More Toyota Testimony Lost in Translation

Even Toyota's top American exec needed a do-over to explain his testimony in this week's Congressional hearings on sudden acceleration in Toyotas.

On Tuesday, Jim Lentz told the House Commerce Committee that fixing floor mats and "sticky" gas pedals would "not totally" solve alleged problems with sudden acceleration in Toyotas. It seemed to be the first admission by a company official that there might be some other explanation, like an electronic malfunction, for the thousands of incidents of sudden acceleration reported to federal officials.

Toyota has now released a 'clarification' of Lentz's testimony that says his statement does not reflect any change in the company's official stance.

"Contrary to some press reports," said the statement, "Jim Lentz's testimony to Congress did not reflect a change Toyota's position regarding whether its recalls effectively address unintended acceleration issues in certain Toyota and Lexus vehicles."

The statement also said the company is "confident that no problems exist with the electronic throttle control system" in Toyotas. "We have designed our electronic system with multiple fail-safe mechanisms to shut off or reduce engine power in the event of a system failure. We have done extensive testing of this system and have never found a malfunction that has caused unintended acceleration."

On Wednesday, New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo announced a deal with Toyota in which the automaker would provide free rental cars to New York drivers whose Toyotas had been recalled for fixes. During Wednesday's hearing of the House Oversight Committee, Toyota executive Yoshi Inaba was asked whether the company intended to offer that program to all Toyota drivers nationwide. Inaba seemed to say yes, leading some media outlets to report the program had been expanded from New York to the whole country.

Contacted by ABC News, Toyota spokesman John Hanson indicated that Inaba had not pledged to take the program nationwide.

Hanson said that Inaba's answer meant that many dealers nationwide are already offering similar dealers to customers. "They are accommodating the owners as best they can and many of things that are mentioned in the New York program are already being done by many dealers. That was his specific answer and he did not specify that there would be a national program that would mirror the New York program."

'Toyota's Car Is Safe'

After Wednesday's hearing, Toyota's top executive, Akio Toyoda, who had testified at the hearing with the help of a Japanese translator, held a forum with Toyota dealers, executives and employees at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Toyoda began his remarks to the crowd by saying the day's congressional hearings showed Toyota's commitment to quality and safety, then thanked "team members" in the audience and across the country. At one point, Toyoda choked back tears, saying, "Words don't express my gratitude."

He also said he was grateful for Wednesday's hearing because it allowed a dialogue that would let American customers see that Toyotas are safe, and that he hopes to keep up a good working relationship with the United States.

Toyoda took questions from the audience. When one Toyota employee asked, "What is the one thing you would say to President Obama?" Toyoda responded, "Toyota's car is safe."

On Thursday morning, Toyoda held a private 30-minute meeting with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. They were joined by Inaba, DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator David Strickland.

Afterwards, LaHood called the meeting "productive." In a statement, the automaker said that during the meeting Akio Toyoda had reaffirmed his intent to improve safety and improve communications.

ABC's Lisa Stark contributed to this article.

Click Here for the Blotter Homepage.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2

null
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...