/ 13 February 2010

Toyota says there’s no problem with electronic throttle

Toyota has told Congress that it does not believe there are any problems with electronic throttle control systems in its Toyota and Lexus models.

The carmaker also said in a letter to the US House of Representatives Oversight and Government Committee, dated February 9 but made public late on Friday, that it would consider expanding brake override technology to older models to ensure that braking trumps acceleration in an any emergency.

Toyota has been reeling from separate recalls involving millions of vehicles and questions about its response over the years to consumer complaints regarding unintended acceleration.

Congressional committees are looking into those issues and want answers from both Toyota and safety regulators about their handling of the matter.

The Oversight Committee has scheduled a hearing for February 24.

Two recalls — one for accelerator pedals that do not spring back as designed and another to address a risk that floor mats can trap the pedal — have disrupted Toyota’s sales in its largest single market since late January.

But the Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reviewing consumer complaints about whether problems could be linked to the acceleration system’s electronics, an issue it and Toyota have previously rejected.

Critical of Toyota’s response
No new formal investigation of electronics has been launched, although the Transportation Department has been sharply critical of Toyota’s responses to the floor mat recall and the second on pedals, which Toyota is fixing.

Toyota has said recently that it would be more responsive to US government concerns.

Along those lines, Toyota said in the letter it would reexamine complaints about unintended acceleration in certain Tacoma pick-up trucks that regulators previously investigated and found no defect.

Separately on Friday, Toyota said it would recall 8 000 2010 Tacomas in the United States due to possible cracks in a common drive shaft component that Ford and Nissan said posed no safety risk to their vehicles. A supplier reported to regulators that shafts it supplied to the carmakers could have cracks.

The responses on Friday were to questions from the Oversight panel’s chairperson, Edophus Towns, who sought clarification on electronic throttle systems and brake override capabilities.

“Toyota’s design process is exhaustive and robust. Toyota does not believe there are any problems with the electronics of its vehicles,” the company said.

“Toyota has built-in redundancies to the system and fail safe modes that allow Toyota to say with confidence that the [electronic throttle system] is not the cause of unintended or unwanted acceleration.”

The manufacturer also said it recently commissioned an independent engineering study that found its electronic throttle systems performing as designed with no problems flagged.

Toyota said in response to Towns’ that it would consider expanding brake override software technology in additional models.

Brake override will be standard equipment starting with the 2010 production of Lexus ES 350s and Camrys. It is scheduled to be incorporated into most new vehicles by the end of the year.

Toyota will report back to the committee after evaluating the question of an override expansion for other vehicles, the letter said. – Reuters