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Toyota still hampered by possible products liability issues

Fourteen days ago it seemed like Toyota Motor Corp. made its way out of the products liability doghouse when the United States Government announced the results of a NASA study that concluded the company's sticky accelerator issue was not created by electronic defects. Now the road to an easier street has been blocked by another round of safety recalls affecting an additional 2.17 million vehicles. Familiarly, the new recall is meant to fix mechanical problems regarding out of control accelerator pedals.

The newest recall affects six Lexus and Toyota vehicle models. The models include RAV4 and 4Runner SUVs going back to 2003. The recall requires the replacement of floor mats that capture accelerators and the replacement of interior panels that also interfere with accelerators. The first recall associated with sticky accelerators being caused by floor mats was issued in September 2009. Since that time Toyota has issued around 10 million product recalls because of floor mat issues.

Industry experts believe that it will take some time for Toyota to recover financially and for the company's reputation of safety and quality to recover as well. One Toyota customer exemplifies the growing consumer frustration with the company. The woman suffered brain and spinal cord injuries when her 2005 Toyota Highlander crashed because the accelerator stuck while in reverse. She said, "Either [Toyota's] investigators were incompetent or they just had their heads in the sand." A Toyota recall in 2006 did not include the woman's SUV, but the latest recall does. The woman has decided to sue the car manufacturer.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, "Toyota to recall 2.17 million more vehicles," Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian, 2/25/11

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