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Toyota recall remedy "very soon", second hearing set

By John Crawley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp is close to announcing a remedy for accelerator-related problems that have triggered massive recalls, halted production and sales, and triggered two congressional investigations.

Engineers from the U.S. Transportation Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have reviewed the planned approach for addressing sudden-acceleration, a safety agency official said.

The latest recall involved 2.4 million vehicles and centered around complaints that accelerator pedals can become stuck after a period of wear.

The official, who declined to be identified because the matter has not been finalized, said Toyota was expected to make an announcement on the remedy "very soon."

Other sources have told Reuters that Toyota expects to begin repairing or replacing flawed pedals as early as next week. They said the plan being readied involves a spacer that will be placed in the accelerator to keep it from sticking.

The government could not confirm the exact timeframe for repairs or confirm the planned solution. The official said NHTSA approval is not required for Toyota to proceed. Nevertheless, safety agency engineers will know the details before they are announced.

Up to 19 crash deaths over the past decade may be linked to accelerator-related problems at Toyota, congressional officials said, citing federal government highway safety statistics.

In all, nearly 6 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the United States have been recalled over the past few months. The biggest recall involved vehicles equipped with floor mats that can trap the accelerator.

Separately on Friday , a second congressional committee launched an investigation of the Toyota matter.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has requested that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood testify at a February 4 hearing.

LaHood said on Thursday he was satisfied with Toyota's response to the problem so far.

Representative Edolphus Towns, the oversight committee chairman, said there "appears to be growing public confusion" over the Toyota recall.

"In short, the public is unsure as to what exactly the problem is, whether it is safe to drive their cars, or what they should do about it," Towns said.

The Toyota recalls have cut across its product line, and include certain top selling Camry and Corolla sedans.

LaHood encouraged consumers concerned about their vehicles to contact their dealer, although dealers are not yet capable of addressing the matter.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee sought emails and other documents from Toyota and NHTSA on Thursday. That panel, which will hold a hearing on February 25, wants information about when the Japanese automaker and NHTSA knew about accelerator problems and what they did about it.

(Reporting by John Crawley; Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall and Kevin Krolicki in Detroit; editing by Carol Bishopric)