NHTSA Investigates Complaints of Rust Corrosion on Toyota Tundra Pickups

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has initiated a preliminary investigation into allegations of frame corrosion affecting 2000 and 2001 model-year Toyota Tundra pickups. The announcement comes just one week after Toyota announced its recall of some 3.8 million vehicles in the U.S. due to unintentional and uncontrollable acceleration which the automaker claims is caused by improperly installed floor mats.

The NHTSA says that some 218 Tundra pickups are involved in its investigation. The agency has received 20 separate complaints concerning the Tundra, and three quarters of those complaints allege that corrosion caused the underbody-mounted spare tire to separate from the supporting rear cross member. The remaining complaints allege that corrosion resulted in damage to the vehicles’ brake lines that run along the rear cross member on the driver’s side.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Incorporated spokesman, Brian Lyons, said that the automaker has been conducting its own investigation into the matter and added that news of the investigation by the NHTSA came as no surprise.

Lyons said. “We know there are some complaints out there. We have repurchased some vehicles to aid in our investigation.”

The action by the NHTSA will cover an array of fact-finding actions. Based on the agency’s findings, it could recommend that no further action be taken or may require an engineering analysis of the affected vehicles before requiring Toyota to initiate a recall.

After announcing the recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus models last week, Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda, made a public apology.

Last week, Toyota announced it will recall 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles to replace driver’s side floor mats that could cause the accelerator to stick. The recall prompted a public apology from Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda.

Toyota was forced to recall some 750,000 Tacoma pickups last year due to frame-rust. Last March the automaker paid 150% of the top Kelly Blue Book price to buy back the affected 1995 to 2000 model year vehicles.

Just one year ago, in November 2008, Toyota was forced to recall 2001 to 2004 model year Tacomas. In that recall, Toyota performed inspections of the vehicles’ frames and replaced the frames on affected vehicles at no cost to the consumers. The company also extended the warranty 15 years and unlimited mileage on vehicles that exhibited no rust damage.

Although the Tundra and Tacoma do not share the same frame, there are similarities in their design and both are manufactured by the same supplier. Lyon would neither name that supplier nor offer an explanation for Toyota’s failure to include its Tundra line in the previous Tacoma recalls. However, he did not attempt to shift blame for any safety issues away from Toyota. Lyons said, “It’s our responsibility, not the supplier’s responsibility.”

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