February 15, 2013
• Posted in

“Unintended acceleration” product defects led to recall of 6 million vehicles

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum today announced that Oregon has joined with 28 other states in announcing a $29 million settlement with Toyota Motor Corp. and its North America subsidiaries over allegations Toyota concealed safety issues related to unintended acceleration.

Toyota agreed to pay $29 million to settle consumer protection claims and has agreed to provide additional restitution and incentives to vehicle owners to promote compliance with unintended acceleration safety recalls. Oregon will receive nearly $600,000 in the settlement. The company will be restricted from advertising the safety of vehicles without sound engineering data to back such safety claims.

“Companies have an obligation to quickly and openly inform customers of product safety concerns,” Rosenblum said. “That’s particularly true of an automobile maker, where consumers’ lives may be at stake.”

In a complaint filed Thursday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the states alleged Toyota engaged in unfair and deceptive practices when it failed to timely disclose known safety defects with accelerator pedals. The settlement was filed the same day.

Between July 2003 and April 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened eight separate investigations into unintended acceleration of certain Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Possible causes ranged from driver error to mechanical problems with the gas pedal – the so-called “sticky pedal” issue —  and “floor mat entrapment,” in which incorrectly installed mats could cause pressure on the accelerator.

The Attorneys General allege in their complaint that Toyota failed to timely inform U.S. regulators of some of the safety concerns. Federal law requires a carmaker to inform NHTSA of a potential safety issue within five days of learning of it. It took Toyota nearly four months to tell U.S. regulators of the sticky pedal issues, the complaint alleges. 

Toyota and Lexus ultimately recalled 6 million vehicles in 2009 and 2010 to address floor mat and “sticky pedal” concerns. More than 59,000 of those vehicles were registered in Oregon.

Toyota owners filed dozens of wrongful death and injury lawsuits against the company.

The investigating State Attorneys General determined poor communication between Toyota’s headquarters in Japan and its U.S. holdings were partially responsible for the auto giant’s failure to timely report known safety issues. The collective Attorneys General emphasized in settlement negotiations that Toyota be more response to U.S. regulatory agencies.

The company should have already contacted affected consumers. If vehicle owners have questions, they can call Toyota at 1-800-331-4331 or Lexus at 1-800-255-3987.

Toyota owners can also type in their vehicle identification numbers at http://www.toyota.com/owners/web/pages/resources/recalls


Jeff D. Manning, jeff.d.manning@doj.state.or.us, 503-378-6002