Government begins investigation into 2000-2001 Toyota Tundra frame corrosion

(October 7, 2009) The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday said it is conducting a preliminary investigation into frame corrosion on 2000 and 2001 model year oyota Tundra pickups. An estimated 218,000 units are involved, the Automotive News reported today.

The probe comes a week after Toyota announced its largest U.S. recall in company history.

NHTSA said it has received 20 complaints about the Tundra — 15 of them alleging that the underbody-mounted spare tire separated from the rear cross member. The other five complaints allege damaged brake lines due to corrosion on the driver's side rear cross member.

Brian Lyons, a spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., said he is not surprised at NHTSA's investigation.

“We've been investigating this for a little bit of time,” he said. “We know there are some complaints out there. We have repurchased some vehicles to aid in our investigation.”

A preliminary investigation by NHTSA involves a variety of fact-finding activities. If the investigation merits further action, the case would then go through an engineering analysis before a recall would be issued.

Last week, Toyota announced it will recall 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles to replace a floor mat that could cause the accelerator to stick. The recall prompted a public apology from Toyota President Akio Toyoda.

Toyota faced a similar frame-rust problem last year involving about 750,000 Tacoma pickups.

In March 2008, the company agreed to buy back 1995 to 2000 model year Tacomas at 150 percent of the high Kelly Blue Book value.

Then in November 2008, the company issued a recall on 2001 to 2004 model year Tacomas. If there was no rust, Toyota automatically extended the warranty to 15 years with unlimited mileage. If there was rust, the frames were replaced at no cost to the consumer.