstream":{"disabled":false},"Taboola":{"position":"bottom","pageType":"article","config":{"network":"abcnews-abcnews","mode":"thumbnails-a","container":"taboola-below-article-thumbnails","type":"article","targetType":"mix","placement":"Below Article Thumbnails"}}},"featuredVideo":null,"featuredImage":{},"featuredTags":{"isFeatured":false,"tags":[{"label":"RunawayToyotas","href":"/Blotter"}]},"dateline":"Feb. 15, 2010 —","seo":{},"LivePromotion":{},"isShared":false},"autoUpdate":{"enabled":false,"topics":["general-elections-2020-balance-of-power"]}},"upw":{"balanceOfPower":{"electoral":{"header":"Biden Projected to be President-Elect","winningParty":"democrats","candidates":{"democrats":{"id":1036,"displayName":"Joe Biden","shortDisplayName":"J. 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