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Toyota Throttle at Fault in 2009 Recall?

By Minara El-Rahman | Last updated on

As we wrote about in a previous post in Injured, Toyota has recalled over 3.8 million cars over consumer complaints of sudden acceleration. As a result of the recalls, a class action lawsuit was filed against the car maker.

The complaint set forth by the plaintiffs states that the problem is actually caused by a faulty electronic throttle system called ETCS-i. There was a fail safe mechanism in place in cars older than 2001 but that mechanism is not present in newer vehicles.

The plaintiffs alleged that this non-inclusion of a fail safe mechanism is the cause of these accidents. This implies that the Toyota recall, if limited to dealing with floor mats, does not address the crux of the problem.

Toyota then issued a press statement last week that claimed that it would address the recall problem by replacing or repairing the gas pedal. The LA Times quoted Toyota spokesman Irv Miller as saying, "We are very, very confident that we have addressed this issue."

However, many Toyota customers are not so sure it is indeed the gas pedals that need fixing. The LA Times reports that accounts from motorists as well as interviews with safety experts all indicate that the sudden acceleration is most likely due to electronic throttle malfunction. The sudden acceleration complaints rose 5 times more than previous years when Toyota adopted the electronic throttle system.

The LA Times also reported how dismissive both Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) have been over these claims. In fact, only two of the investigative probes even tested the electronic throttle. One of the tests was done by the Japanese maker of the throttle and the other was done by NHTSA. Both of them concluded that the electronic throttle was not the cause of the sudden acceleration. However, the NHTSA testing indicated that when the electronic throttle was placed in a magnetic field, the engine went up to 1,000 revolutions per minute.

The NHTSA does not really have a proper protocol to test electronic accelerator components. In fact, their safety standards for accelerators was adopted in 1973 which is prior to the initial introduction to electronic throttles (they were introduced on to the market in 1988 by BMW).

In the meantime, Toyota plans on introducing a gas override system as a standard feature on all future models of its vehicles by the end of 2010.

Toyota still maintains that the flaw in the vehicles is due to floor mats and gas pedals getting jammed.

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