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October 21, 2014

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After recall, couple’s Camry loyalty remains

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Crashes resulting from Toyota unintended acceleration incidents.

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Number of Toyota unintended acceleration incidents.

Findlay Toyota Recall Repairs

Mechanics at Findlay Toyota in Henderson repair recalled vehicles for sticky gas pedals and unsecured floor mats Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Not long after Sanford Victor leased a new 2004 Toyota Camry, the car seemed to develop a mind of its own.

He would apply the brakes at a red light or stop sign, only to feel the car move slowly toward the vehicles in front of him, he says.

Victor and his wife, Sandra, have been loyal Camry owners since the mid-1980s, but the Las Vegas couple never had a Camry like this.

“It happened six or seven times where I would put my foot on the brakes,” Victor says. “All of a sudden, there was a slow creep forward. I felt I was losing control of the car. So we went to Toyota to complain, and they said it had to be my fault. I’ve been driving a vehicle for 60 years and it never happened to me before.”

His experience is among 1,122 reported incidents of possible sudden unintended acceleration nationwide that were forwarded to Congress by Massachusetts-based auto safety consultant Safety Research & Strategies, which has worked with lawyers suing Toyota. The list involved only Toyota or Lexus models that haven’t been recalled.

The Victors eventually traded in the 2004 Camry, but they stayed loyal to the brand. Today they drive Camrys from 2001 and 2010.

“We’ve been fundamentally satisfied with Toyota quality except for that one car,” Victor says.

Fellow Las Vegan John Nethercott says he experienced a problem with a Toyota that caused him to alert the automaker in March 2004. The incident occurred when he said his vehicle surged after making a right turn.

“I just had that happen one time,” he says. “I don’t know if it was the car or me.”

He eventually gave the car to his son, who has reported no similar problems with the vehicle.

Nethercott thinks the Toyota recall issue has been “overblown.”

“Toyota seems to be concerned,” he says. “When a serious thing happens, Toyota investigates it and they seem responsive.”

Among other Southern Nevadans who reported sudden acceleration problems:

• A woman complained to Toyota in May 2003 that on three occasions her 2002 sedan accelerated after she hit the brakes. “So customer crashed into garden and tie rod broke,” the report notes. “Customer states took vehicle to dealer but customer feels dealer does not believe that there is anything wrong with vehicle.”

• A 2003 Camry owner informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in March 2004 about an incident that allegedly occurred in November 2003. The report reads: “Consumer complained about unexpected acceleration problem. Consumer was driving and pulled into a parking space and vehicle unexpectedly accelerated, knocking down a parking sign ... Also hitting three cars before car was stopped by (hitting) last car. Car was inspected after accident (by Toyota in Las Vegas). They said there was nothing wrong with the car.” The report quotes the customer, though, as saying “we are concerned that this could happen again.”

• The driver of a 2002 Camry told the highway administration in May 2004 that “while idling in traffic and the brake pedal applied, the vehicle suddenly accelerated.” The agency stated that “this caused the driver to slam the gear shift in park in order to stop the vehicle. The mechanic informed the driver that the problem could not be duplicated.”

• The owner of a 2004 Camry told the federal agency last December that while “driving home from work this morning, my 2004 Camry suddenly accelerated to more than 80 (mph). I was very scared. Brakes would not work. I stopped the car by changing gears to neutral.”

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