Internal Toyota documents show the automaker knew as early as 2003 about unintended acceleration problems in some of its vehicles, attorneys involved in a class-action lawsuit against the company have alleged. According to a report on ABC News, the lawyers claim the documents show that Toyota was able to confirm cases of sudden unintended acceleration that did not involve driver error.
Since last November, Toyota has recalled about 8.5 million vehicles worldwide to resolve the floor-mat interference and sticking pedal problems that may lead to incidents of unintended acceleration. Some vehicles are subject to both recalls. Complaints to the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) attribute 93 deaths to sudden acceleration of a Toyota vehicle.
Earlier this year, Toyota agreed to pay a record $16.375 million fine levied by the NHTSA for concealing information related to a January recall of 2.3 million vehicles for sticky accelerator pedals. The company also faces more than 200 lawsuits resulting from the sticky accelerator and floor mat recalls.
Toyota has blamed the acceleration problems on driver error, but consumer advocates and plaintiffs’ attorneys have alleged that they are the result of a defect in the vehicles’ electronic throttle control system.
The Toyota documents detailed by ABC were referenced in a revised complaint filed Monday against Toyota in U.S. District Court in Southern California. The class-action complaint was filed on behalf of 40 Toyota owners who claim that cases of sudden unintended acceleration have caused them financial harm by reducing the resale values of their car, ABC said.
While the suit quotes from the documents, the attorneys told ABC News they did not attach the documents to the complaint because of concerns for the privacy of the plaintiffs.
One of the documents referenced in the complaint is a 2003 report from a Toyota technician of a sudden acceleration incident and said he found “a mis-synchronism between engine speed and throttle position movement.” According to ABC, the technician allegedly requested immediate action because of the “extremely dangerous problem” and said “we are also much afraid of frequency of this problem in near future.”
In another case from 2003, the lawsuit claims a field technical report stated that a Toyota technician verified, in the words of the complaint, a “surge event . . . even where the scan tool showed no trouble code.”
Another document, allegedly a Toyota dealership report, states that a Toyota dealer verified two separate sudden unintended acceleration incidents with a 2005 Toyota Sequoia, and identified the probable cause as a “software issue of the engine control unit.”