Toyota in 2008 succeeded in blocking a formal recall of model years 2004-2006 Sienna minivans linked by government regulators to 98 injuries caused by collapsing liftgates, according to company and federal documents.
Instead of issuing a recall under the U.S. Safety Act, Toyota sent letters to owners of 196,222 Sienna vans offering to replace struts on the liftgates as part of a "safety improvement campaign," without acknowledging a defect. The National Highway Traffic Administration accepted the response and stopped pressing for a costlier recall, agency documents show.
The Sienna case was among the "wins" cited by the automaker's Washington office in a memo obtained by a congressional panel investigating the recalls of 8.5 million Toyota vehicles worldwide for defects that could cause unintended acceleration.
Toyota executives this week underwent two days of congressional hearings during which lawmakers said there was a pattern at the company of failing to respond promptly and adequately to reported safety problems.