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A growing number of people are complaining about their 2007 Toyota Tacomas.
Problems with the vehicle include a sudden acceleration, even when drivers said they pressed on the brakes.
Working with NBC station WSMV of Nashville, Tenn., KCRA 3's Lynsey Paulo found more than 20 complaints about the Tacoma have been filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a federal investigation into the problem is now under way.
Victor Downin of Foresthill has a fully loaded 2007 Tacoma and said he is afraid to drive it.
"I really don't like driving the car," Downin said. "It's uncomfortable."
Shortly after driving his Tacoma off the car lot, he noticed it had a surging problem.
"As you can tell, when I shift from fourth to fifth gear, the RPM stays up ... and it makes it lunge ... and other times when you decelerate coming off a freeway it will tend to want to keep going," Downin said.
Frank Visconi of Dover, Tenn., crashed his 2007 Toyota Tacoma after it suddenly accelerated.
"It brings back some real bad memories," Visconi said.
While traveling down a highway this summer, Visconi hit the brakes, but the truck did not slow down.
"I was stretched out as far as I could, and it just wouldn't stop," Visconi said.
The next thing he knew, he was in a rollover accident, with his truck crashing down an embankment.
"What was going through my mind was, 'I am dying today,'" Visconi said. "'I am going to die.'"
In Boston, Mass., another Tacoma owner claims her truck took off as if it had a mind of its own.
"I just accelerated like normal to pass someone and the truck just surged forward out of control," Alex Pratt said. "I was pressing the brake as hard as I could."
Former NHTSA director Joan Claybrook reviewed complaints received this year regarding Tacomas.
"I think what you have uncovered here is a safety defect of significant proportions," Claybrook said.
NHTSA has confirmed it will begin testing the Toyota Tacoma acceleration system.
"I am sure Toyota knows what the problem is and they don't want to deal with it," Claybrook said.
Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong said, "Once NHTSA notifies us of a preliminary investigation, we will submit all in-house data. It's an open book."
Downin tried to work directly with the local Toyota dealership to solve his problem.
"I come back the next day, and they say there is nothing they can do with it, that's just the way it is designed (to) operate," Downin said.
Downin took his truck to three different Toyota dealerships for an inspection. All three told Downin his Tacoma was operating as designed.
"I don't know of anybody else that has to live with buying something new and people telling them ... it malfunctions but you have to get used to it," Downin said.
Downin took his complaints to the California Dispute Settlement Program but said he did not get anywhere.
"Both the Toyota man and the arbitrator saw the problem and realized it was there," Downin said.
Again, a surging problem was noted but deemed normal operating procedure.
A document from the CDSP said, "... there was a slight jerking motion felt when the transmission engaged into fifth gear."
"There was no indication the vehicle was out of control," Downin said. "I just gave up. I could see where I was fighting a losing battle."
Downin filed a report with NHTSA.
"I think the problem should be known so other people don't get stuck the way I am," Downin added.
Downin is now waiting for results from the NHTSA investigation.
A potentially dangerous problem has been found with some 2007 Toyota Tacoma trucks, but one local owner has had trouble getting the automaker to address the problem, according to a Call 3 consumer investigation conducted in conjunction with WSMV TV in Nashville, Tenn.
Victor Downin of Foresthill is one of 20 truck owners who have filed complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
All said their trucks suddenly accelerate or lurch forward while stopped.
"If you are in severe traffic, your car isn't going to slow down," Downin said. "It's going to be a real problem not rear-ending another car."
Downin tried to work with his Toyota dealership first to get the problem corrected or to get Toyota to buy back the truck under California's lemon law.
He said Toyota told him to take it to three different dealerships for inspection. All three noted no problem.
Downin then headed to the California Arbitration Certification Program, a third-party arbitration process approved by the Department of Consumer Affairs and sponsored by the manufacturers.
"What that means to the consumer is they can get a guarantee that the arbitrators are acting with a certain code of conduct, a certain level of expectation that they will be fair and impartial," said Russ Heimerich of the Department of Consumer Affairs.
"If they can interact with the manufacturer through a third party who's going to be fair and objective and neutral, we think that's probably just as successful an outcome," Heimerich added.
Rosemary Shahan with Consumers for Auto Safety and Reliability, a consumer group, said arbitration may work for some consumers who fear the legal system.
But she cautioned that consumers usually do not win.
Last year there were 2,049 consumer requests for arbitration. Consumers won repair in 17 percent of cases. Consumer won return or restitution 15 percent of the time. But in 60 percent of cases, consumers got nothing.
"It's not as impartial as it should be, and it's not the final word," Shahan said.
"We think it serves a purpose," Heimerich said. "The idea is to make the consumer whole. Even if it's 50 or 60 percent success rate, that's 50 to 70 percent of vehicles that are not going to court."
Downin's arbitration was not successful.
The arbitrator said there was not enough evidence to support Downin's complaint.
Heimerich said Downin could try to get another warranty repair and go through arbitration again, or take his claim to court.
Shahan said sometimes all it takes is a letter from an attorney to get a manufacturer to realize it is going to have to buy back the vehicle.
Downin does not plan to contact an attorney.
He is waiting for the outcome of a National Highway Traffic Administration investigation into the surging problem.
Toyota has said it was unaware of complaints but will fully cooperate with federal investigators if asked to do so.