NHTSA Investigates Toyota Engine Stall Claims

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NEW YORK December 7, 2009; Dan Strumpf writing for the AP reported that Federal regulators have launched an investigation into complaints of engine stalling on certain Toyota Corolla and Matrix models, the latest in a series of safety issues facing the Japanese automaker.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week it had received 26 complaints of engine stalling on 2006 Corollas and Matrixes equipped with 1ZZ-FE engines. Some complaints said vehicles stall randomly while driving, including on highways and in intersections, according to the Transportation Department agency.

In addition, some have complained about restarting the engine or recurring stalls following an engine restart. NHTSA said it is looking into the frequency, scope and safety consequences of the possible defect.

John Hanson, a spokesman for Toyota's U.S. arm based in Torrance, Calif., said the automaker is complying with requests from the government for additional information.

"It's simply a preliminary investigation. They're asking us questions, we're answering them," he said.

The investigation does not necessarily mean a recall will take place. The probe is the latest in a series of safety concerns that have troubled the automaker, which has built its reputation in the U.S. on sterling quality and safety.

Last month, Toyota said it would replace the gas pedals on 4.3 million vehicles in the U.S. because the pedals could get stuck in the floor mats and cause sudden acceleration. The flaw prompted Toyota's largest U.S. recall ever and the sixth-largest recall in the U.S. earlier in the year.

The same week, Toyota announced the recall of 110,000 Tundra trucks from the 2000-03 model years to address excessive frame rust. While recalls do not always indicate poor reliability, Toyota executives are concerned about large numbers of recalls and have pushed for improved quality controls.

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