Toyota Says Unintended Acceleration Claims Have Dropped 80%

Toyota Says Unintended Acceleration Claims Have Dropped 80%
Toyota Says Unintended Acceleration Claims Have Dropped 80%

Complaints about unintended acceleration by Toyota owners have dropped 80% compared to April, the world's largest automaker said Monday. Toyota Motor (TM) also said it is continuing to make strides in repairing the nearly 8 million vehicles that have been recalled in the U.S. to fix sticky gas pedals and accelerators that get hung up on bulky, rubber floor mats, both of which have been blamed for the problem.

About 80% of the 2.3 million vehicles recalled for the sticky pedals have been fixed, Toyota said in a statement. The recall, issued in late January, became the subject of a $16.4 million fine by federal regulators and led to heated hearings on Capitol Hill.

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Of the 5.4 million units recalled for pedal entrapment, nearly 58% of the Toyota Avalon and Camry and Lexus ES350 models have been repaired. Further, Toyota said that 86% of the 148,000 Prius models recalled earlier this year for problems related to their antilock braking systems have been fixed.

News of Toyota's progress came as the company released updates on its efforts to better coordinate its safety programs corporate wide. Now that consumer complaints about unintended acceleration have decreased, Toyota said it is broadening the scope of the on-site evaluation process it implemented to address the problem to investigate other customer concerns as they arise.

New Brake Override System Installed

"Toyota has made significant progress in recent months to help ensure that our customers can have complete confidence in the quality, safety and reliability of their vehicles, and our latest initiatives build on those accomplishments," said Steve St. Angelo, Toyota's chief quality officer for North America.

The company's initiatives include installing so-called brake override systems that reduce engine power when both the brake and accelerator pedals are simultaneously pressed. Known as Smart Stop, the brake override system has been installed in 84% of Toyota, Lexus and Scion models available for sale in the U.S., Toyota said.

In addition, all 2011 models now in production are being equipped with enhanced event data recorders that provide data both before and after a crash, the carmaker said.

Sales of Toyotas in the U.S. have been hurt by the high-profile recalls. Once the nation's No. 2 supplier of cars and trucks, Toyota has sold fewer vehicles than rival Ford Motor (F) every month this year with the exception of March.

On Friday, Toyota reported its U.S. sales rose 17% during September compared to last year's figures, which were pulled down by the federal government's "cash for clunkers" program that ended in August 2009. Toyota sold 147,162 vehicles across all its divisions in September. Meanwhile, Ford sold nearly 161,000 units for the month, a 46% increase over year-ago levels.