Toyota Motor Corp. has issued a Sequoia recall for 50,000 sport utility vehicles (SUV) due to acceleration problems that may occur at low speed.
The Toyota recall was announced this week after being requested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has received about 160 consumer complaints involving the vehicles. Federal investigators and Toyota officials say that the recalled Sequoia SUVs have defective software which could cause the vehicle’s stability control system to activate at low speed, preventing the vehicle from accelerating properly.
The recall affects 2003 model year Sequoias, and Toyota has told dealers that it will upgrade the software in the recalled SUVs. Owners will be contacted in May to schedule an appointment to bring Sequoia SUVs affected by the Toyota recall in for repairs.
Toyota has said there have been no injuries or incidents related to the defective Sequoia acceleration software. However, NHTSA officials say complaints filed by drivers indicate that there have been a number of incidents where vehicles were almost hit by other cars because their Sequoia SUV did not accelerate as expected.
Toyota has recalled about 9 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles since September 2009. About 8.5 million of those vehicles were recalled due to problems with sudden acceleration, which the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says have been involved in as many as 52 deaths. More than 400,000 additional Toyota Prius and Lexus HS250h vehicles have also been recalled due to brake problems.
The gas pedal problems have resulted in a number of Toyota consumer class action lawsuits, Toyota injury lawsuits and Toyota wrongful death lawsuits filed by family members of people allegedly killed when their vehicles accelerated out of control.
Earlier this month a number of federal Toyota lawsuits were consolidated and centralized as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. U.S. District Judge James Selna has scheduled the first MDL conference for May 13. Some estimates place the number of overall lawsuits against Toyota in state and federal courts at about 200.
In addition to the lawsuits, the U.S. Department of Transportation fined the company $16.4 million, accusing the Japanese automaker of covering up the problem for months; an accusation supported by what the government says are internal documents showing the company knew about the problems but waited before alerting the government and consumers.