Toyota has acknowledged that the engines on more 1 million Corolla and Matrix vehicles may be prone to stall, but insists that the problem does not pose â€œan unreasonable riskâ€ to safety. According to the Detroit Free Press, the stalling problems are the result of computer flaws.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been investigating stalling problems with 2006 Corolla and Matrix models since last November. According to the Free Press, at that time the agency had received 26 reports of engine stalls. In some, owners reported that stalls happened without warning and in some cases the engine was hard to restart or kept stalling. None of those reports were linked to any injuries or crashes.
By the beginning of March, the NHTSA had received a total of 76 such reports. According to the Free Press, one of these incidents involved a fire, and some of the stalls occurred while vehicles were going through intersections or merging onto highways.
According to Toyota, the stalling problem affects 2005 through 2007 model year Corolla and Matrix vehicles. The automaker blamed the problem on physical faults in the production of the vehiclesâ€™ engine control units, caused by mistakes at two suppliers.
In a letter to the NHTSA, Toyota said it “does not believe that the alleged defect creates an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.â€ The letter points out that problems would always trigger a dashboard warning light, and estimated the stalls would only affect 0.8% of the models in question over 10 years. According to the Free Press, if the NHTSA agrees with Toyota that the stalling problem doesn’t pose a safety risk, Toyota would be free to take any number of steps to correct it, short of an official recall.
The Corolla and Matrix stalling problem is only the latest issue to cast a shadow over Toyota. The automaker has recalled millions of vehicles worldwide over the past several months for issues involving unintended acceleration and faulty brakes. The recalls have seriously injured Toyotaâ€™s long-standing reputation for quality and reliability.
The recalls started in September, when Toyota announced it was recalling and replacing floor mats on approximately 4.2 million vehicles which were allegedly causing accelerator pedals in the vehicles to become stuck in the depressed position, leading to uncontrollable and rapid acceleration of the vehicle. On January 21, Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles due to accelerator pedals on those vehicles becoming stuck in a depressed position, causing unexpected and unsafe acceleration. Then in February, Toyota recalled more than 400,000 hybrid vehicles, including the 2010 Prius and the Lexus HS250h, to fix their brakes.
In the U.S., five deaths have occurred in auto accidents involving the unintended acceleration of a Toyota or Lexus vehicle. Last August, a California Highway Patrol trooper and three members of his family were killed in such a crash in San Diego County, just south of Orange. At least 47 other fatalities over the past decade alleged to be the result of Toyota unintended acceleration crashes are currently being investigated by the NHTSA.