Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) denied a CNN report that said engineers told the Japanese carmaker in 2006 they found faulty software that led to sudden unintended acceleration in tests.
CNN, citing an internal memo, reported tests of a pre- production model showed the failsafes for the electronics that governed the vehicle’s cruise control needed to be improved. Toyota said it deliberately introduced the error to test its systems and CNN had mistranslated the document.
“The report makes it sound as though we were not reviewing and improving our cars before they went on sale, and that is not true,” Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki said in Yokohama, Japan. The automaker reviews the results of “failsafe stress tests” to make improvements during the development of a car, he said.
The report “attempts to resurrect the discredited, scientifically unproven allegation that there is a hidden defect in Toyota’s electronic throttle control system that can cause unintended acceleration,” Toyota said in a statement. Sudden unintended acceleration didn’t occur nor was it referenced in the original Japanese document, Toyota said.
The memo used by CNN describes internal tests of the adaptive cruise-control system to see how it would respond in the event of a fault at the pedal sensor, said John Hanson, a spokesman for Toyota’s U.S. unit. CNN didn’t say how it obtained the memo.
Toyota recalled more than 8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles worldwide in 2009 and 2010, a record, after reports of unintended acceleration. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Toyota investigated the electronic throttle controls, which send signals from the accelerator to the engine, as a possible cause.
NHTSA closed its review of Toyota models after finding no conclusive link between electronics flaws and unintended acceleration claims. They U.S. agency and Toyota blamed the incidents on sticky gas pedals or floor mats that might jam them. A report last year by NASA, the U.S. space agency, found no electronic causes of the unintended acceleration.
Toyota’s recalls set off a wave of litigation, including hundreds of economic loss suits and claims by individuals or their families alleging injuries and deaths. Most of the federal lawsuits were combined before U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, California, in a multidistrict litigation, or MDL, for evidence gathering and pretrial rulings.
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