Documents show NHTSA closed 2007 probe of runaway Toyota acceleration even though it knew the problem was 'dangerous'
The document dump on the Toyota problems continues, damaging now not just Toyota but the Transportation Department's National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Representatives of each will be called before House panels on Tuesday and Wednesday.
In the most recent documents to come out of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, NHTSA is shown to have dropped its investigation of unintended acceleration in Toyotas in 2007 without finding a defect in the vehicles.
This, despite saying that the the problem causes "extremely dangerous" situations for Toyota drivers and saying that more problems are likely to come. In 2009 and earlier this year, Toyota recalled nearly 6 million vehicles to fix unintended acceleration problems.
“Imagine if a doctor gave a patient a clean bill of health because he couldn’t diagnose the illness but recognized there were symptoms," said Kurt Bardella, spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who will grill Toyota and NHTSA officials on Wednesday. "Two years ago, government regulators became aware of consumer complaints of unwanted acceleration and the best answer they could come up with was saying it was a floor mat issue. Now, three years later, we are asking the same questions that should have been answered in the first place. Instead, government regulators closed the investigation."
Some of the highlights from the NHTSA documents obtained by the Oversight and Government Reform committee:
-- When NHTSA tested the act of trapping the gas pedal wide open with a floor mat, it took 150 pounds of force applied to the brake to get the car to stop. This compares with 30 pounds of force under normal circumstances. This action increased the stopping distance from less than 200 feet to more than 1,000 feet.
-- The Lexus ES350 does not have an ignition switch to turn off. It has a button you push to start the car. If you depress and hold the button for three seconds, the engine will switch off. But finding that out in a panic at 80 mph is not the optimal time.
-- 59 of 600 ES350 owners who responded to a NHTSA survey said they had experienced unintended acceleration. That's 10 percent.
-- "Toyota believes the subject vehicles and the all-weather mat do not contain a safety related defect and that the actions they have taken are sufficient to address any future concerns," NHTSA wrote. This line comes in the same report where NHTSA describes five crashes, four of which involved multiple vehicles and one which resulted in a rollover. The report says that Toyota "acknowledges that some of the alleged incidents are likely related to improper installation of driver side all weather floor mat resulting interference with accelerator pedal movement."
-- Another report noted a July 2007 fatal crash in which a Toyota gas pedal was stuck open for eight miles on a California interstate, accelerating the vehicle to speeds of more than 100 mph, until it crashed into two other vehicles, killing an occupant in one of the struck vehicles.
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February 22, 2010; 6:34 PM ET
Categories: Congress , Corporations , The Ticker | Tags: Darrell Issa, Toyota problems, toyota, toyota recall model and years, unintended acceleration
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