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Toyota plans to put brake overrides in new vehicles

By the end of 2010, the firm will begin installing a system that shuts down the engine when the brake and gas pedals are pressed simultaneously. It's an extra safeguard against sudden acceleration.

February 23, 2010|By Jerry Hirsch

Toyota Motor Corp. plans a more aggressive rollout of a system that cuts power to the engine when the brake and gas pedals in a vehicle are pressed at the same time.

The system is meant to be an extra safeguard against the type of sudden-acceleration problems that have prompted the company to recall millions of vehicles worldwide.

The brake override system will be built into most new Toyota models sold in the United States by the end of 2010, the company said.

The announcement came as James Lentz, president of Toyota's U.S. operations, apologized to consumers for the automaker's safety and reliability problems at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigative subcommittee Tuesday.

"We will install advanced brake override systems in all our new models -- making us one of the first full-line manufacturers to offer this customer-confidence feature as standard equipment," Lentz said in prepared remarks.

He noted that Toyota also planned to install the system on its 2005 to 2010 Tacoma, 2009 and 2010 Venza, and 2008 to 2010 Sequoia models, which because of their electronic components can be reprogrammed with the new software.

Previously Toyota had said it would retrofit the 2007 to 2010 Camry, 2005 to 2010 Avalon, and the 2007 to 2010 Lexus ES 350, 2006 to 2010 IS 350 and 2006 to 2010 IS 250 models.

"These actions underscore that Toyota is going above and beyond making the necessary vehicle modifications and repairs to ensure that our customers can be completely confident in the safety and reliability of the cars and trucks they drive," Lentz said.

The automaker said the brake override system is not an integral part of the recall remedy but, rather, is meant to give drivers an extra measure of confidence.

Toyota has issued about 10 million recall notices worldwide recently, mostly for floor mats that can entrap the gas pedal and for gas pedals that can stick. It has blamed both problems for causing unintended acceleration.

Some experts say the recalls fail to address the core problem behind the unintended acceleration, which they suspect could be a flaw in Toyota's electronic control system.

During questioning by House panel members, Lentz said that the automaker has not found any fault with the electronic throttle control system and does not believe it is the source of the problem.

jerry.hirsch@latimes.com

Twitter.com/latimes.jerry

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