Toyota cleared of sticky accelerator mess, civil claims remain

James Raia

The long-awaited results of the Obama administration’s review of the Toyota Motor Corp’s unintended acceleration of electronic throttles and faulty floormats and the subsequent recall of more than eight million vehicles, revealed no systemic flaws in the software driven systems of Toyota or Lexus vehicles.

Federal safety regulators investigated reports that as many as 89 U.S. crash deaths since 2000 may have been linked to unintended acceleration in Toyotas and Lexus vehicles.

“There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

The recalls, government scrutiny, which included testimony by Chief Executive Akio Toyoda at congressional hearings a year ago, and more than $30 million in fines, damaged Toyota’s reputation.

The probe by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NASA engineers found the only causes of the unwanted acceleration were the previously identified sticking accelerator pedals and loose floormats that could jam the pedals.

Toyota, which has put electronically controlled throttles in its vehicles since 2002, has maintained those systems were safe.

Toyota was the only major automaker in 2010 with lower sales. The company’s sales in January 2011, however, were on part with on major automakers.

The carmaker still faces numerous related lawsuits in federal and state courts with an estimated $10 billion in potential civil liability.

Article Last Updated: February 8, 2011.

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