News Briefs: March 2, 2012

Here's what we have our eye on today:

  • February's auto sales jumped 16% over February 2011, hitting a seasonally adjusted rate of 15.1 million vehicles — the highest annualized rate since February 2008, Automotive News reports. See our report on how the top cars and automakers fared. Among smaller players, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover (both owned by Indian automaker Tata) and Volkswagen Group improved 30% or more.
  • CNN aired an eight-minute segment on Thursday night's "Anderson Cooper 360" about a 2006 internal memo from Toyota that described unintended acceleration in two development models related to adaptive cruise control. The Japanese memo, translated by CNN three separate times into English, describes system tests with adaptive cruise control for the Toyota Tundra and Lexus LS 460. The document wasn't released to the federal government during a 2010 investigation that concluded sticky accelerator pedals, driver error and floormats were to blame for a rash of unintended acceleration cases. CNN is reviving the prospect that electronic defects causing the acceleration, something Toyota denies.
  • Toyota responded to the report, saying the acceleration happened as a result of a stress test on prototypes to simulate a failed accelerator sensor, and that the adaptive cruise control was "preparing to resume its preset speed" — not accelerate suddenly, as one CNN translation alleged. Because of that, and the fact that other systems reacted "within milliseconds" to prevent any sustained acceleration, Toyota says it did not share the document with federal investigators. The automaker said the stress-test conditions during prototype testing have "never existed in any vehicle ever produced or sold."
  • Bloomberg News reports the EPA has certified Ford's upcoming Focus Electric to offer the gas mileage equivalent of 105 MPGe — beating the Nissan Leaf (99 MPGe) and Chevrolet Volt (94 MPGe) but falling short of Mitsubishi's i-MiEV (112 MPGe). The EPA rates the Focus Electric at 110 MPGe in the city and 99 MPGe on the highway. The Focus Electric goes on sale later this year with a starting price of $39,995; it's also eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500.

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