In a letter to Congress, Toyota strongly denied any "problems with the electronics of its vehicles" and said an outside engineering firm had cleared its electronic throttle control system of any problems and that the system "performed as designed."
Toyota's letter was in response to an inquiry by Reps. Edolphus Towns and Darrell Issa of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has scheduled a Feb. 24 hearing that will look into the sudden acceleration problems that have plagued Toyota and led to huge recalls of its vehicles.
In the letter, Toyota revealed that it had retained an outside engineering firm called Exponent to examine its vehicles for sudden acceleration problems and that testing did not show any problems despite "concerted efforts to induce unwanted acceleration." Toyota also said its electronic throttle control has a "fail safe" system that would shut off or slow down the throttle "in the event of a system failure."
Toyota has initiated huge recalls of its vehicles, stating that either entrapped floor mats or sticky gas pedals are responsible for any cases of sudden acceleration. However, safety experts have suggested that there could be a problem or glitch with the vehicles' electronic computer which controls acceleration.
Toyota also responded to an inquiry over 100 complaints of sudden acceleration by Toyota Tacoma owners since 2007, and why many of the cases could not be attributed to either floor mats or sticky gas pedals.
While acknowledging that the complaint rate for the Tacoma since 2005 was "higher than on most other Toyota models," Toyota said there was no "vehicle-based cause for the customer complaints." Instead the company blamed factors such as "engine idle speed" issues and "cruise control downshifting behavior."
The letter to Reps. Towns and Issa was signed not by a Toyota official, but by an attorney, Theodore Hester of the Washington, D.C., law firm King & Spalding. According to the firm's Web site, Hester specializes in "representing clients in oversight investigations and hearings being conducted by congressional committees."
Rep. Issa, R.-Calif., ranking minority member of the Oversight Committee, said Wednesday that he would ask Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda to meet with Congress and will request that committee chairman Towns, D.-N.Y., also invite Toyoda to the Feb. 24 hearing.
In a statement, Issa said the requested meeting was due to "the number of outstanding questions surrounding Toyota's relationship with U.S. regulators."
"I would think that Mr. Toyoda would be receptive to the opportunity to meet with policymakers and there certainly is widespread interest from Capitol Hill and the American people to hear directly from him," Issa said.
On Thursday, a Japanese news agency reported that Toyoda had delayed a planned trip to the U.S. until early March, which would be after the hearing. The report said that Toyoda would visit Washington and meet with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and other government officials.
After Toyoda changed his plans, Issa said he was willing to issue a subpoena to compel Toyoda to appear before his committee.