WASHINGTON -- Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles have been the focus of more unintended acceleration complaints in the United States than any other major automaker in the past five years, a new study shows.
Toyota was the target of 532 consumer complaints involving 2005 model year vehicles and later, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data tallied by Edmunds.com. That's 57 percent more than the 339 complaints involving vehicles from Ford Motor Co., which was No. 2.
The findings challenge Toyota's contention that it has been unfairly singled out on an issue that affects the entire industry. Toyota executives have trumpeted other Edmunds.com studies to demonstrate that its overall safety record is superior to most rivals.
The Edmunds.com study tracked unintended acceleration complaints received by NHTSA through Sept. 30, 2009. That was the day Toyota, responding to a fatal accident in California a month earlier, announced plans to recall 3.8 million U.S. Toyota and Lexus models to fix floor mats that may snag gas pedals.
On a complaints-per-sale basis, Toyota remained the leader by almost the same margin. It had 4.81 complaints per 100,000 U.S. vehicles sold -- 54 percent more than Ford's 3.12. Chrysler (1.72), Honda (1.26), Nissan (1.07) and GM (0.81) followed, Edmunds.com said.
Congressional and federal investigations of Toyota's safety record are focused on unintended acceleration. Such incidents have been linked to at least five U.S. deaths in Toyota vehicles, with 29 other fatality reports being examined by NHTSA.
Consumers have filed more than 2,500 unintended acceleration complaints to Toyota over the past decade, the Safety Research & Strategies consulting firm has said.
Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons responded to the Edmunds.com tally by saying unintended acceleration can be caused by many factors and that nearly all major automakers have been the focus of complaints.
Toyota Division chief Bob Carter said at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention this month that Edmunds.com found 16 automakers ranked worse than Toyota in terms of general complaints per vehicle sold from 2001 through Feb. 3, 2010.