WASHINGTON — U.S. investigators are looking into complaints by some owners of Toyota Corolla sedans who said the cars experienced unintended "low-speed surging," similar to a flaw that led to a recall of 10 million Toyotas five years ago.
The inquiry involves as many as 1.69 million cars made by Toyota from model years 2006 through 2010, according to a notice today from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A Corolla owner whose car accelerated and crashed while attempting to park petitioned the agency for a defect investigation, saying there were 163 reports of similar incidents.
The complaints are reminiscent of the sudden, unintended acceleration episodes that pushed the world's largest automaker to recall millions of vehicles in 2009 and 2010. While those cases led to Toyota's modifications to gas pedals and floor mats, NHTSA this time is focusing on Corollas equipped with an electronic throttle-control system called ETCS-i.
A U.S. spokesman for the Japanese automaker couldn't immediately be reached to comment on NHTSA's inquiry or the Corolla petitioner's claims. Monday's action is only an inquiry and not a full defect investigation.
Safety Research and Strategies, a Rehoboth, Mass., company that works on court cases alleging automotive defects, said the petitioners have evidence from their car's electronic data recorder that the brakes were being applied while their Corolla surged.
In March, Toyota agreed to a $1.2 billion penalty, the largest ever for an automaker in the U.S., in a criminal probe by the Justice Department. The case found that company executives misled the public and government authorities over the causes for sudden-acceleration incidents in 2009 and 2010.