Investigation into Toyota pedal problems widens
Car owners in U.S., Japan also complaining about Prius brakes
U.S. safety officials have widened their investigation into Toyota's sticky gas pedals to see whether the same problem could exist in vehicles from other auto manufacturers that used the same pedal supplier as Toyota.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday it has sent a letter to CTS, the Indiana company that made the pedals that caused Toyota to recall millions of vehicles worldwide. The safety agency wants to know more about pedals that CTS — which has a manufacturing facility in Mississauga, Ont. — made for other auto companies.
CTS says it makes pedals for Honda and Nissan cars and a small number of Ford vehicles in China. The company has been adamant that the issues are limited to Toyota alone. Other automakers have also said their pedals are based on different designs and aren't at risk of the same problems.
The development comes at the same time as Toyota has been hit by more than 100 complaints in the U.S. and Japan about brake problems with its popular Prius hybrid, the latest in a spate of quality concerns for the automaker as it grapples with massive global recalls.
The Japanese company's sales are being battered in the U.S. — Toyota's biggest market — after recalls of top-selling models to fix a gas pedal that can stick in the depressed position.
The new Prius gas-electric hybrid, which went on sale in Japan and the U.S. in May, is not part of the recalls that extend to Europe and China, covering nearly 4.5 million vehicles.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said two of the complaints about Prius brakes involved crashes that resulted in injuries.
Fourteen complaints in Japan
Japan's Transport Ministry said Wednesday it has also received 14 complaints since July last year about brake problems with Toyota's new Prius hybrid.
The ministry ordered Toyota, the world's No. 1 automaker, to investigate the complaints. The other 13 cases happened between December 2009 and January 2010. Transport Ministry official Masaya Ota said the ministry has yet to receive a formal report on the complaints from Toyota.
Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said the company has received reports about the Prius complaints in North America and in Japan and was now looking into the matter.
Any serious problems emerging in the Prius, Toyota's flagship green car model, are certain to further tarnish its brand.
The Prius, now in its third generation since its 1997 introduction, is the bestselling gas-electric hybrid in the world, racking up a cumulative 1.6 million units sold so far, according to Toyota.
At the same time, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday he will speak with Toyota president Akio Toyoda about the automaker's spate of recalls in the U.S. LaHood confirmed that the U.S. government is investigating potential electrical problems in Toyota vehicles.
LaHood said he will call Toyoda in the coming days to ensure the Japanese automaker is aware of the government's concerns about safety issues with Toyota vehicles.
The secretary says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will conduct an investigation into electronic throttle control systems and potential electromagnetic interference in the nation's fleet of vehicles.