Product Liability

NHTSA investigates rusting Toyota Tundra pickups

Already preparing for its largest recall ever, Toyota Motor Corp may have to find a solution to a rust problem that reportedly affects some 218,000 Tundra pickup trucks. Responding to consumer complaints, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation into 2000-01 model year Tundra pickups. The agency received 5 reports asserting that rust on the truck frame severed brake lines. Fifteen additional complaints stated that rust caused the spare tire, which is mounted under the truck’s body, to detach.

Steve McNally, a resident of Maine, filed a complaint with the Center for Auto Safety after the rust on his 2000 Tundra caused him to lose his spare tire while driving on Interstate 95.

“Without warning, the back end of the truck suddenly lifted up off the pavement while traveling at 65 mph,” McNally wrote. “When I regained control of the vehicle, I looked into the rear view mirror to see a tire bouncing erratically across several lanes of northbound traffic. Cars were braking and swerving to avoid collision with the tire and fortunately it came to a rest against the median guardrail without crossing into southbound lanes and without damage to vehicles or injury to drivers.”

When McNally inspected the back of his truck, he found that “the spare tire was missing and a large corroded hole existed in the frame from which the tire had been mounted.”

Rusting frames wouldn’t be a new problem for Toyota, which last year announced a compensation plan for the owners of 813,000 Tacomas manufactured in the 1995-2000 model years. The manufacturer extended the warranty to 15 years and unlimited mileage and also offered to “buy back rusted-out Tacomas for 1.5 times the suggested retail price for a vehicle in excellent condition as calculated by Kelley Blue Book,” a New York Times report observed.