Stupid is as stupid does. Dexcool, gaskets, etc., etc. Toyota follows
the GM example. The Feds protecting their investment.
Toyota: Recalls Won't Totally Fix Gas Pedal Issues
WASHINGTON The president of Toyota's U.S. operations acknowledged to
skeptical lawmakers on Tuesday that the company's recalls of millions of
its cars may "not totally" solve the problem of sudden and dangerous
"We are vigilant and we continue to look for potential causes," Toyota's
James Lentz told a congressional panel. However, he repeated his
company's position that unexpected acceleration in some of the company's
most popular cars and trucks was caused by one of two problems
misplaced floor mats and sticking accelerator pedals.
He insisted electronic systems connected to the gas pedal and fuel line
did not contribute to the problem, drawing sharp criticism from
lawmakers who said such a possibility should be further explored and
from a tearful woman driver who could not stop her runaway Lexus.
"Shame on you, Toyota," Rhonda Smith, of Sevierville, Tenn., said at a
congressional hearing. Then she added a second "shame on you" directed
at federal highway safety regulators.
Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton cautioned his colleagues early in the
hearing against conducting a "witch hunt" and said "We don't want to
just assume automatically that Toyota has done something wrong and has
tried to cover it up." But midway through Lentz's testimony, Barton said
of Toyota's investigation of the problems: "In my opinion, it's a sham."
Lentz said the company had not completely ruled out an electronics
malfunction and was still investigating causes of the sudden
acceleration. Still, "We have not found a malfunction" in the
electronics of any of the cars at issue, he said.
As to Smith's harrowing story, "I'm embarrassed for what happened,"
Lentz said. "I want her and her husband to feel safe about driving our
products," Lentz said.
Three congressional panels are investigating Toyota's problems, which
affect a huge number of Americans. Toyota has recalled some 8.5 million
vehicles worldwide more than 6 million in the United States since
last fall because of unintended acceleration problems in multiple models
and braking issues in the Prius hybrid. It is also investigating
steering concerns in Corollas. People with Toyotas have complained of
their vehicles speeding out of control despite efforts to slow down,
sometimes resulting in deadly crashes. The government has received
complaints of 34 deaths linked to sudden acceleration of Toyota vehicles
Lentz, who choked up while discussing the death of his own brother more
than 20 years ago in a car accident, said he understood the pain.
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"I know what those families go through," he said.
Lentz has said in the past that he was confident Toyota's fixes on the
recalled vehicles would correct the problems.
But when pressed by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman,
D-Calif., on whether the two recalls Toyota put in place to deal with
the issue would completely solve it, Lentz replied: "Not totally."
Still, he said chances of unintended accelerations were "very, very
slim" once the recall was complete. Lentz also said Toyota was putting
in new brakes that can override the gas pedal on almost all of its new
vehicles and a majority of its vehicles already on the road.
Meanwhile, Toyota president Akio Toyoda, who will testify before a
separate panel on Wednesday, said he took "full responsibility" for the
uncertainty felt by Toyota owners and offered his condolences to a San
Diego, Calif., family who were killed in late August, reigniting
interest in the problems.
"I will do everything in my power to ensure that such a tragedy never
happens again," Toyoda said in prepared testimony for Wednesday's
hearing to the House Government Oversight Committee. "My name is on
every car. You have my personal commitment that Toyota will work
vigorously and unceasingly to restore the trust of our customers."
Lawmakers heard a brief, but riveting, description from Smith, the
Tennessee woman whose Toyota-made Lexus suddenly zoomed to 100 miles per
hour as she tried to get it to stop shifting to neutral, trying to
throw the car into reverse and hitting the emergency brake. Finally, her
car slowed enough that she was able to pull it off the road onto the
median and turn off the engine.
Fighting back tears, she described her nightmare ride of October 2006,
calling it "a near death experience."
"After six miles, God intervened" and slowed the car, she said. She
added that it took a long time for Toyota to respond to her complaints.
In an often contentious full day of testimony, lawmakers returned again
and again to the question of whether electronic malfunctions may have
contributed to the speeding cars.
"We are confident that no problems exist with the electric throttle
control system in our vehicles," Lentz said. He cited "fail-safe
mechanisms" in the cars that were designed to shut off or reduce engine
power "in the event of a system failure."
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the panel in prepared testimony
that possible electronics problems were being looked into by his agency.
He said the company's recalls were important steps but "we don't
maintain that they answer every question."
Toyota hired a consulting firm to analyze whether electronic problems
could cause unintended acceleration. The firm, Exponent Inc., found no
link between the two. But committee investigators said the testing
studied only a small number of vehicles
Tracking down an electrical problem can be far more difficult, expensive
and time-consuming than finding a mechanical problem. Electrical
problems can have more than one source, and they can come from inside or
outside the car. Mechanical problems often leave clues such as physical
damage, where electronic troubles can be hidden in software or leave no
trace at all.
House investigators who reviewed Toyota's customer call database found
that 70 percent of the complaints of sudden acceleration were for
vehicles that are not subject to the recalls over floor mats or sticky
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the subcommittee, said Toyota
"misled the American public by saying that they and other independent
sources had thoroughly analyzed the electronics systems and eliminated
electronics as a possible cause of sudden unintended acceleration when,
in fact, the only such review was a flawed study conducted by a company
retained by Toyota's lawyers."
Lentz apologized anew for the company's slow handling of problems. "We
have not lived up to the high standards our customers and the public
have come to expect from Toyota," he said.
"Put simply, it has taken us too long to come to grips with a rare but
serious set of safety issues, despite all of our good faith efforts,"
said Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales
Separately, among hundreds of Toyota dealers lobbying members of
Congress Tuesday, there seemed to be widespread rancor toward a federal
government they view as picking on the automaker, at least in part
because of the government's investment of billions of dollars in General
Motors and Chrysler.
"That's hard for me as a citizen to understand why my tax dollars are
going in that direction," Paul Atkinson, a Houston-area Toyota dealer,
said at a news conference that also served as a pep rally for the
visiting dealers. "To compete with the government as an individual
entrepreneur is pretty tough."