Toyota withheld a key document from federal investigators probing electronic causes of unintended acceleration in the automaker's vehicles, reported CNN on Thursday.
According to internal documents obtained by the network's "Anderson Cooper 360," Toyota was aware of a cruise control issue on a pre-production car internally called the 250L which caused the vehicle to start moving forward on its own. "The cruise control activates by itself at full throttle when the accelerator pedal position sensor is abnormal," stated the document, which CNN had translated three times from Japanese into English.
The car was later sold in Japan and Europe as the Lexus 460. Toyota refused to offer its own translation of the document.
Last month, The Huffington Post took a look at underlying electronic issues that could have caused Toyota's sudden acceleration problems. The automaker has contested there is nothing wrong with its electronics, a claim backed by a federal investigation form the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NASA that purportedly cleared Toyota's electronics.
Toyota's responses and reactions to the unfolding sudden acceleration crisises in 2009 and 2010 are likely to play significant roles in lawsuits against the company that will come to trial starting early next year.
In late 2009, Toyota issued a recall citing evidence that floor mats in the Camry and the Prius were apparently getting stuck under the gas pedal, causing acceleration. In early 2010, Toyota issued a second recall, saying some gas pedals could stick, continuing to add gas to the engine even after a driver took their foot off the pedal.
To address concerns that Toyota's electronics were also causing sudden acceleration, NHTSA asked NASA, which has experience investigating electronics issues in spacecraft and airplanes, to take a look at what might be going on. NASA's report detailed several areas of concern, including a problem surrounding tiny tin whiskers. But NHTSA and Toyota declared that the report cleared the automaker's electronics system.
But NHTSA and NASA did not have a copy of the document detailing the unintended acceleration issue in the 205L, reports CNN. Toyota said the document had nothing to do with the investigation.
Before the segment aired, Toyota posted a one-sentence response to CNN's story:
"In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, CNN has irresponsibly aired a grossly inaccurate segment on Anderson Cooper 360 that attempts to resurrect the discredited, scientifically unproven allegation that there is a hidden defect in Toyota’s electronic throttle control system that can cause unintended acceleration," the company said.