89 deaths may be linked to Toyota recalls
WASHINGTON — Unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles may have been involved in the deaths of 89 people over the past decade, the government said yesterday, raising the number of deaths possibly linked to recalls.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that from 2000 to mid-May, it received more than 6,200 complaints involving sudden acceleration in Toyotas — including 89 deaths and 57 injuries.
Previously, 52 deaths had been suspected of being connected to the problem.
Toyota Motor Corp. has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide since last fall because of problems with gas pedals, floor mats, and brakes. The Japanese automaker paid a record $16.4 million fine for its slow response to an accelerator pedal recall and is facing hundreds of lawsuits.
Toyota said it “sympathizes with the individuals and families involved in any accident involving our vehicles. We are making an all-out effort to ensure our vehicles are safe’’ and we remain committed to investigating reported incidents of unintended acceleration in our vehicles quickly.’’
The automaker said “many complaints in the NHTSA database, for any manufacturer, lack sufficient detail that could help identify the cause of an accident. We will continue to work in close partnership with law enforcement agencies and federal regulators with jurisdiction over accident scenes whenever requested.’’
Congress is considering upgrading auto safety laws to stiffen potential penalties and give the government more power to demand a recall.
Toyota’s US sales chief, Jim Lentz, told Congress last week that dealers have fixed nearly 3.5 million vehicles and the company and its dealers have conducted 2,000 inspections. He said there was no evidence that electronics are to blame for the sudden acceleration reports.