Page last updated at 22:29 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Toyota in new doubts over fault remedies

Front of a Prius hybrid motor
Toyota's latest woes were the Prius' brakes

A US Congressional committee has cast doubts on Toyota's plans to fix its two acceleration problems.

In a memo to lawmakers it said there was growing evidence neither Toyota nor federal safety officials had identified all the faults.

The memo cited "substantial evidence" of redesigned floormats failing to stop the pedals sticking under the mats.

Earlier, Toyota recalled 436,000 hybrid vehicles worldwide, including its latest Prius, to fix brake problems.

The total includes more than 200,000 Prius cars sold in Japan and 8,500 cars in the UK.

TOYOTA RECALLS: STORY SO FAR
September 2007, US: 55,000 Camry and Lexus cars in floormat recall
October 2009, US: 3.8m Toyota and Lexus vehicles recalled due to floormat problem
November 2009, US: floormat recall increased to 4.2m vehicles
January 2010, US: 2.3m Toyota vehicles recalled due to accelerator pedal problems (of those, 2.1m already involved in floormat recall)
January 2010, US: 1.1m Toyotas in floormat recall
February 2010, Europe: 1.8m Toyota's in pedal recall
February 2010, Japan, US: 200 reports of brake faults in new Prius. Cars recalled
February 2010, worldwide: 436,000 hybrid vehicles in brake recall. Also, 7,300 Camry vehicles recalled in the US over potential brake tube problems

The memo from the US House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee also raised questions about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The committee had been due on Wednesday to publicly grill Toyota's management, as well as federal regulators, but bad weather means the hearing will now take place later this month.

"There appears to be a growing body of evidence that neither Toyota nor NHTSA have identified all the causes of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles," said the memo, which was dated 5 February, but released on Tuesday.

"Moreover, there is substantial evidence that remedies such as redesigned floor mats have failed to solve the problem."

The saga began in the US with reports that accelerator pedals were getting caught under the floormats.

The Japanese car giant began taking back vehicles potentially affected by that problem in October last year and Toyota redesigned the mats.

The floormat issue affected a number of vehicles in the US, but not the UK.

Later, separate acceleration problems were found to be caused by the pedal sticking.

This is being fixed by adding a small piece of metal - called a "shim" - in a procedure that Toyota starts at dealerships in the UK on Wednesday.

Company president Akio Toyoda made the latest recall announcement at a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Afterwards, he told reporters he might go to the US next week to explain details about the recall.

Credit rating agency Moody's said it had put Toyota's credit rating on review for a possible downgrade, following the latest recall.

Slow reaction

Toyota's president has come under criticism in Japan itself from the country's Transport Minister Seiji Maehara for not reacting quickly enough to recall faulty vehicles.

"I wish you had taken measures earlier rather than simply saying it was not a major technical problem," Mr Maehara told Mr Toyoda in a meeting.

There have been complaints in Japan and the US that the brakes momentarily fail when driven on rough or slippery road surfaces.

US federal regulators received 124 reports from drivers about it, including four of crashes.

There have been no reports of any such accidents in the UK.

Before it announced the Prius recall in Japan, Toyota estimated its losses would reach $2bn (£1.23bn) in costs and lost sales.

The Prius recall is expected to send this figure even higher.


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