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Gov't probe finds no new Toyota safety issues

WASHINGTON - A government investigation into runaway Toyotas has found no new safety defects beyond problems with accelerator pedals that explain reports of sudden acceleration in the vehicles, according to preliminary findings released yesterday.

Safety experts have said electronic systems could be to blame for the problems that led to Toyota's massive recalls but the government review, while still at an early stage, has not found any evidence of such issues.

Toyota, the world's largest automaker, has recalled about 9.5 million vehicles since October in a quality crisis that has threatened to undermine the Japanese automaker's reputation for building safe vehicles.

Following congressional hearings, the Transportation Department and NASA have been investigating what may have caused unintended acceleration. The government has received 3,000 complaints about sudden acceleration and estimated the problem could be involved in the deaths of 93 people in a decade.

The department said it had not found any new causes of the problems beyond floor mat entrapment and sticking accelerator pedals.

Toyota said in a statement that the remedies the company has "developed for sticking accelerator pedal and potential accelerator pedal entrapment by an unsecured or incompatible floor mat are effective." The automaker said it had inspected more than 4,000 vehicles and "in no case have we found electronic throttle controls to be a cause of unintended acceleration."

Investigators with NASA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reviewed event data recorders on 58 vehicles. In 35 cases, the black boxes showed no brakes were applied.

Toyota paid a $16.4 million fine for slow response to the accelerator pedal recall and faces hundreds of state and federal lawsuits.

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