|Published:||May 20, 2010 11:13 AM EDT|
|Updated:||May 20, 2010 11:13 AM EDT|
WASHINGTON (AP) - Toyota's top U.S. sales executive plans to
tell Congress that the automaker believes faulty electronics are
not to blame for unintended accelerations in its vehicles.
Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., will tell
lawmakers Thursday that the company "remains confident" that
electronics did not cause the problems that led to more than 8
million recalled vehicles, according to excerpts of his testimony
provided by Toyota.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing
Thursday to review complaints of electronic problems in Toyotas.
Safety groups have said electronics could be the culprit for the
safety issues. The government and Congress is investigating.
Toyota, the world's largest automaker, has paid a record $16.4
million fine for a slow response to an accelerator pedal recall and
faces hundreds of state and federal lawsuits. The Transportation
Department could assess more penalties if it finds evidence the
company delayed other recalls.
Toyota's safety concerns have led to the first major review of
U.S. auto safety laws in Congress since the large tire recalls by
Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. in 2000.
A Senate committee on Wednesday heard from David Strickland, the
head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, along
with automakers and safety groups.
Strickland said in written testimony that documents provided by
Toyota are so numerous that NHTSA is working with the Justice
Department to categorize and analyze the documents. "That task
will take some time," he said.
The Senate legislation would require auto manufacturers to meet
new standards related to brake override systems, vehicle black
boxes and auto electronics. It would give NHTSA the power to order
an immediate recall if it finds an "imminent hazard of death or
Strickland raised concerns about the Senate version of the bill,
saying it stops short of granting NHTSA the full authority to issue
a prompt recall. A similar version in the House gives the agency
He also said NHTSA may need more time and flexibility to develop
the safety standards, a complaint echoed by automakers who say the
deadlines are too tight.
Michael Stanton, president of the Association of International
Automobile Manufacturers, said the deadlines were "unreasonably
short" and automakers needed enough time to meet new standards.
Toyota has sought to beef up its safety reviews following the
recall crisis. In his update to lawmakers, Lentz will note that
dealers have fixed nearly 3.5 million vehicles under the recall.
The company, meanwhile, has completed more than 600 onsite
vehicle inspections while technicians at dealerships have conducted
another 1,400 inspections. Toyota has provided the House committee
investigating the problem with more than 700 technical reports.
"Significantly, none of these investigations have found that
our Electronic Throttle Control System with intelligence, or
ETCS-i, was the cause," Lentz said in prepared remarks.
Toyota hired consulting firm Exponent Inc. to review the
electronics of its vehicles. The firm has completed more than
11,000 hours of testing and analysis of the electronic system and
the automaker intends to publish the firm findings regardless of
Exponent has tried to counter testimony by an Illinois
engineering professor at a February congressional hearing that he
recreated sudden acceleration in a Toyota Tundra by
short-circuiting the electronics behind the gas pedal - without
triggering any trouble codes in the truck's computer.