Special Coverage

Toyota's Safety Crisis

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says his statement earlier today regarding Toyota was misconstrued.

LaHood told Toyota owners this morning not to drive their recalled vehicles.

The situation is the latest regarding twist regarding Toyota Motor Corp.’s quality issues, following the recall of millions of its vehicles for possible sticking accelerator pedals and floor mats that could become trapped under gas pedals.

“If anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it and take it to a Toyota dealer, because they believe they have the fix for it,” LaHood is reported to have said during a transportation budget hearing.

But LaHood now says he misspoke and meant only those owners who experienced problems should stop driving their cars.

“If you are in doubt, take it to a dealer,” LaHood is quoted by The Detroit News as saying.

LaHood also made news yesterday after saying Toyota was forced into staging its most recent recalls, a change of tone from his comments last week that he was satisfied with the auto maker’s response to issues of sticky pedals and floor-mat entrapment.

Separately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. reveals today it has received complaints about brakes not functioning properly in the ’10 Prius hybrid-electric vehicle, the industry’s best-selling HEV and the car that symbolizes Toyota’s green efforts.

The Japanese government reportedly also has launched an investigation into the matter, after receiving 14 complaints since May about the hybrid’s brakes.

In the U.S., Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak alleges his ’10 Prius accelerates unintentionally while in cruise control. Wozniak, who is making the media rounds, says he tried to contact Toyota and NHTSA on the matter but has not gotten a response.

Toyota last week halted U.S. sales of eight models involved in a recall of 2.3 million units for potentially sticky accelerator pedals manufactured by supplier CTS Corp.

The recall has spread to overseas markets, including Europe, where 1.8 million Toyota also are being called back for the issue.

Starting this week, Toyota dealers will be installing a steel reinforcement bar in customers’ cars to remedy the sticky pedals.

Separately, Toyota has recalled more than 5 million vehicles in the U.S. because floor mats due could become entrapped underneath the accelerator pedal.

Toyota officials publicly have said the vehicles still are safe to drive.