Toyota Faces Canadian Probe

Canadian officials are now investigating the timeliness of Toyota’s recent recalls over speed control problems. According to The Globe and Mail, at a hearing in Ottawa yesterday, Members of Parliament (MPs) questioned a three-month delay between the time that Toyota Canada first learned of sticky accelerator problems and when it notified consumers and federal safety officials. Canadian law requires companies to alert federal officials immediately when they discover a safety defect.

Since last fall, Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for problems involving sudden acceleration. Toyota has blamed the speed control issues on defective floor mats and faulty accelerator pedals, but some experts suspect that problems with the vehicles’ electronic throttle control system could really be behind the problems. Such suspicions have increased recently, as dozens of Toyota owners whose vehicles underwent recall repairs have recently complained that their vehicles are still experiencing problems with unintended acceleration.

Following yesterday’s hearing in Ottawa, Canadian Transportation Minister John Baird said transport officials are investigating whether Toyota Canada Inc. provided proper notification of safety problems around its sticky accelerator pedal. According to The Globe and Mail, only a month ago Baird’s office had said the government had no plans at that point to probe the timeliness of the recalls.

MPs on Tuesday accused the company of playing down concerns about unintended acceleration to avoid issuing recalls, The Globe and Mail said. They criticized Toyota for not acting more quickly to alert its customers last fall when it first began looking into “sticky pedal” problems. Toyota did not alert Transport Canada or consumers until it issued a recall at the end of January.

As we’ve reported previously, Toyota is facing multiple investigations in the U.S. over its handling of the recalls. In addition to investigations currently being conducted in the U.S. Congress and by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Toyota has also been served with subpoenas by a federal grand jury in New York and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Last week, the Orange County, California District Attorneys office announced it would be filing a lawsuit against Toyota, and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office has also opened an investigation that could lead to a lawsuit.

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.

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