Some still complaining about Toyota vehicles even after repairs

By KEN THOMAS and TOM KRISHER
Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON (AP) - Some Toyota owners say they're still having
trouble with unintended acceleration after their recalled cars were
repaired, and the Transportation Department said Wednesday it is
looking into their complaints.
David Strickland, the administrator of the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration, said in a statement the agency is
reaching out to consumers about the complaints "to get to the
bottom of the problem and to make sure Toyota is doing everything
possible to make its vehicles safe."
"If Toyota owners are still experiencing sudden acceleration
incidents after taking their cars to the dealership, we want to
know about it," Strickland said.
The government has received a limited number of acceleration
reports from the Toyota owners whose floor mats or gas pedals have
been fixed but the fresh complaints raise new questions about
whether Toyota's remedy will solve the problem. Toyota and the
government are investigating potential electrical problems as part
of the Japanese automaker's recall of more than 8 million vehicles
worldwide.
NHTSA has linked 52 deaths to crashes allegedly caused by
Toyota's acceleration problems. The company has blamed mechanical
causes or drivers pressing the wrong pedal and repaired about 1
million vehicles, but has said it is looking into electronics as a
potential cause.
Toyota did not immediately comment on the new complaints.
Stewart Stogel, 49, of Mount Vernon, N.Y., said his 2009 Camry
accelerated to about 15 mph on a street near his home on Saturday,
five days after a dealership trimmed the gas pedal and installed
new brake override software as part of the floor mat recall. The
car didn't stop for several seconds even though he pressed on the
brakes. Stogel said he barely avoided a wall and nearly went down
an embankment.
"At first the brakes didn't engage at all," said Stogel, a
freelance journalist. "Just as I approached Terrace Avenue, the
wheels were able to get some traction, and all of the sudden the
engine did disengage."
Stogel said the car had accelerated two previous times, and both
times Stogel said he took it to dealerships to be checked. In one
case it was inspected by a Toyota corporate technician who could
find nothing wrong, he said.
After the latest incident, Stogel called his dealer, who told
him to return with the car. He also left a message with Toyota
Motor Sales U.S.A. President Jim Lentz. On Tuesday, Stogel's dealer
called and asked him to return with the Camry so Toyota engineers
can inspect it.
Carolyn Kimbrell, 59, a retired office assistant in Whitesville,
Ky., said her 2006 Toyota Avalon accelerated last weekend as she
pulled up to her mailbox near her home - about a week after the car
had been fixed. Kimbrell had just returned from a shopping trip to
the mall with her 9-year-old granddaughter.
Kimbrell's car dealer on Feb. 20 inserted a small piece of metal
into the gas pedal mechanism to eliminate friction that was causing
the pedal problems. The dealer is scheduled to provide a separate
fix to prevent the accelerator pedal from becoming trapped in the
floor mat. But now Kimbrell said she wonders if the company's fix
will solve the problem.
"It just scares you," Kimbrell said. "If I had been trying to
stop at a busy intersection, that would have been bad."
The recalls have prompted three congressional hearings, hurt
Toyota's safety and quality reputation and generated death and
injury lawsuits. Federal prosecutors in New York are conducting a
criminal investigation into the recalls and the Securities and
Exchange Commission is probing what the automaker told investors.
Toyota on Tuesday said its U.S. sales fell 9 percent in February
but it would offer repeat buyers two years of free maintenance to
help rebuild customer loyalty.
During congressional hearings, Toyota executives said all new
models sold in the United States will have the override system by
2011 and many recalled vehicles will be retrofitted with the brake
override as a precaution. Toyota said it has fixed about 1 million
recalled vehicles.
---
Krisher reported from Detroit. AP Business Writer Stephen
Manning contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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