Good News For Another Car Company: Toyota

The worst may be over for Toyota.

On Tuesday, the Transportation Department said it found no electronic problems on Toyota vehicles that led to reports of sudden unintended acceleration over the past several years.

The announcement followed 18 months of questions over the safety of Toyota automobiles. The findings are in a 10-month study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, otherwise known as the NHTSA/NASA report. A preliminary report last year drew the same conclusion.

“We feel that Toyota vehicles are safe to drive,” said Ray LaHood, the Transportation Secretary and a former Illinois congressman. In fact, said LaHood, he advised his daughter to purchase a Toyota Sienna minivan.

In a statement, Toyota said it was welcomed the findings. “We appreciate the thoroughness of their review.  We believe this rigorous scientific analysis by some of America’s foremost engineers should further reinforce confidence in the safety of Toyota and Lexus vehicles. ”
Toyota’s electronic systems were thrown into question over the past 18 months, as the company reeled from a mounting number of cases of sudden unintended acceleration in the United States, and around the world. Toyota ultimately recalled more than 11 million vehicles worldwide to correct problems involving floor mats and sticking accelerator pedals on its cars — the problems that the report said were at fault.

The reports damaged the company’s previously sterling reputation, leading to a Congressional investigation that brought Toyota president Akio Toyoda to Washington to testify. Last year, Toyota was the only major car company in the United States to see its sales decline. And, it said Tuesday that its third-quarter profit fell sharply, due to the sales drop as well as the strong yen.

The clean bill of health from NHTSA/NASA followed an investigation that traced 280,000 lines of code on Toyota automobiles. Said LaHood: “”Our conclusion is Toyota’s problems were mechanical, not electrical.”

LaHood’s endorsement will undoubtedly come as a relief to the company’s American employees, including those at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and its safety center in York Township, Mich., a few miles away. And the report means Toyota, as well as Chrysler, will come to this week’s Chicago Auto Show on an upbeat note.

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