U.S. Regulators Defend Handling of Toyota Recall

NHTSA receives more than 30,000 consumer complaints yearly and reviews each 'quickly and carefully.'

Citing their record as the best in the world and vowing an industry-wide probe into electronics used in accelerators, U.S. regulators defended their record with regard to the Toyota recall.

"We will be conducting a comprehensive review of electronic throttle technologies across the industry," National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administrator David Strickland told lawmakers.

Strickland told one of the congressional committees looking into Toyota's woes that the agency would also look at brake override systems meant to thwart sudden, unwanted spikes in speed.

And NHTSA will also look into the benefits of so-called "black box" recorders that track an automobile's key data shortly before and after a crash, he told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Strickland also said his agency would also "take a close look" at push-button start and stop technology and defended NHTSA from charges it reacted sluggishly to early warnings about deadly flaws in Toyota vehicles.

"We also want everyone to know that our agency has the most active defect investigation program in the world," he told the panel in prepared testimony.

Strickland said NHTSA receives more than 30,000 consumer complaints yearly -- 10,000 this February alone -- and reviews each "quickly and carefully."

Over the past three years, NHTSA investigations have led to 524 recalls covering 23.5 million vehicles, two out of five of them foreign.

Strickland reaffirmed that the agency, which faces charges it lacks the internal know-how necessary to properly handle reported defects in state-of-the-art vehicles, was looking to hire 66 additional staff next year.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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