Feds Investigate Stalling Issue -- Could Affect 1.2 Million Toyotas

August 23, 2010

The possibility of another recall looms for Toyota, as the federal government has upgraded an investigation regarding stalling issues in 2005-2007 Toyota Corolla and Matrix models.

The issue, the results of faulty engine control modules (ECM), can cause the engine to stall, fail to start, or react harshly when shifting.

Altogether, it could affect about 1.2 million cars.

The issue goes back many months. Last November 30, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had announced that it was conducting a preliminary investigation into the matter. Then this March, Toyota supplied two potential causes of engine control units that might be linked to the issue.

According to an earlier USA Today report, Toyota had known about ECU issue for at least two and a half years; back in September, 2007, it had issued a bulletin to dealerships, allowing them to replace the faulty units with upgraded ones.

NHTSA won’t force a recall unless it’s deemed a safety issue. At this point, however, the agency has 163 complaints from consumers, including an account attributing the issue to a near-accident, in which the engine stalled at 60 mph and the car was almost rear-ended. In all six accidents have been reported, though no injuries.

“An Engineering Analysis has been opened to further assess the scope, frequency safety risks associated with the failure of the ECU that can result in engine stalling,” NHTSA said in an official action summary, noting that the formal investigation was opened last week.

In March, Toyota told federal investigators that it Toyota said it "does not believe that the alleged defect creates an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety." At that time, the automaker said that the flaw affects just 0.8 percent of the vehicles (still, a very significant 9,600 vehicles, by our calculation), and judged the issue to be an inconvenience.

So far, the automaker has filled 4,200 warranty claims on the matter, Toyota told the New York Times.

[USA Today, New York Times, NHTSA]

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