The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an investigation into Toyota's Highlander hybrid, but unlike earlier inquiries into Toyota vehicles over safety concerns, this investigation is the result of complaints from owners of the 2006 model Highlander hybrid that the vehicle stalls out at speeds over 40 mph.
Highlander Hybrid Investigation Under Way
For its part, Toyota says it will cooperate fully with the investigation, which has reportedly already gotten under way. The car manufacturer was only recently cleared after becoming the target of an earlier NHTSA investigation prompted by concerns going back to 2009 that some of the manufacturer's models had a safety problem with the accelerator either being slow to return to position or getting caught on floor mats. Those concerns resulted in significant recalls by Toyota, but did not center on the 2006 Highlander hybrid.
Because of the serious nature of those complaints, NHTSA had brought experts from NASA into the investigation, due to the focus on computer-controlled electronic systems, software integrity and electromagnetic interference. That investigation took 10 months.
Now, barely recovered, the car manufacturer faces this new challenge, centered on the Highlander hybrid, its hybrid crossover vehicle.
The Detroit News, which noted Toyota recently recalled 1.33 million Corolla and Matrix models for stalling engines, has reported that NHTSA has received a total of 32 complaints, 21 of which involved engine stalling at speeds of over 40 mph. A total of 26 of those reports claimed the engine would not restart afterward. The agency identified the problem as a growing trend. All but one of the incidents involving the Highlander hybrid occurred during the past year.