Lentz asserted that the throttle has been subjected to comprehensive testing for more than a decade "without a single unintended acceleration event," and said that the outside firm Exponent has conducted 11,000 hours of testing of the throttle. "Its comprehensive evaluation is ongoing."
Waxman submitted documents showing that the contract between Toyota and Exponent is for "engineering consulting services related to class actions filed against Toyota." "Nowhere in this document," said Waxman, "do Toyota's lawyers ask Exponent to conduct a 'comprehensive' examination of sudden unintended acceleration."
Waxman also said that when the Committee interviewed Dr. Shukri Souhi, the Exponent engineer overseeing work for Toyota, "what we learned was astonishing." According to Waxman, Exponent has no written timeline, workplan or specifications for testing.
"We asked Dr. Souri what could explain this remarkable lack of documentation," said Waxman. "He explained that writing down what Exponent does would 'limit the creativity' of the engineers working on the project."
Waxman called this reputed claim "preposterous," and said a former Exponent engineer consulted by the Committee suggested the reason Exponent "doesn't write anything down is to avoid creating documents that might have to be produced in lawsuits."
While defending Exponent's credentials, Lentz noted that just this week his company decided that Exponent will no longer report to Toyota's product liability attorneys. According to Lentz, Exponent will report directly to Toyota's quality officer in North America, Steve St. Angelo.
NHTSA chief Strickland testified at the hearing that NHTSA had not yet decided whether to levy a civil penalty against Toyota because of the timing of its recall of vehicles with "sticky" gas pedals. Strickland also said that so far NHTSA has not seen any evidence of electronic throttle problems that could account for incidents of sudden acceleration.