U.S. probes electronics in Toyota recall

By Chris Isidore, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Federal investigators are looking into whether the problem with Toyota gas pedals goes beyond the fix announced by the company Monday and involves the vehicles' electrical system.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration also is looking into possible civil penalties for Toyota (TM).

Both the investigation into the vehicles' electrical system and the possible penalties were confirmed by an agency official who asked to remain anonymous. The official says the safety agency is looking at the possibility that electromagnetic interference might somehow be causing Toyota's electronic throttle control systems to malfunction, though NHTSA has not seen evidence to support that yet.

Another NHTSA official said this is not an official defect investigation.

"We will continue to cooperate fully with NHTSA on all vehicle safety issues," said Brian R. Lyons, safety and quality communications manager for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.

Toyota has said recently that it has rigorously tested its electronic throttle control systems under a variety of circumstances, including subjecting them to various forms of electromagnetic radiation while in use, and that it has been unable to find any problems.

Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles on Jan 21 due to problems with sticking gas pedals that cause the vehicles to accelerate out of control and later halted the sale of the eight vehicles involved in the recall.

Monday, company officials announced they had found a solution that involved reinforcing the pedal assembly with a part that is being rushed to dealerships.

The company restarted sales of the vehicles that have been fixed in that manner.

But its U.S. sales plunged 16% in January due to the halt in sales. The drop allowed Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500) to pass Toyota into the second place in U.S. auto sales, behind only General Motors.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued a statement Tuesday saying that "Toyota is taking responsible action" in the fix, but criticizing its process.

"It unfortunately took an enormous effort to get to this point," he said, saying DOT officials had to fly to Japan to push the company to fix the pedal.

"We're not finished with Toyota and are continuing to review possible defects and monitor the implementation of the recalls," he said in the statement.

Toyota issued a response to LaHood in which it said: "We are very grateful for the advice of all the government agencies involved and feel that through our handling of the recall we have a chance to regain the trust of our customers." To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,677.90 216.58 1.32%
Nasdaq 4,452.79 69.95 1.60%
S&P 500 1,950.82 23.71 1.23%
Treasuries 2.28 0.05 2.06%
Data as of 4:29am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 104.83 1.84 1.79%
Bank of America Corp... 16.60 0.20 1.22%
AT&T Inc 33.66 -0.84 -2.43%
Microsoft Corp 45.02 0.64 1.44%
Facebook Inc 80.04 1.67 2.13%
Data as of Oct 23

Sections

Buffett's investment firm lost big on Coca-Cola and IBM this week, but that's about the extent of his losses this year. More

Regulators are about to reveal the results of an extensive health check of Europe's top 130 banks, indicating which may need a cash infusion. More

Using technology developed for the military and implemented in Iraq, schools have installed alarm systems that detect gunfire. More

Dressing up in crazy costumes, traveling the world, posing for photos -- and getting paid to do it. Here are journal entries from a day in the life of professional "cosplay" character, Linda Le. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.