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Study: Toyota Responsible for More Than 40 Percent of Sudden Acceleration Claims

Posted: Dec 09, 2009 01:38 p.m.

Toyota has taken a public relations beating in recent months over reports of sudden, unintended acceleration in its vehicles. The Japanese automaker launched the largest recall in its history in an attempt to address the complaints, claiming that a faulty floormat design was to blame – driver’s side mats could slip out of position and pin the accelerator pedal down, according to Toyota. But some owners are not satisfied, insisting that there is another explanation for reports of sudden acceleration.

Consumer Reports can’t resolve that dispute, but it has released the results of a study that indicates Toyota may have a widespread sudden acceleration problem that most automakers don’t face. According to CR, Toyota and its sister brand Lexus are responsible for over 40 percent of the unexplained acceleration complaints filed with government regulators.

CR Analyzed records filed in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s safety complaints database. They focused all 2008 models to ensure an accurate survey of the industry as a whole. They also weeded out any complaints submitted after August 28, 2009 – the day of the high-profile fatal accident that triggered the floormat recall.

CR was concerned that expansive media coverage of the event may have lead to an increase in reported incidents, thus skewing the data.

Of the nearly 6,000 reports that were reviewed, 166 included reports of a problem with unintended acceleration.

Autoblog notes, "Of those complaints, 47 came from Toyota and five from Lexus, representing 41 percent of overall unintended acceleration complaints. That's obviously a disproportionate amount of reports for an automaker with 16 percent of the US market's overall share."

Although Toyota topped the list, it was not the only manufacturer subject to an unintended acceleration claim. Ford also suffered a high percentage (28 percent) of complaints about this problem. The Ford F-150 seems to be the model most responsible. By contrast General Motors, which sells more cars in the U.S., was subject to only 5% of the complaints.

The data also show that the chances of having a vehicle that accelerates out of your control are not especially high. Consumer Reports suggests that about one in every 50,000 Toyota owners and one in every 65,000 Ford owners have reported a problem. Still, these numbers pale in comparison to GM’s statistics which suggest that only one in every 500,000 vehicles may cause problems in this way. 

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