WASHINGTON: Toyota is once again under scrutiny in the United States amid complaints that its Corolla cars can unintentionally accelerate, reviving safety concerns for the big Japanese automaker.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced on its website that it has opened a preliminary investigation after receiving a request for a probe supported by more than a hundred complaints about out-of-control acceleration.
The petition asked the NHTSA to look into slow-speed surging in model year 2006-2010 Toyota Corolla cars in which the brakes fail to stop the vehicle in time to prevent a crash.
In a letter to the agency dated September 11, petitioner Robert Ruginis alleged that he and his wife had a first-hand experience with “multiple low-speed surge events that occurred while driving our 2010 Corolla. The latest incident resulted in a crash on June 8, 2014.”
At the time of the crash, he wrote, his wife was making a slow right-hand turn to ease into a parking space in Bristol, Rhode Island.
“Her foot was on the brake, when the vehicle surged forward and crashed into an unoccupied parked Jeep in front of it.
Fortunately, no one was injured,” Ruginis recounted.
The NHTSA said the petitioner’s complaints relate to 141 vehicles within the scope of the request, but that it will evaluate all 163 complaints and other information provided by the petitioner to decide whether to grant the request to open a formal safety-defect investigation.
“The agency has received the petition, is reviewing its merits, and will take appropriate action as necessary,” an NHTSA spokeswoman said in an email to AFP.
The inquiry involves about 1.69 million Corollas.
It comes eight months after Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle US accusations that it sought to cover up an accelerator problem in Toyota and Lexus vehicles tied to numerous accidents and deaths.
The US Justice Department said the company admitted to misleading regulators and the public about the safety problems in its cars in 2009 and 2010.
The Japanese auto giant eventually recalled 12 million vehicles worldwide in 2009 and 2010 at a cost of $2.4 billion as the scandal over sudden, unintended acceleration spread and tarnished its once-stellar reputation.