WASHINGTON - (AP) - Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Toyota owners Wednesday they should stop driving their vehicles, then quickly took back his words, adding to confusion over the safety of millions of recalled cars. Toyota, for its part, tried to reassure drivers that sticky gas pedals have been rare - and the cars can be stopped in any event by firmly stepping on the brakes.
The final word from LaHood: "What I meant to say or what I thought I said was, if you own one of these cars or if you're in doubt, take it to the dealer and they're going to fix it."
The back-and-forth played out as word surfaced that Toyota Motor Corp. also has been the subject of more than 100 complaints in the U.S. and Japan about brake problems with the popular Prius gas-electric hybrid, which is not part of the recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received about 100 complaints, two of them involving crashes that resulted in injuries. In addition, Japan's transport ministry said it had received 14 complaints.
Rep. Bart Stupak, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigative subcommittee, said he planned to ask Toyota about the complaints related to the Prius.
Further clouding the picture for consumers: the notion that problems could extend beyond Toyota vehicles. Federal officials have widened their investigation of malfunctioning gas pedals to see if the same problem exists in cars made by other auto companies.