A US congressional committee has sharply criticised Toyota for misleading the public on the sufficiency of the recent recalls in preventing problems of sudden acceleration while, at home in Japan, transport minister Seiji Maehara also questioned if the Toyota had provided enough information to the government on safety issues, which have so far led to the recall of over 8m vehicles worldwide.
Pressure is mounting for the automaker to look more closely at the root causes behind defects in its vehicles as its officials face intense grilling on the recalls during US congressional hearings set to begin on Tuesday in Washington, Kyodo News reported.
In a rare conference call with the media, Toyota technicians sought to dispel doubts by providing results of experiments claimed to verify that the electronic throttle control system was not behind the ‘sudden acceleration’ problem.
But its testing results are unlikely to calm growing doubts over the role of electronics even after the automaker submitted more than 75,000 pages of internal company documents ahead of today’s hearing by the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Kyodo said.
”Our preliminary assessment is that Toyota resisted the possibility that electronic defects could cause safety concerns, relied on a flawed engineering report, and made misleading public statements concerning the adequacy of recent recalls to address the risk of sudden unintended acceleration,” committee chairman Henry Waxman wrote in an 11-page letter to Toyota.
Meanwhile, in an opinion piece published online by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last night, Toyota president Akio Toyoda, scheduled to testify at a separate congressional hearing on Wednesday, admitted the automaker needed to do ”much better” in terms of responding to safety issues.
“We are taking this experience to heart, making fundamental changes in the way our company does business,” he wrote. “I can assure you that our response will be comprehensive.
“Yet it is clear to me that in recent years we didn’t listen as carefully as we should – or respond as quickly as we must – to our customers’ concerns. While we investigated malfunctions in good faith, we focused too narrowly on technical issues without taking full account of how our customers use our vehicles.
“I recognise that we must do better—much better—in responding to safety issues.”
In Tokyo, government officials urged Toyota to provide a thorough explanation during the US hearings to regain badly eroded consumer confidence and remove user concerns on the safety of its vehicles.
”I think there is a high possibility that Toyota has not firmly passed down information to the government,” Maehara, the land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister, said at a news conference.
”Toyota is not just a Japanese company, but also an American firm,” Maehara said. ”I hope it will respond to all matters with a sincere manner with the awareness that it is also responsible for the US economy, livelihood and safety.”
“I pledge that Toyota will set a new standard for transparency and speed of response on safety issues,” Toyoda wrote for the WSJ. “We also will strive to lead on advanced safety and environmental technologies. And I will continue to personally visit our sales and manufacturing workplaces to reaffirm the Toyota commitment to excellent quality.
“I look forward to speaking directly to Congress and the American people tomorrow about the decisive actions Toyota is taking to make things right for our customers by building the safest vehicles in the world.”