WASHINGTON - The nation's largest auto insurer said today it alerted federal safety regulators in late 2007 about a rise in reports of unexpected acceleration in Toyota vehicles, the latest warning sign to emerge about the massive recall.
State Farm insurance said it noticed an uptick in reports of unwanted acceleration in Toyotas from its large customer database and warned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in late 2007. NHTSA officials said the report was reviewed and the agency issued a recall later that month.
NHTSA received complaints about acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles as early as 2003, and congressional investigators are looking into whether the government missed warning signs of the problems. A congressional hearing into the Toyota recalls planned for Wednesday was postponed because of a snowstorm expected to hit the capital.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said it will hold the Toyota hearing on Feb. 24, the first of three congressional hearings expected to review the Japanese automaker's recall of about 8.5 million vehicles globally over floor mats which can trap gas pedals, sticking gas pedals and brake problems.
A Democratic staff memo from the Oversight Committee said neither Toyota nor federal safety officials have identified all causes of unintended acceleration in the vehicles. The memo said there was substantial evidence that remedies such as redesigned floor mats have failed to solve the problem.
Meantime, Toyota announced early Tuesday it would recall about 437,000 Prius and other hybrid vehicles to fix brake problems. There have been about 200 complaints in Japan and the U.S. about a delay when the brakes in the Prius were pressed in cold conditions and on some bumpy roads.