Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy Committee, expressed dissatisfaction with responses given by Toyota Motor Corp., during a special committee meeting last week. The meeting was part of an investigation into whether Toyota and its top executives, as well as the Obama and Bush administrations, have responded adequately to consumer complaints of sudden and unintended acceleration in some Toyota car and truck models.
The sudden acceleration events have led to 19 deaths since 2000, nearly twice as many deaths associated with similar events in vehicles made by other carmakers, according to data compiled by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Waxman has sent letters to both Yoshimi Inaba, president of Toyota Motor North America, and David Strickland, head of the NHTSA, giving them a deadline of February 12 to supply records dating back to 2000.
At issue with committee members is when Toyota representatives first learned about the serious safety defects and what actions the company took to investigate and resolve the hazards. Toyota publicly reacted to complaints of unintended acceleration in fall 2009 by issuing a warning to consumers to remove drivers side floor mats to address rare instances in which floor mats have trapped the gas pedals in certain Toyota and Lexus models. In January, the company issued a recall on eight Toyota models and suspended sales of the models involved saying excess friction on the gas pedals had caused the pedals to stick in rare instances. Both recalls affect more than eight million Toyota cars and trucks worldwide.