The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is finally taking some proactive measures to get to the bottom of an ongoing controversy involving Toyota cars and trucks: can the electronic throttle controls cause sudden unintended acceleration in the recalled vehicles? Federal regulators are now contacting owners of Toyota vehicles who reported experiencing sudden acceleration incidents after their cars were repaired under the current floor mat entrapment and sticky accelerator pedal recalls.
“If Toyota owners are still experiencing sudden acceleration incidents after taking their cars to the dealership, we want to know about it,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement Wednesday.
Like Toyota, the federal agency has come under fire for issues relating to poor quality and performance. The NHTSA is currently being investigated for its handling of Toyota defects and recalls. Many lawmakers and consumer advocates assert that the NHTSA failed in its mission to protect the American public, the sole purpose of its existence.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week to defend his agency’s handling of the reported defects affecting Toyota vehicles. Unfortunately, LaHood offered little more than hollow assurances that NHTSA had performed adequately when it hadn’t. LaHood’s defensive posturing helps explain why NHTSA has now shifted into overdrive in its overdue efforts to, as Strickland put it, “get to the bottom of the problem.”
Toyota has recalled nearly 9 million vehicles to make minor mechanical alterations to floor mats and gas pedals — parts that the company views as the culprits in the sudden acceleration incidents. However, NHTSA continues to receive reports of vehicles accelerating uncontrollably after the recall repairs have been performed – the same repairs in which Toyota executives publicly expressed such confidence.
NHTSA has received reports involving a 2007 Camry, a 2010 Camry, a 2009 Matrix, and a 2008 Avalon accelerating suddenly and unintentionally after, according to their owners, the vehicles had been been repaired by dealerships under the safety recalls. The agency now has on record 43 fatal crashes linked to sudden acceleration resulting in 52 deaths and 38 injuries. Two-thirds of the incidents have been reported since Toyota first launched recalls last fall for sudden acceleration.
NHTSA also announced that it has acquired the Lexus formerly owned by Rhonda and Eddie Smith. Mrs. Smith testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week about her sudden unintended acceleration experience while driving the Lexus, which at the time had less than 3,000 miles on it. The Smiths told committee members that the acceleration occurred without interference of the floor mat or a sticking accelerator pedal.