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For Toyota, a sudden acceleration of claims

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Mike Blake/Reuters

(Read caption) Members of the media gather around a 2008 Toyota Prius in a stadium parking lot following a news conference by Toyota Motor Corporation in San Diego, Calif., March 15. The company said their preliminary investigation of an unintended acceleration incident on March 8 involving a 2008 Toyota Prius had found no evidence to support the driver's version of events. The "runaway Prius" incident was widely publicized.

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With heavy media attention surrounding sudden acceleration of Toyota cars, the number of consumers reporting problems with their Toyotas has escalated as well.

In February, 1,733 consumers reported problems with Toyotas to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), according to the Wall Street Journal. That’s triple the number in July 2008, which was before a highly publicized crash of Lexus in August 2009, when a highway patrol officer and three members of his family were killed, allegedly caused by a stuck accelerator.

On the one hand, it’s expected that more people report a problem once it’s been made public. They may finally have validation for something they’ve previously experienced.

On the other hand, it's possible that the publicity has spurred spurious reports of problems, says an expert who has examined previous sudden-acceleration claims.

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