US: Toyota "planted" driver error story: NHTSA
Toyota US at one point held a press conference at which 'independent' consultants dismissed suggestions of faulty electronics
Reports from the US that driver error was the cause of the vast majority of Toyota's accelerator problems have been dismissed by a key government agency as "planted".
Widespread speculation has centred on initial findings from the US Department of Transportation (DOT), of which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is part, that drivers have been to blame for the unintended acceleration by pressing wrong pedals.
However, the NHTSA, the body responsible for examining the Toyota pedal problems in the US, has firmly rebutted claims the story came from the safety organisation.
"That story was planted by Toyota," an NHTSA spokeswoman in Washington told just-auto. "Toyota is the source - yes we know that for definite.
"It is [the] Toyota PR machine. We knew they were going to put it out."
Toyota Motor Europe (TME) yesterday declined to comment on the reports, but today (15 July) said it had read the articles.
"There have been conversations with Toyota in the US and Japan and people involved in the investigations but it is pretty hard from Brussels to have a view on what was said to whom and at what moment," a TME spokesman in Belgium told just-auto.
"The story quotes a spokesperson so I assume there was some contact between [a newspaper] and Toyota. This seems a bit general but of course driver error could be part of it."
Toyota recalled more than eight million vehicles worldwide as part of its investigations into the acceleration issues.
Toyota in Tokyo could not be reached for comment.