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Investigation into Toyota Corolla Defects Intensifies

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has intensified its investigation into stalling problems with the 2005-2007 Toyota Corolla and Matrix. The NHTSA began investigating complaints in November 2009 as part of a “preliminary investigation.” As of August 18, 2010, the probe has been upgraded to an “engineering analysis,” which can be a step toward a recall. A recall is a pretty clear indication of a defective product.

At present, the investigation involves 1,101 consumer complaints that the engine can stall at any speed and refuse to restart. Toyota has informed the NHTSA that it has approved 4,211 warranty claims for replacement of the vehicles’ electrical control unit, which controls the engine. According to the NHTSA, six crashes have been linked to the defect. None of these involved any injuries. Over 1.1 million Toyota vehicles may ultimately be involved in the investigation. Toyota has recalled over 11 million vehicles in the past year for other problems, such as unintended acceleration.

Toyota has found two possible causes for the defective control units, noting that cracks in the control unit’s circuit boards and resistors could cause stalling, harsh shifting, and refusal of the engine to start. As a result, on September 1, 2010, Toyota announced a recall of 1.33 million Corolla sedans and Matrix hatchbacks. General Motors has also announced a recall of 200,000 Pontiac Vibes with similar problems. The Vibe was built as a joint venture between GM and Toyota. The engine control modules of all recalled vehicles will be replaced at no charge. Owners of the affected vehicles are expected to receive written notification in mid-September. Toyota representatives stated that the recall is voluntary and that Toyota was not pressured by the NHTSA.