Toyota Executives' Testimony Before Congress: No Discussion of Electronic Throttles

Toyota executives Yoshimi Inaba and Akio ToyodaReuters/Getty Images
Toyota executives Yoshimi Inaba and Akio Toyoda

In remarks prepared for Congress, two top Toyota executives pledge a renewed commitment to quality–but do not address what critics say may be the cause of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda says he takes full responsibility for any safety problems in Toyota vehicles, and pledges to renew the company's commitment to quality, but does not address the reasons for cases of sudden acceleration. In his remarks, Toyota President Yoshimi Inaba describes the recall efforts taking place across the United States, but does not discuss any potential problems with the electronic throttles in Toyotas.

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Both Toyoda and Inaba are scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform tomorrow in Washington. The hearing will examine the causes of sudden acceleration, and the government's response to the Toyota recalls. On February 16, Committee ranking member Rep. Darrell Issa, R.-Calif., sent written questions to Inaba requesting answers to the causes of sudden acceleration, and whether there might be a problem with the electronic throttle in some Toyotas.

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"Did Toyota ever suspect that the ETC [electronic throttle control] system could be responsible for this increase in reported incidence?" he asked. He also requested information on any tests Toyota might have performed to determine if the throttle was a "contributing factor" in sudden acceleration complaints.A spokesperson for Rep. Issa confirmed that Toyota has not yet provided an answer to this question.

"The underlying question still remains," said the spokesperson. "It will certainly be asked tomorrow."

Toyota had previously sent a letter to Committee Chairman Ed Towns, D.-N.Y., denying that the electronic throttle control was responsible for sudden acceleration.

Toyoda's remarks begin with an expression of concern that "our customers have started to feel uncertain about the safety of Toyota's vehicles." Toyoda then offers comment on three topics, "Toyota's basic philosophy regarding quality control, the cause of the recalls, and how we will manage quality control going forward."

When Toyoda explains what caused the recalls, however, he does not refer to mechanical defects in automobiles, however, but to a change in the culture at the car company. "I fear the pace at which we have grown may have been too quick," says Toyoda, and the company's traditional emphasis on quality lost.

Says Toyoda, "We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and out organization, and we should sincerely be mindful of that. I regret that this has resulted in the safety issues described in the recalls we face today, and I am deeply sorry for any accidents that Toyota drivers have experienced.

Toyota Congressional Hearing

Toyoda, grandson of the founder, notes that the company bears his name, and says he has personally placed the highest priority on quality since taking Toyota's helm last June. "For me, when the cars are damaged, it is as though I am as well," says Toyoda.

He pledges to add a step in the quality control process in which customers voices will be heard, and to consult with outside experts.

Inaba's remarks include a discussion of the brake override system that the company will install in all new North American vehicles by the end of 2010.

He then details the recalls covering five separate mechanical issues and more than 5.3 million vehicles and 14 models in the U.S. He expresses confidence that fixing floor mats and accelerator pedals will render vehicles safe to drive.

"In both of these cases," says Inaba, "Toyota thoroughly and carefully evaluated the technical aspects of these issues."

Inaba does not discuss assertions by outside experts that there may be a problem with the electronic throttles in Toyotas.

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