The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will decide whether to open a full-fledged investigation into possible acceleration problems with the Honda Accord gas-electric hybrid, according to documents posted on the federal agency's website Monday.
A woman, who was not identified, filed a complaint seeking an investigation and recall of the 2005 Accord Hybrid after a crash in July 2005 that left her injured and a passenger dead. Several people in other cars were injured, the documents said.
About 25,000 vehicles would be affected by an investigation, NHTSA said.
The woman told the agency that her car crashed into oncoming traffic after she drove over rumble strips on the side of a highway. The vehicle first lost braking power, and then the car accelerated on its own, the woman said.
NHTSA said it will decide whether or not to investigate the Accord Hybrid for possible recall due to problems with antilock brake controls.
NHTSA's documents said the woman found 22 similar complaints in NHTSA's database involving Accord and Civic hybrids, although it was unclear if the Civic Hybrid would be included in NHTSA's inquiry. The similar incidents involved inadequate brake performance while driving over uneven surfaces, the documents said.
The woman reported that she was disabled in the crash, but the documents did not state where it occurred.
Honda said in a statement issued late Monday that it's too early to comment on the complaint. Its conventional and hybrid cars have redundant braking systems, and Honda has a relatively low number of unintended acceleration complaints, the statement said.
HTSA said in an e-mailed statement that the woman complained of brake failure in the case but did not tell NHTSA about the crash until May 8, 2010, almost five years after it occurred. The agency has not yet verified the woman's contention that there are 22 related complaints, the statement said.
"During our review of the defect petition, we will conduct an analysis of this matter and decide if the petition should be granted and an investigation opened. At that time, we will have a much more complete assessment of the number of related complaints and whether other Honda models have a potential defect," the statement said.
NHTSA, the statement said, takes the frequency of complaints and severity of incidents into account when it decides whether to open an investigation. The agency, she wrote, gets about 30,000 complaints per year and looks for patterns that could indicate defects or present serious risks of injury.
Honda Motor Co.'s main rival, Toyota Motor Corp., has been plagued with a series of unintended acceleration complaints that have resulted in the recall of more than 10 million vehicles worldwide over the last year. Most of the recalls were due to floor mats that snagged gas pedals or accelerators that stuck. Hundreds of lawsuits were filed against Toyota after it began issuing the recalls.