Toyota broadens massive U.S. safety recall

DETROIT Thu Jan 21, 2010 5:12pm EST

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DETROIT (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp said on Thursday it would recall 2.3 million vehicles in the United States to fix potentially faulty accelerator pedals in an admission of more wide-ranging problems with dangerous acceleration in its cars and trucks.

The recall marked an acknowledgment that potential safety problems on Toyota vehicles run deeper than the automaker had first announced and broadened a recall that already ranked as its largest ever.

The moves have threatened to damage Toyota's reputation for market-leading quality and safety at a time when the automaker's U.S. sales remain under pressure.

Toyota had previously maintained that there was no evidence of a mechanical fault linked to reports of bursts of unintended acceleration that prompted the recall of about 4.2 million vehicles last year.

The recall announced on Thursday is separate from the earlier action that Toyota said was aimed at addressing the risk that the accelerator pedals could become entrapped by loose or improperly installed floor mats. About 1.7 million Toyota vehicles are subject to both recalls, Toyota said.

Models covered by the latest recall include the 2009 and 2010 RAV4; the 2009 and 2010 Corolla; the 2009 and 2010 Matrix; the 2005 to 2010 Avalon; the 2007 to 2010 Camry; the 2010 Highlander; the 2007 to 2010 Tundra; and the 2008 to 2010 Sequoia.

Toyota said its own investigation in recent months had found that some accelerator pedals on those Toyota brand models might stick in a partially depressed position or return slowly to idle. The problems could occur when the pedal mechanism becomes worn, it said.

"Toyota will continue to investigate incidents of unwanted acceleration and take appropriate measures to address any trends that are identified," it said in a statement.

As recently as November, Bob Carter, Toyota's U.S. brand chief, had said there was "no evidence" to support claims that the reported safety problems could be caused by anything other than loose floor mats interfering with the accelerator pedal.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had received reports of 100 incidents at the time of Toyota's first recall. Those reports included 17 crashes and five fatalities possibly linked to floor mats and accelerator pedals in Toyota cars and trucks.

Toyota's earlier recall covers the Camry and Avalon sedans, the Prius hybrid, the Tacoma and Tundra pickup trucks, and the luxury Lexus models IS250, IS350 and ES350.

NHTSA had conducted a similar investigation of floor mats in Toyota vehicles that began in 2007 and resulted in a recall of more than 50,000 cars.

That probe focused on the Lexus ES350 and concluded that grooves in the floor mat could trap the accelerator if the mat was not secured with retaining hooks.

(Reporting by David Bailey and Kevin Krolicki, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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