LONDON (Kyodo) -- Toyota's British arm said Wednesday it received reports of problems with "stiff" gas pedals in November 2008, a year before the more serious faults appeared with "sticking" accelerators.
In a statement, Toyota (GB) PLC said it had a "very small number of reports of a stiff pedal action" in the winter of 2008, but there was no evidence of "sticking" and the company did not judge it to be a safety issue. Reports of stiff pedals were reduced to virtually zero from March 2009.
The firm said action was taken to improve the feel of the pedal and this resulted in "revised components" being fitted to vehicles built from late 2009.
Toyota (GB) first became aware of sticking gas pedals in November 2009 at around the same time that the problem became apparent in other countries.
The British media carried stories Wednesday detailing how Toyota owners had suffered with accelerator pedals sticking in the depressed position.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents called on Toyota to launch an immediate inquiry into why the potentially serious fault was not discovered earlier.
One driver told The Guardian newspaper how her accelerator pedal stuck in October while on a main road but fortunately she managed to free it in time to avoid an accident.
Another Toyota owner is reported to have driven for 4 kilometers at a speed of 96 km per hour while his pedal was stuck. He eventually managed to slow down and was not injured.
According to The Times, Toyota could be liable for prosecution in Britain if it can be proved that the car parts were faulty and the company did not act quickly enough to recall defective cars.
The paper reported that U.K. law firm Moore Blatch is now handling two Toyota cases where faulty pedals led to a head injury and financial loss resulting from the inability to use a vehicle.
Across Europe, Toyota has reported 26 cases of accelerator pedal incidents, but there have been no accidents.
It is thought that as many as 1.71 million cars will have to be recalled by Toyota in Europe as of Tuesday following the discovery of the defect in the U.S.-manufactured gas pedals.
The revelation has resulted in some negative coverage for the company in Britain with commentators wondering why the European recall was made several days after that in the United States.
On Jan. 21, the company issued a recall for vehicles in the United States following a number of cases where the accelerator pedals had got stuck in a partially depressed position or returned slowly when released.
It is thought the recall could involve up to 4.45 million units worldwide.
Toyota has apologized for the defect and has now developed a metal insert to remedy the problem. Work will soon start on repairing all the vehicles.