Toyota Acceleration Crashes Continue, Even In Unrecalled Models
Toyota would love to put unintended acceleration behind it, but that’s proving difficult as the crashes continue, some of them in cars that have been “fixed” or were never recalled. A Pennsylvania grandmother tells BNET Auto that she and her daughter’s kids were nearly killed in a Lexus SUV that never made the list. Toyota investigated and said the car was fine, but the victim — and another family that lost a child in the same model — aren’t convinced.
Congress is currently holding hearings on auto safety, clearly inspired by Toyota’s acceleration agonies and other problems that have led to nine million recalled cars since September. Toyota (TM) says it would welcome stronger standards, but when it comes to the electronic throttles that might be at fault — well, the company’s still not going there.
Representative Henry Waxman’s House subcommittee is considering bills that would require new cars to have brake interlock systems to prevent runaway situations, and black box recorders that can tell us what happened right before and during accidents. Toyota has acted proactively to install the interlocks on many models. But it has also been selective about which vehicles to recall for sudden acceleration.
The Lexus RX350 has not been recalled, but perhaps it should be. “I felt very confident about my car, which I loved, because it was not on the recall list,” Jean Cheever told me. She is a 66-year-old suburban Philadelphia grandmother and the owner of a 2008 Lexus RX350. She loved her car right up to March 18, when she says it ran away with her as she was backing up with her one- and three-year-old grandchildren in the back seat.
Cheever says she put the car in reverse and it “just bolted out of the driveway in reverse on its own, engine racing. The car was moving like a missile into the cul-de-sac.” Cheever said she doesn’t think she ever touched the gas pedal. She attempted to put the car into neutral, but instead engaged drive, which sent the car hurtling forward toward her daughter’s house. She swerved into a neighbor’s yard and finally stopped the car (still with the kids strapped in back) by running it sideways into a tree. The Lexus was totaled. “It was very scary,” said Cheever.
In an April 16 letter from Nekii Montgomery of Toyota Motor Sales, the company said it inspected Cheever’s car — including the brakes, accelerator pedal and floormats — in a local salvage yard. “The accelerator operated smoothly and returned to its idle position without binding,” the letter said. “The inspection showed the brake system was in good condition and had no defects. The driver’s side floor mat was properly secured on the left side, but not on the right side…[O]ur inspection determined that this incident was not a result of any type of manufacturer design or defect.”
A call to Montgomery was redirected to Toyota spokesman John Hanson, who did not return a phone call.
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