Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hybrid Owners Question Toyota Acceleration Explanation

When Toyota announced last week that it was halting sales and production of models associated with unintended acceleration, owners of the Toyota Prius, Camry Hybrid, and Highlander Hybrid, as well as Lexus hybrid owners, were somewhat relieved. That�"s because the hybrid models were not included in the list of affected models.

Toyota said the problematic pedals found on conventional models are provided by CTS Automotive Products, while a different supplier, Denso Corporation, supplies the accelerator pedals for Toyota hybrids. As a result, the assembly line for the Camry Hybrid has remained online at Toyota�"s Kentucky plant, while the non-hybrid Camry in the same plant has been idled.

Sticking Pedal versus Pedal Floor Mat Entrapment

To add to the confusion, the Toyota Prius remains on a different recall list, first issued in September, when the company said it would reshape or replace accelerator pedals on 3.8 million vehicles. That recall involves 2004 to 2009 Priuses�and recent year models of the Camry, Avalon, Tacoma and Tundra, as well as Lexus models ES 350, IS 250, and IS 350. The correction is intended to reduce the risk that the pedal may be jammed in the floor mat. In addition, the company will replace original equipment floor mats with redesigned mats.

Mike Michels, Toyota vice-president of communications, informed in an email:

“The sticking pedal issue does not affect Prius, but the pedal floor mat entrapment does involve Prius and there is a recall in the works to modify the cars to make them less likely to get entrapped by an out of place all weather floor mat.”

At the time of the floor mat recall�prior to the more recent recall involving the accelerator hardware�ABC News cited reports of 16 acceleration-related deaths and more than 200 accidents. It�"s not clear if those accidents are attributed to a sticking pedal or the floor mat problem, or a combination of the two. At the time, Toyota said it had confidence the problem was linked to floor mats and not a vehicle design flaw or problems related to braking, fuel or accelerator systems.

Publicity Fuels Speculation

Confusion about the two different potential causes of the acceleration problem most recently has been confounded by a number of anecdotal stories concerning Priuses. Speaking at an event in San Francisco last week, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said that his 2010 Toyota Prius�not on either of the two recall lists�has �San accelerator that goes wild, but only under certain conditions of cruise control.⬝ He said, �SThis is software. It's not a bad accelerator pedal. It's very scary, but luckily for me, I can hit the brakes," he said.

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