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Toyota Motor Corp. asked ABC News on Thursday to retract and apologize for an “irresponsible” report it aired last month suggesting electronics as the cause of sudden acceleration in its cars.

The world’s largest automaker is working to repair its reputation after recalling about 8.5 million vehicles worldwide to fix defects linked to bursts of speed.

Toyota has said mechanical flaws, such as accelerators that stick or snag on floor mats, are at fault in sudden acceleration, with no evidence of failures in the electronic-control systems of its cars and trucks. An ABC News report on Feb. 22 challenged that assumption.

The network owned by Walt Disney Co. “relentlessly promoted” a view that electronics in Toyota and Lexus models were a cause of sudden-acceleration complaints, without providing “credible scientific evidence,” Christopher Reynolds, Toyota’s U.S. general counsel, said in a March 11 letter to ABC News President David Westin.

“Toyota deserves a public retraction and formal apology from ABC News for your irresponsible broadcast,” Reynolds said in the four-page letter, reported first by the Web site gawker.com.

In a letter to Toyota, ABC News said it was “legitimate and newsworthy” to report the results of Southern Illinois University professor David Gilbert’s tests on vehicles made by Toyota.

Toyota had told reporters March 8 that the test, featured in the broadcast, altered a circuit in a way that couldn’t occur in everyday driving, so it couldn’t be used as evidence of sudden acceleration.

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