Monday, March 15, 2010

The Way They Treat Other Automakers versus Toyota

By Jeff Green, Margaret Cronin Fisk and Angela Greiling Keane

.S. regulators have tracked more deaths in vehicles made by Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC and other companies combined than by Toyota Motor Corp. during three decades of unintended acceleration reviews that often blamed human error.

Fifty-nine of 110 fatalities attributed to sudden acceleration in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records occurred in vehicles other than those sold by Toyota, whose recalls have drawn widespread attention to the issue, according to data compiled for Bloomberg News by the NHTSA.

The agency received 15,174 complaints involving unintended acceleration in the past decade and has run 141 investigations of the phenomenon since 1980, closing 112 of them without corrective action. NHTSA’s repeated conclusion that crashes occurred because drivers mistakenly stomped the accelerator became a policy position that caused investigators to take complaints of runaway vehicles less seriously than they should have, safety advocates say.

“The agency had made a determination that this was primarily a human factor, driver error, and that’s outside NHTSA’s purview,” said Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator. “The Toyota case has brought new scrutiny to other factors, and NHTSA has to look at other causes.” Claybrook is also president emeritus of Public Citizen, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group that has sued automakers seeking crash information.

Read the rest here.

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