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Toyota owners say fixes are not fixing problems

WASHINGTON - Some Toyota owners say they're still having trouble with unintended acceleration after their recalled cars were repaired, and the Transportation Department said Wednesday that it is looking into their complaints.

At least seven complaints, filed in the last two weeks with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, allege that after the recall service to modify pedals and replace floor mats the cars still surged out of control.

Although the allegations are unverified by the agency, they are a worrying sign that the nearly 10 million recall notices issued by Toyota may not fully address the problem of unintended acceleration - which some believe is caused by problems in the electronic throttle system, rather than mechanical issues involving pedals.

NHTSA administrator David Strickland said in a statement the agency is reaching out to consumers about the complaints "to get to the bottom of the problem and to make sure Toyota is doing everything possible to make its vehicles safe."

Toyota did not immediately comment on the complaints.

The automaker and the government are investigating potential electrical problems as part of the Japanese automaker's recall of more than 8 million vehicles worldwide. NHTSA has linked 52 deaths to crashes allegedly caused by Toyota's acceleration problems. The company has blamed mechanical causes or drivers pressing the wrong pedal and repaired about 1 million vehicles.

Stewart Stogel, 49, of Mount Vernon, said his 2009 Camry accelerated to about 15 mph on a street near his home Saturday, five days after a dealer trimmed the gas pedal and installed new brake override software as part of the floor mat recall. Stogel said he barely avoided a wall and nearly went down an embankment.

He said his dealer told him to return with the car so Toyota engineers can inspect it.

Meanwhile, after skewering Toyota executives in three congressional hearings, lawmakers and federal safety officials will now decide if the auto industry needs new regulations to ensure that the company's huge safety recalls aren't repeated.

Toyota executives have said all new models sold in the United States will have a brake override system by 2011 and many recalled vehicles will be retrofitted with it as a precaution. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a congressional panel Tuesday his agency may recommend that all new vehicles sold in the U.S. be equipped with the brakes, something that would require a relatively inexpensive software upgrade.

Meanwhile, Toyota got good news about its Prius hybrid Wednesday when the Japan Automobile Dealers Association released data showing the Prius remains the top selling car in Japan for the 10th straight month. More than 27,000 Prius cars were sold in February, the group said.

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