NHTSA to Test Lexus Model; Toyota Announces New Service for Drivers of Recalled Vehicles

(LOS ANGELES, March 1, 2010) – Following testimony at hearings related to Toyota vehicles sudden acceleration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said it purchased and will test a Lexus ES 300 owned by a driver who provided information at the hearing about her vehicle.
 
NHTSA also said it will evaluate the 2007 vehicle at its research center in Ohio and will seek outside experts to review the car as well, if needed. Her vehicle’s make and model year was under the models in Toyota’s recall of vehicles with jammed accelerators related to floor mat issues.
 
This is important because at least 56 people have died in traffic crashes nationwide where sudden unintended acceleration of Toyotas has been alleged, the Los Angeles Times found in its analysis of public records, including lawsuits, police reports and NHTSA complaints.
 
Two U.S. House committees’ hearings into Toyota vehicle safety issues related to sudden acceleration were held last week where the head of Toyota Motor Corp. Akio Toyoda, president of the company and grandson of its founder testified.  Others from Toyota, NHTSA representatives and outside safety experts also testified. 
 
The hearing examined the federal government’s response to Toyota’s recall of millions of vehicles after reports of malfunctioning gas pedals. Lawmakers also probed the causes of sudden acceleration and discussed solutions for the issue.  This session was in addition to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s hearing that delved into consumer complaints related to Toyota vehicles.  More hearings are anticipated, along with possibly new laws affecting the automotive industry, and those who oversee the industry, which is dominated by high technology with vehicles made up of complex electronics, according to news reports.
 
News reports also carried information that NHTSA and a congressional committee also have received documents from Toyota to determine how the automaker conducted its recent recalls and also to determine if the Japanese automaker followed requests for documents properly in product liability lawsuits. 
 
In related Toyota safety recall news, Toyota has announced new services to customers affected by the automaker’s recalls.  These services are being offered to Toyota and Lexus owners who remain concerned about driving their recalled vehicles before repairs are made for sticky gas pedals, floor mat entrapment and braking problems.  It also covers Tacoma pickup truck owners whose vehicles fall under a recent voluntary recall for possible cracked front drive shafts.
 
According to Toyota, these services will be decided on a case-by-case basis.  They may include pickup and return of the vehicle by a dealership employee, driving customers to the dealership or their workplace, or providing rental vehicles, a loaner vehicle or taxi reimbursement.  Representatives from the second-largest U.S. automaker have stated that Toyota will absorb all costs related to the new services. 
 
Toyota has recalled more than 10 million vehicles worldwide since the fall for a variety of problems, including floor mats, sticky gas pedals, steering and components.  Toyota drivers may go online to find information regarding Toyota’s recalls at Toyota.com/Recall, call Toyota at 1-800-331-4331, or the Lexus Customer Assistance Center at 1-800-255-3987.  Toyota information is at http://www.toyota.com and http://www.lexus.com
 
Consumers may also call the NHTSA vehicle safety hotline 1-888-327-4236 or file an online safety complaint with NHTSA
 

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Elaine Beno
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Beno.Elaine@aaa-calif.com