WASHINGTON - Fatalities alleged by consumers to the government related to unintended acceleration in Toyota Motor Corp vehicles have reached 34, with a recent jump in complaints accounting for more than a third of the total, U.S. regulators said on Monday.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has added reports of nine crashes from 2005 to 2010 to its complaint database since January 27, alleging 13 fatalities and 10 injuries.
Regulators say it is common for consumer complaints to rise following a major automotive recall. Toyota has recalled millions of vehicles in recent months due to complaints of unintended acceleration.
Ensuing controversy over safety issues and ongoing congressional investigations have kept the issue in the spotlight.
Toyota said in a statement that it takes all customer reports seriously and is taking steps to put in place more stringent quality controls, investigate customer complaints more aggressively, keep open lines of communication with safety agencies and respond more quickly to safety issues we identify.
Transportation regulators stress that complaints contain unconfirmed allegations and can be nonspecific as to a cause. Overall complaints alleging 34 deaths dates to 2000, NHTSA said.
Toyota in October recalled millions of popular-selling vehicles over complaints that the floor mats can come loose and trap the accelerator.
Another huge recall in late January involved gas pedals that do not spring back as designed. Toyota is fixing that problem.
NHTSA has said it believes five deaths are related to floor mats and none to the sticky pedal problem.
(Reporting by John Crawley; Editing by Richard Chang)