Congress seeks Toyota recall documents, hearing set

By John Crawley

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – Congressional investigators sought e-mails and other documents from Toyota Motor Corp and U.S. safety regulators about the automaker’s recall of millions of vehicles due to sudden acceleration.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee also announced on Thursday that it would hold a hearing on the matter February 25.

It would be the first congressional review of its kind since the same committee investigated defective Firestone tires linked to deadly Ford Motor Co rollovers in 2001.

“Like many consumers, I am concerned by the seriousness and scope of Toyota’s recent recall announcements,” the panel’s chairman, Henry Waxman, said in a statement.

U.S. safety figures show sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles have led to 19 deaths over the past decade, the committee said. That figure is nearly twice the number of fatalities associated with similar problems in cars made by all other manufacturers.

“I look forward to learning more about the steps Toyota is taking to address safety defects, and I hope that the automaker will continue to cooperate with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to get unsafe vehicles off our roads,” Waxman said.

Waxman said the hearing would address how quickly and effectively Toyota and regulators responded to consumer complaints about the safety of recalled vehicles.

Toyota has issued a string of recalls covering nearly 6 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles for sudden acceleration problems linked to accelerator pedals sticking or floormats getting caught in the accelerator.

Certain popular models, including the top-selling Corolla and Camry, have been caught up in the recalls that began last year and rank among the biggest in U.S. history.

According to two people briefed on talks with regulators, Toyota is consulting with U.S. officials on a fix that would allow it to avoid the more costly option of shipping brand new accelerators for over 2 million vehicles.

The proposed remedy under discussion with U.S. officials would involve a “spacer” or “shim” that would increase the tension in the accelerator and help prevent sticking, the sources said.

Toyota pledged its full cooperation with the congressional committee.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, whose department includes NHTSA, told reporters on Thursday he is satisfied with Toyota’s response so far.

“I have no criticism of Toyota on this. They are following the law,” LaHood said of a federal requirement to halt vehicle sales in cases of certain defects.

Waxman and Michigan Representative Bart Stupak, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee, sent letters on Thursday to Toyota North American President Yoshimi Inaba and NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, who has just recently assumed his post.

They requested e-mail, other communications and documents, particularly concerning when both Toyota and NHTSA first learned about potential safety defects related to sudden acceleration and what they did about it.

In addition, the committee sought information concerning NHTSA’s investigation of consumer complaints and Toyota’s response to those complaints.

Stock Market Basics

(Reporting by John Crawley; Additional reporting by Detroit newsroom; editing by Tim Dobbyn)

Congress seeks Toyota recall documents, hearing set