Toyota Motor company faces increased scrutiny with the launch of a new investigation into braking problems with Corolla vehicles, and a potential risk of “low-speed surging” or unintended acceleration.
The new National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) Toyota Corolla investigation (PDF) was initiated after at least 163 reports of problems, and could result in a Toyota recall affecting nearly 1.7 million vehicles.
NHTSA indicates that a consumer petition was filed by Kathy Ruginis of Bristol, Rhode Island, who indicates that she experienced problems with her Toyota Corolla surging forward into a Jeep, resulting in an auto accident, despite the brake pedal being engaged.
The petition is said to be linked to 163 other complaints from drivers of Toyota Corollas who also experienced the same engine surging problem, along with some cases of brake failure. The complaints involve model year 2006-2010 Toyota Corollas, which include 1.69 million vehicles.
The probe focuses on Toyota Corollas equipped with electronic throttle-control systems, called ETC-i.
Other reports of similar incidents were also recorded and Safety Research and Strategies Inc., a Massachusetts based company, is working on the case alleging the owners have evidence from the electronic data recorders in their cars that the brakes were being applied while their Corollas sped up.
The NHTSA is examining the complaints from drivers to determine if there is a problem which warrants the opening of a formal safety investigation.
Toyota Motor Corp. has faced class action lawsuits and other legal problems in recent years, following several large recalls involving unintended acceleration that impacted millions of vehicles in 2009 and early 2010.
More than 13 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles were impacted by the problems, which were cited as the cause of many accidents nationwide where drivers were unable to stop the vehicles. The automaker paid over $1.4 billion to settle lawsuits stemming from the recalls, including several wrongful death lawsuits brought by families of individuals killed as a result of the defect.
The new NHTSA investigation also comes only days after a Toyota Tacoma pickup recall was announced, impacting nearly 700,000 trucks. That recall was issued after vehicles were found to experience problems with corroding and fracturing leaf springs in the rear suspension system.
The recall cites the suspension systems may place surrounding components at risk of failure, causing impact to the fuel tank, fuel leak and posing a fire hazard if an ignition source is present. The recall affects model years 2005 through 2011.