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Feds, Toyota to examine Prius that hit 94 mph and was unable to stop

A Toyota Prius that reached 94 mph and whose driver was unable to stop for 20 minutes when its accelerator got stuck Monday was towed to a Toyota dealership in El Cajon, Calif.

Associated Press

A Toyota Prius that reached 94 mph and whose driver was unable to stop for 20 minutes when its accelerator got stuck Monday was towed to a Toyota dealership in El Cajon, Calif.

EL CAJON, Calif. — A Toyota Prius that sped out of control on a California freeway Monday was towed to a dealership Tuesday while federal and company inspectors converged on the car to determine whether a stuck gas pedal was to blame.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent two investigators to examine the car after Monday's incident, said Olivia Alair, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Department, which oversees the NHTSA. Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Brian Lyons said the automaker is sending three of its own technicians to investigate.

James Sikes, 61, of Jacumba, Calif., told authorities that the accelerator malfunctioned Monday as he drove his Prius on Interstate 8 in San Diego County. The car reached 94 mph during the 20 minutes before a California Highway Patrol officer helped get the Prius driver to slow down and turn off the engine.

The Highway Patrol held the car overnight, but it was towed to the dealership Tuesday, Officer Brian Pennings said. "There's no collision, so our investigation's done," he said.

The incident comes while Toyota is fighting fears over the safety of its vehicles, which had been revered for their safety and reliability.

Toyota has recalled about 8.5 million vehicles worldwide — more than 6 million in the United States — because of acceleration problems in multiple models and braking issues in the Prius. Regulators have linked 52 deaths to crashes allegedly caused by accelerator problems.

The family got a recall notice and took it to Toyota of El Cajon about two weeks ago but the dealership refused to examine the car, Patti Sikes said.

"They said it must be a mistake because we weren't on the (recall) list," she said.

Recall costs

Toyota owners who claim that massive safety recalls are causing the value of their vehicles to plummet have filed at least 89 class-action lawsuits that could cost the Japanese auto giant $3 billion or more, according to an Associated Press review. That estimate does not include potential payouts for wrongful-death and injury lawsuits, which could reach in the tens of millions each. Toyota owners suing the company say their vehicles have dropped in value because of the recalls and that Toyota knew all along about safety problems but concealed them from buyers. They point to evidence such as Kelley Blue Book's decision this month to lower the resale value of recalled Toyotas an average of 3.5 percent.

Feds, Toyota to examine Prius that hit 94 mph and was unable to stop 03/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 8:27pm]
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