A surge of new complaints involving sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles has hit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the last three weeks. The additional reports came as the NHTSA and two different congressional committees step up their probe of Toyota and its handling of the acceleration problem that affects between 8 and 9 million of its U.S. vehicles.
Until January 27, the day after Toyota suspended production and sales of eight different models because of faulty accelerator concerns, the NHTSA had on file 17 complaints of acceleration-related Toyota crashes involving 21 deaths between 2000 and 2009.
However, the agency has received reports of an additional 13 deaths and 10 injuries allegedly caused by sudden acceleration accidents since 2005, bringing the total number of people killed to 34. Government officials and safety experts alike expect the number of cases reported to the NHTSA to keep rising.
Currently, the number of deaths allegedly linked to Toyota amounts to more than all other auto manufacturers combined — a fact that has shaken the core of a company that has built its entire reputation on safety and quality.
According to Clarence Ditlow, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington D.C., more sudden acceleration incidents involving Toyota vehicles are on their way.
"We are going to go over 100 without a doubt," Ditlow told the Los Angeles Times. "The only question is what is the true number. So many fatalities don’t get attributed to sudden acceleration, especially as you go further back in time before people were paying attention to Toyota," Ditlow said.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “A number of lawsuits and police reports also indicate that Toyota vehicles suffering runaway acceleration led to fatalities, but those cases have not been registered as complaints in the government database.”
Toyota has not yet disclosed internal communications and information from its consumer complaint logs pertaining to sudden acceleration incidents. In general, consumer complaint databases of private companies are considerably larger than those operated by the government. Therefore, if Toyota submits accurate information to the NHTSA, a number of new sudden acceleration cases will likely be revealed.
New reports submitted to the NHTSA show that Toyota’s sudden acceleration problem is likely older and more extensive than most reports indicate and that not all affected vehicles are covered by the recent safety recalls.
The oldest case of sudden acceleration currently on file at the NHTSA involves a 1988 Camry that crashed into a brick wall. The majority of the incidents, however, occurred between 2002 and 2009.
For more information, including a timeline of Toyota’s recalls, visit our Toyota web site.