Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda said Thursday that he would be coming to Washington to testify before Congress about sudden acceleration in Toyotas.
Earlier Thursday, Rep. Ed Towns, D.-N.Y., the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, had extended a formal invitation to Toyoda to testify next Wednesday at a hearing on Toyota gas pedals.
In a statement posted on the Toyota web site, Toyoda said yes. ""I have received Congressman Towns' invitation to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on February 24," said Toyoda, "and I accept. I look forward to speaking directly with Congress and the American people."
A Toyota spokesperson said the committee's request arrived in Japan in the middle of the night Japan time. Toyoda saw the request in the morning and promptly accepted. The spokesperson did not rule out the possibility that Toyoda would have other meetings while in Washington for the hearing.
Despite mounting pressure in the US and repeated questions at a Wednesday press conference at Toyota headquarters in Japan, Toyoda said he would travel to the US but had no plans to attend the congressional hearings. Toyoda did indicate, however, that he would consider appearing before Congress if he received a formal invitation.
In a letter to Toyoda, Rep. Towns requested his presence at the hearing because of "widespread public concern regarding reports of sudden acceleration in Toyota motor vehicles."
"To help clarify this situation," wrote Towns, "I am inviting you to testify." Towns asked for a response to the invitation by Friday, Feb. 19, at 5 p.m.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R.-Calif., ranking minority member of the committee, had said he hoped Toyoda would "seize the opportunity" to explain how he plans to "move Toyota forward."
Issa Willing to Subpoena Toyoda
Last week, Rep. Issa had said he was willing to subpoena Toyoda to compel him to appear before the committee.
"If we are not receiving the cooperation and transparency this Committee and the American people are demanding from Toyota, I would fully support the issuance of a subpoena," said Issa. "Whether it is for a microprocessor engineer or the top executive, we have a duty to determine what Toyota knew, when they knew it and if they met their full obligation of disclosure to U.S. regulators and the American people."
The hearing of the House Oversight Committee, scheduled for next Wednesday, Feb. 24, is entitled "Toyota Gas Pedals: Is the Public at Risk?" The hearing will look into the causes of random acceleration in Toyotas, and the federal response to Toyota's recalls.