Toyota dealers quietly bought back vehicles from owners who complained of sudden acceleration in exchange for confidentiality agreements, according to new charges filed this week in a federal lawsuit, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Dealership employees also witnessed and personally experienced sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles several times in the last decade, yet the company failed to report the findings to federal safety officials, according to the new allegations. The charges amend a lawsuit filed in federal district court in Santa Ana., Calif., on behalf of Toyota and Lexus owners claiming economic losses from the diminished value of their vehicles.
The new filing cites thousands of complaints of sudden acceleration drawn from company documents dating back to 2000. One involved the repurchase of a vehicle in 2009 after a service manager at an unidentified Toyota dealership reported test-driving a Tacoma pickup that accelerated to 95 mph from 71 mph with the driver’s foot completely off the pedal.
Toyota said in a statement that the company quickly and thoroughly investigates customer complaints and that engineers have not been able to replicate reported episodes of sudden acceleration. The company has previously pointed to data recorders that indicate driver error may have been a factor in some accidents blamed on sudden acceleration problems.
The new allegations may increase the legal pressure on Toyota, which has issued more than 12 million recall notices globally in the last 13 months. There are three pending investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as investigations by Congress and the National Academy of Sciences. The automaker also agreed to pay a $16.4 million fine in April for delaying a recall, and settled a lawsuit last month filed by the family of four people killed when their vehicle raced out of control.
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