Continuing reports of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles have lawmakers, the media and Toyota owners questioning whether the recent large-scale recalls of several Toyota models have achieved their intended effects. Over the past six months, Toyota has initiated two recalls affecting more than eight million vehicles worldwide. Most complaints involved accelerators that stick due to pedal design and floor mat placement. However, other complaints have alleged that the pedals on certain vehicles did not actually become stuck during unintended acceleration incidents. The latter type of complaint has led many to believe that kinks in the electrical systems of some Toyota models are at least partially to blame. As investigations continue into what went wrong, when Toyota knew about the defects and what problems may have yet to be revealed, many questions remain.
The Most Recent Complaints
In mid-March, the drivers of two Prius vehicles that have not been recalled, alleged that their vehicles had accelerated out of control. One driver slammed into a stone wall, while the other required assistance from the California Highway Patrol in order to slow his vehicle. The media firestorm that followed left Toyota owners wondering what other models might still pose unintended acceleration risks. Ultimately, both Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined that it was likely that neither of the Prius accidents occurred due to a mechanical or electrical defect. Although the government is investigating whether Prius models not involved in the recalls should have been included, there has been little evidence brought forth to date to indicate that non-2010 model Prius owners have much cause for concern.
However, a New York Times article published in early March suggests that owners of Toyota Camry models not affected by the recalls may have reason to worry. The Times investigation revealed that a large number of Camrys not subject to the recalls had received just as many unintended acceleration complaints as those that had been recalled. For example, the 2002 Camry was the subject of approximately 175 speed-related complaints, about half of which involved crashes. Though pre-2007 Camrys have been investigated several times previously, the government has stated that it is now considering whether to include these models in their current investigations.
The Current Investigations
In late February, Representative Edolphus Towns, who serves as the chairperson of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, accused Toyota of withholding valuable documents while battling lawsuits brought by accident victims. Additionally, Representative Towns stated in a letter to Yoshimi Inaba, Toyota’s chief of United States operations that, “this also raises very serious questions as to whether Toyota has also withheld substantial, relevant information from the NHTSA.”
Whether Toyota has withheld vital information from regulators is just one subject of the government’s current investigations into Toyota. Lawmakers are currently examining whether Toyota responded promptly and adequately enough to complaints, whether or not the recalls were properly conducted and whether the electrical systems in Toyota vehicles could be defective.
Finally, government officials are looking into over 60 complaints which have been made regarding Toyotas that have accelerated unintentionally after being repaired. Toyota insists that if pedal repairs are conducted properly, no further problems should continue to occur. However, as complaints continue to pour in to the government alleging that the repairs don’t adequately fix acceleration problems, questions remain as to whether the design, manufacture or repair are to blame.
The Toyota recall saga is far from over. Along with any unexpected revelations that might be brought to light by investigators or the company, three types of events are likely to influence the next chapters of the Toyota story:
– Regulation: The Obama Administration is considering whether to require all automakers to install “smart pedals” on new cars that would aid in reducing unintended acceleration accidents
– Investigation: Governmental and private investigations into Toyota’s product and process will continue, likely until the government is convinced that consumers are being sold safe vehicles
– Litigation: Products liability, negligence and wrongful death suits have already been filed against Toyota and more of these kinds of suits are expected to be filed as victims and their families learn about Toyota’s possible connection to their injuries
For Further Reference
Toyota owners obviously have many questions and concerns stemming from the ever-changing nature of the recalls. Many Toyota owners and family members of victims killed in crashes involving Toyotas have already filed suit against the corporation. If you are a Toyota owner and have questions about whether an accident you have been involved in may have been Toyota’s responsibility, please contact a our office.
Article provided by Mark C. Tanenbaum, P.A.