Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Congress Tuesday that his agency would follow up on the alleged electronic problem in Toyotas discovered by auto expert Dr. Dave Gilbert, a possible design flaw first revealed by ABC News Monday.
"You have my 100 percent commitment," said LaHood when asked by Rep. Bart Stupak if he would be following up with Gilbert, an assistant professor of auto technology at Southern Illinois University who was called to testify before Congress Tuesday after the ABC News report.
"We are going to get into the weeds on the electronics," said LaHood. "We are going to look at the Southern Illinois University data."
Both Gilbert and LaHood were testifying before a hearing of the House Commerce Committee.
According to Gilbert, flaw in the design of Toyota's electronic acceleration system prevents the car's onboard computer from detecting and stopping certain short circuits that can trigger sudden speed surges.
As a result, Gilbert told ABC News, the Toyota computers will not record an error code, nor will they activate the "fail safe" system designed to shut down the power and put the car in the "limp home" mode.
"This is a dangerous condition, it is not fail safe," said Gilbert.
Lentz had previously maintained the massive recalls had solved the problem.
Lentz's admission came after Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman, D.-Calif., asked him about the fact that 70 percent of customer complaints to Toyota about sudden acceleration involved cars that were not included in the recalls.
Waxman then asked Lentz whether or not Toyota's two major recalls to fix sudden acceleration would solve the problem. "Do you believe that the recall on the carpet changes [floor mats] and the re
"Not totally," answered Lentz.
"Why haven't you looked at the possibility of the electronics and the computer system being a possible fault?" asked Waxman.
"We have looked into the electronics, and based on the testing that we've done in Japan and now with [private research firm] Exponent," said Lentz, "we've not found a malfunction. It doesn't mean that we stop."
In his opening statement, Lentz again apologized for the safety issues that have led to a shutdown of manufacturing and sales of more than half of its models, including the Camry and Corolla.
"We've not lived up to our standards," Lentz said.
'If There Is A Problem, We Want to Find It'
Earlier, the Congressional panel had heard from Dr. Gilbert, who demonstrated for ABC News what he termed a "design flaw" in the Toyota electronics that prevented the car's computer from detecting a short circuit that could cause sudden acceleration.
A Congressman from a district where Toyota Camrys are built, Rep. Steve Buyer, R.-Ind., questioned Gilbert about payments for the test he received from safety advocate Sean Kane, who also testified before the committee.
Gilbert received $1,800 and equipment worth $4,000, according to Kane. Kane also told the panel that his private safety research company, Safety Research & Analysis, had received "sponsorship" from plaintiffs' lawyers for an earlier report on sudden acceleration.
Lentz also testified that on Monday night Toyota's engineers had replicated the electronic problem demonstrated to ABC News by Dr. Gilbert – he said they were able to cause a short circuit without triggering an error code.
"Toyota was able to produce the same conditions without triggering an error, is that correct?" asked Rep. Diana DeGette, D.-Colo.
"Yes," answered Lentz.
"When was that done?" asked Rep. DeGette.
"In the wee hours of the night," answered Lentz.
DeGette asked if Lentz wanted to amend his opening statement, in which he said Toyota had found no electronic issues after extensive testing. Lentz said he did not, and also tesitifed that Exponent, which conducted the tests for Toyota, was able to replicate the same phenomenon described by Gilbert in a non-Toyota vehicle.
In response to a question from Rep. Mike Doyle, D.-Pa., about replicating Gilbert's research, Lentz said he was "not sure about his testing paradigm," but said Toyota welcomed "anyone that can find any issues with our electronics."
"If there is a problem, we want to find it, and we want to fix it," said Lentz.
"I just think that before you leave Washington, you ought to get this guy's phone number," said Doyle.
Lisa Chinn and Brett Hovell contributed to this story.