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U.S. Agency Steps Up Probe Into Toyota Corolla Stalling

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Nearly 1.3 million Toyota Corolla and Matrix vehicles have been recalled for potential stall problems related to a defective electronic engine control unit, called a PCM. On September 2, 2010 another recall was announced for the 2-wheel-drive Pontiac Vibe, sister vehicle to the Toyota Matrix, built between April 2004 and January 2008.

The vehicles were designed and engineered by Toyota for GM.  According to GM, the PCM may crack at solder points in the circuit board. Toyota has admitted that there are three unconfirmed auto accidents, apparently caused by the cracked PCM.

Mounting Toyota Recalls

To date, the recalls associated with the problematic PCM affects 984,894 Corollas, 143,765 Matrix cars and 161,754 Pontiacs sold in the U.S. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a report on its website, “The engine can stall at any speed without warning and not restart.” The regulatory affairs manager for Toyota’s North American division, Chris Santucci, said that the alleged defect does not create “an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.”

Increased Risk of Crash

However, the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) indicated in its August 26, 2010 report, “There are a variety of warnings and consequences associated with the defect. The engine warning lamp could be illuminated, harsh shifting could result, the engine may not start or the engine could shut off while the vehicle is being driven. An engine shutoff while the vehicle is being driven increases the risk of a crash.”

Lawsuits over Deaths and Crashes

For Toyota, the worries seem to be more about the company’s reputation than safety. In earlier recalls this year, Toyota Camry vehicles were found to have problems with pedals that were allegedly accelerating uncontrollably and unpredictably. “This controversy has damaged our reputation,” said Toyota spokesperson John Hanson when asked about the recall. But consumers have bigger concerns. Suits have been filed against Toyota for the deaths of 79 individuals and hundreds of crashes.

Driver Freed From Prison after Arguing Toyota Defects to Blame

Toyota’s delay and denial of the problem may have cost one Minnesota man three years of his life. Koua Fong Lee had been sentenced for 8 years prison time for reckless driving that killed a driver and two passengers. He chose to serve time rather than agree to a plea that would force him to admit guilt.

He was released in early August after serving three years when his attorney successfully argued that a defect in the Toyota Camry he was driving could have caused the crash. An inspection revealed a cruise-control cable actuator was in the open position, proving the malfunction. Toyota now faces over 200 lawsuits for the accelerator problems, and now the allegedly defective ignition control.

Owners of affected vehicles can contact the NHTSA’s vehicle safety hotline by calling 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), Or visiting http://www.safercar.gov.

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If you or someone you love was seriously injured because of a car defect, contact our office. We will evaluate your case and give you the information you need to decide if you should pursue a legal case against the carmaker for the accident.

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