Toyota Accused of Planting Driver Error Story

Toyota is being accused of planting a story in The Wall Street Journal asserting that federal regulators were blaming dozens of unintended acceleration incidents involving the company’s vehicles on “driver error.” According to the Web site, a spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has refuted the claims made in the Journal piece, which was published Tuesday.

“That story was planted by Toyota,” the NHTSA spokesperson told just-auto. “Toyota is the source – yes we know that for definite.”

The Wall Street Journal had written that a NHTSA analysis of dozens of data recorders from Toyota vehicles involved in sudden acceleration crashes had revealed that the “throttles were wide open and the brakes weren’t engaged at the time of the crash,” suggesting that the driver was hitting the gas pedal by mistake instead of the brake. The report cited anonymous sources.

ABC News is also reporting that both the NHTSA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are refuting the Journal article.

“Engineers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are continuing to investigate the possible causes of sudden acceleration, along with the National Academy of Sciences and NASA,” said DOT spokesperson Olivia Alair told ABC News. “We will follow the facts and inform the public when our investigation comes to an end.”

A top DOT officials also told ABC that the Journal piece was “completely unsourced and misleading,” and that “no information in that article came from NHTSA.”

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 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.

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