Toyota president Akio Toyoda apologized for safety-related US recalls of his firm’s cars and trucks at a packed congressional hearing on Wednesday. The Toyoda testimony took place before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Mr. Toyoda, grandson of Toyota’s founder, said that he took “full responsibility” for the problems that led to accidents caused by stuck accelerators in Toyota vehicles. He noted that he is a trained test driver and that he had driven the models in question in an attempt to find out what was wrong.
“I will ensure that members of the management team actually drive the cars and that they check for themselves where the problem lies as well as its severity,” Toyoda said.
The Toyota chief pledged a number of changes to his company’s decisionmaking process for recalls. A step will be added to the process to ensure that top management puts customer safety first and that customer complaints from around the world reach headquarters in a timely manner, he said.
Going forward, Toyota will install an override in vehicle electronic systems that allow drivers to brake and stop even if accelerator pedals are malfunctioning, added Yoshimi Inaba, president of Toyota’s North American operations.
Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee generally treated the Japanese officials with respect at the much-anticipated hearing. But it became clear that the lawmakers had many questions that were unlikely to be answered during a session of only a few hours.
For instance, panel members pressed Transporation Secretary Ray LaHood about the nature of the “black box” movement recorders on Toyota cars and whether there is any equipment in the US that can read them.
Apologies from the firm’s chief did not seem likely to satisfy some of the company’s congressional critics.
“It’s one thing to say you’re sorry. It’s another thing when it seems time after time there are pronouncements that problems are being addressed, and over and over again they seem like they’re not being addressed,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) of Maryland.