The Transportation Department put the lid on the most pressing unanswered question involving Toyota Motor Corp.’s unexpected acceleration problems Tuesday, finding that no electronic flaws accounted for difficulties reported by consumers over the last several years. Previously, the problems had been linked to sticky accelerator pedals and problems with accelerator pedals getting embedded in floor mats.
“Our conclusion is that Toyota’s problems were mechanical,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. LaHood couldn’t resist the slightest bit of gloating in the announcement, noting that the agency was “right all along… There are only two real world causes of high-speed unintended acceleration in Toyota,” he said, noting the floor mats and “sticky pedals.”
DOT is considering several new regulatory areas as a result of the Toyota debacle, including requiring brake override systems and event data recorders in all passenger vehicles. The agency also will be conducting a long-term investigation into the reliability of electronic control systems in cars to ensure that the problems experienced by Toyota drivers don't get repeated elsewhere.
Toyota has recalled 8 million cars and trucks as a result of the problems reported by its customers. DOT enlisted the help of NASA to conduct one of the government’s most extensive studies, which was conducted over 10 months at the request of Congress.
Toyota officials also ran the gauntlet of congressional inquiries in the last year and a half, as they appeared at hearing after hearing trying to explain to lawmakers about the failure. Some Toyota truck models also had problems with their steering rods, although .
Last December, Toyota agreed to pay $32 million in civil penalties last December for the steering rod and floor mat problems. In April, Toyota paid another $16 million for the sticky pedal defect.