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Toyota Replacing Gas Pedals, Facing More Claims Against Its Electronics

Posted: Mar 24, 2010 10:47 a.m.

The Washington Post reports, "If you're one of the millions of Toyota owners who have followed the automaker's instructions to take your vehicle in to a dealer to fix a sticky gas pedal and you're still unhappy, then Toyota will give you a new gas pedal."

The Associated Press writes, "The Japanese automaker said in a memo obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press that if a customer is unhappy with the feel of the accelerator after the car is repaired, dealers can provide a replacement pedal at no charge."

On recalled cars, dealers had been using a fix provided by Toyota.  The fix inserts a piece of metal into the pedal to eliminate friction that can cause excess wear -- that excess wear, Toyota says, is the cause of the unintended acceleration.

CBS News says, "An AP analysis of government data found that more than 100 owners have complained to the government about problems with sudden acceleration after Toyota dealers fixed their vehicles. Toyota has said it is confident in its repairs and has found no evidence of other problems, such as faulty electronics."

However, some dispute Toyota's stance that electronics are not to blame.

CNN reports, "Toyota warned dealerships in 2002 that Camry owners were complaining about throttles surging and recommended adjustments in an electronic control unit to fix the problem, according to a document obtained by CNN."

The Washington Post notes, "The memo was given to CNN by Tim Howard, a Northeastern University law professor who heads a legal group seeking a nationwide class-action lawsuit against Toyota."

According to a separate CBS News story, "The document states that some 2002 model Camry vehicles with the 1MZ-FE engine 'may exhibit a surging during light throttle input at speeds between 38-42 mph  . . .'" and that "'The Engine Control Module (ECM) calibration has been revised to correct this condition,' the bulletin states." CBS adds, "Toyota has insisted publicly for years that electronics are not to blame when its cars surged, sometimes out of control. Instead, the world's largest automaker has blamed drivers, floor mats and sticky gas pedals."

But, not everyone is buying that the document amounts to a smoking gun. Jalopnik writes, "The document shows there were unintended acceleration complaints regarding Toyota V6 Camrys from 2002 and 2003 during 'light throttle input at speeds between 38-42 mph.' Toyota responded to the complaints by adjusting the calibration on the engine control module. Note that this in no way proves the current issue is caused by electronics, it just shows there was a problem with electronics on one year of the Camry, which Toyota identified and repaired."

Jalopnik also points out, "The engine affected, the 1MZ-FE, isn't even offered in the Camry anymore. The change to a new platform and new engine lineup would have drastically changed the ECM between the sixth-gen Camry and the current seventh-generation 2007-2010 Camry. Claiming the 2002 TSB is related to Toyota's current sudden unintended acceleration problems is sort of like claiming a screen recall on an iPhone is related to a recall on a first-generation iPod click-wheel."

For its part, Toyota says in a release, "Toyota has sold more than 40 million cars and trucks with our electronic throttle control system with intelligence (ETCS-i), and the company is very confident that the system is not the cause of unintended acceleration. Toyota engineers have rigorously and repeatedly tested Toyota’s ETCS under both normal and abnormal conditions including electromagnetic interference and have never found a single case of unintended acceleration due to a defect in the system."

Check out the latest Toyota recall news and information, including how the company's recent troubles affect our rankings. If you're in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars as well as this month's best car deals.