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Government to release findings of Toyota investigation

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is poised to announce
the results of a 10-month investigation into whether faulty
electronics played a role in Toyota vehicles' sudden, unintentional
acceleration and other safety problems.

The Transportation Department said it would issue on Tuesday the
findings of its study, which has examined whether electronics or
electromagnetic interference played a factor in the Japanese
automaker's safety recalls.

Toyota has recalled more than 11 million vehicles globally since
fall 2009 to address sticking accelerator pedals, gas pedals that
became trapped in floor mats, and other safety issues. The recalls
have posed a major challenge for the world's No. 1 automaker, which
has scrambled to protect its reputation for safety and reliability.

A preliminary part of the study, released last August, failed to
find any electronic flaws based on a review of event data
recorders, or vehicle black boxes. The study has been conducted by
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NASA
engineers with expertise in electronics.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declined to comment Monday
in advance of the report's release, saying the department would
"talk in great detail about this" Tuesday.

Toyota said in a statement that it looks forward to reviewing
the NASA and NHTSA report regarding its electronic throttle control
systems.

In Tokyo on Tuesday, Toyota reported a 39 percent slide in
quarterly profit but raised its full-year forecasts for earnings
and car sales. It's a mixed picture for the automaker, which is
enjoying booming sales in high-growth markets in Asia, Africa and
South America, while facing lingering worries about quality lapses
in the U.S.

Toyota paid the U.S. government a record $48.8 million in fines
for its handling of two recalls. The company has said it has not
found any flaws in its electronic throttle control systems and said
the previously announced recalls have addressed the safety
concerns.

In addition to the recalls, Toyota began installing brake
override systems on new vehicles. The systems automatically cut the
throttle when the brake and gas pedals are applied at the same
time. The company also created engineering teams to examine
vehicles that are the subject of consumer complaints and appointed
a chief quality officer for North America amid complaints its U.S.
division did not play a large enough role in making safety
decisions.

Consumer advocates and safety groups raised concerns that flawed
electronics could be causing unwanted acceleration in the Toyotas.
They have questioned the reliability of the event data recorders
studied by the government, saying they could be faulty or fail to
tell the whole story of the individual crashes.

Toyota's safety issues received broad attention from the
government after four people were killed in a high-speed crash
involving a Lexus near San Diego in August 2009.

NHTSA has received about 3,000 reports of sudden acceleration
incidents involving Toyota vehicles during the past decade,
including allegations of 93 deaths. NHTSA, however, has confirmed
just five of them.

Congress considered sweeping safety legislation last year that
would have required brake override systems, raised penalties on
auto companies that evade safety recalls and given the government
the power to quickly recall vehicles. But the bills failed to win
enough support, and it remains unclear if Congress will pursue
similar legislation before the 2012 elections.

The National Academy of Sciences is conducting a separate study
of unintended acceleration in cars and trucks across the auto
industry. The panel is expected to release its findings this fall.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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