A U.S. government probe cleared Toyota Motor Corp.’s electronics of causing unintended acceleration, a big victory for the world’s top automaker as it seeks to recover from the hit it took over runaway vehicle accidents.
The findings vindicated Toyota’s position that it had identified and fixed the only known safety problems with popular vehicles like the Camry by focusing on mechanical issues with accelerator pedals and the risk that floor mats could trap the pedal in the open position.
“There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement issued yesterday.
The inquiry, by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NASA engineers, followed questions by some safety advocates and lawmakers about whether software-driven throttles and flaws with electronic control systems had also played a role in unintended acceleration complaints.
Although Toyota has cleared a major hurdle in its ongoing safety saga, analysts cautioned that it would still struggle to win back American consumers who have defected from the brand and its luxury counterpart, Lexus.
“This is certainly going to help Toyota, but it doesn’t change the fact that they let these other issues through,” said TrueCar.com analyst Jesse Toprak. “They’re still going to face difficulties to bring people back to Toyota.”
Toyota has recalled nearly 16 million vehicles globally since September 2009, when it took the first in a series of measures to fix problems with sticky accelerator pedals and potentially dangerous floor mats.