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TIMELINE-Toyota's rise and run-up to its recall crisis

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DETROIT, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T has issued a string of recalls covering more than 8.5 million vehicles worldwide including its flagship Camry sedan and the Prius hybrid.

Following are milestones leading to the largest recall in Toyota’s history, a series of events that has hit the automaker’s reputation and results:

* 2000: Toyota launches program known as “Construction of Cost Competitiveness for the 21st Century” with the aim of cutting costs of 180 key car parts by 30 percent, saving nearly $10 billion by 2005.

* 2004: In cooperation with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA,) Toyota narrows the scope of investigations into unintended acceleration by eliminating incidents lasting more than a few seconds or those where the driver applied the brake.

* 2006: Following a surge in global recalls, Toyota head Katsuaki Watanabe apologizes for “quality glitches.” Toyota delays some new models by up to half a year.

* March 2007: NHTSA opens investigation into pedal entrapment in some Toyota vehicles. That leads to recall of 55,000 floormats in September.

* Late 2007: Insurer State Farm tells NHTSA of a “significant increase” in Toyota-related accidents involving its policyholders.

* September 2007: Former Toyota attorney Dimitrios Biller signs a severance agreement with the automaker. He claims he found “numerous” cases where the company concealed evidence from the courts and the U.S. government. Toyota “strongly disputes” this claim.

* October 2007: Consumer Reports influential vehicle quality survey drops three Toyota vehicles, including a version of the Camry, from its recommended list. The verdict: “After years of sterling reliability, Toyota is showing cracks in its armor.”

* December 2007: Toyota's U.S. sales for 2007 hit 2.6 million units. It has displaced Ford Motor Co F.N as No. 2 in the U.S. market and is on the cusp of unseating General Motors Co [GM.UL] as No. 1 on a global basis.

* June 2009: Akio Toyoda, 53, grandson of Toyota’s founder, is named president, replacing Watanabe, 67. Toyota executive Yoshi Inaba is called out of retirement and dispatched to the United States to head operations in the automaker’s largest market.

* Nov. 26, 2009: Toyota recalls 4.2 million vehicles in the United States to address the risk that floormats can come loose and trap the accelerator pedal.

* Dec. 15, 2009: NHTSA officials meet Toyota executives in Japan seeking prompt action on safety issues. Toyota commits to improving its responsiveness.

* Jan. 16, 2010: Toyota informs NHTSA that accelerator pedals made by supplier CTS Corp CTS.N may have a dangerous "sticking" defect.

* Jan. 19: At meeting in Washington including Inaba and U.S. sales chief Jim Lentz, NHTSA asks Toyota to take prompt action. Hours later Toyota tells NHTSA it will issue a recall.

* Jan. 21: Toyota announces recall for about 2.3 million Toyota models to fix sticky pedals.

* Jan. 25: NHTSA informs Toyota it is legally obliged to stop selling vehicles even if it does not have a remedy.

* Jan. 26: Toyota halts U.S. sales of eight models involved in the recall, including its best-selling Camry and Corolla sedans, and says it will halt production for first week of February.

* Jan. 27: At urging of NHTSA, Toyota recalls an additional 1.1 million vehicles due to the risk that a loose floormat could trap the accelerator in an open position. That adds to the recall of 4.2 million vehicles announced in November 2009.

* Jan. 28: Toyota meets with NHTSA to review its pedal fix. NHTSA says it has no objections to the fix.

* Jan. 29: NHTSA opens investigation into CTS pedals. NHTSA asks CTS if it sold pedal to other carmakers and when it discovered reports of problems.

* Feb. 2: Toyota reports a 16 percent drop in January U.S. sales. Monthly U.S. sales drop below 100,000 for the first time in more than a decade and Toyota’s U.S. market share falls to its lowest level since January 2006.

* Feb. 2: NHTSA renews investigation into Toyota’s electronic throttle control system. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says, “While Toyota is taking responsible action now, it unfortunately took an enormous effort to get to this point.” Toyota says it will fully cooperate with NHTSA probe.

* Feb. 3: LaHood warns recalled Toyota owners to stop driving, then withdraws his remarks, saying it was a misstatement. Toyota says it is examining braking complaints about its 2010 model Prius hybrid.

* Feb. 4: NHTSA opens investigation into at least 124 consumer complaints about brakes on Toyota Prius hybrids.

* Feb. 5: After keeping a low profile for nearly two weeks, President Akio Toyoda appears at a news conference to apologize for safety problems. He announces plans to bring in a task force, including outside analysts to review quality. Toyota considers a recall for Prius braking issue.

* Feb. 9: Toyota announces recall of nearly 500,000 new Prius and Lexus-brand hybrid cars globally for braking problems. Akio Toyoda says he may visit the United States in the third week of February.

Reporting by Reuters Detroit bureau, compiled by Soyoung Kim, editing by Claudia Parsons