Toyota Accused Of Deception

Compounding the ongoing, headline-making news with which Toyota has been facing, the world’s largest auto maker is being accused of deception, this time by Democratic lawmakers. According to FreeP, the beleaguered auto maker was accused of misleading the public and allowing legal worries to overshadow resolutions to problems with sudden acceleration in some of its vehicles.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, run by U.S. Representative Bart Stupak (Democrat-Menominee) faulted Toyota for how it handled its “damage control” and that its collaboration with Exponent—an engineering firm located in California—did not provide sufficient proof that the sudden acceleration issue was thoroughly investigated, said FreeP. “We don’t know whether electronics plays a role in sudden unintended acceleration and Toyota doesn’t either,” Stupak said, quoted FreeP. Exponent is the external engineering firm working with Toyota on determining the cause of the thousands of sudden acceleration problems.

Toyota maintains that it has been conducting a continuous probe, that it will publicize the results, and that it has repaired 3.5 million vehicles, to date, said FreeP.

Meanwhile, according to U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (Democrat-California) when investigators spoke with Exponent, asking for its copies of the work conducted on the Toyota investigation, Exponent said that it had “little to no documents on its Toyota experiments,” said FreeP. “Toyota has repeatedly told the public that it has conducted extensive testing of its vehicles for electronic defects…. We can find no basis for these assertions. Toyota’s assertions may be good public relations, but they don’t appear to be true,” said Waxman, quoted FreeP.

Exponent was hired by Toyota to investigate David Gilbert’s work replicating the sudden acceleration problem in Toyota vehicles. Gilbert, a professor at Southern Illinois University, was able to recreate the problem without the warning lights ever being engaged, said FreeP.

Toyota U.S. sales chief Jim Lentz told the subcommittee that Toyota believed its electronics were not at fault and also praised the carmaker’s plans to build brake-override systems into its new models by year end 2010, said FreeP. Under questioning by Waxman Lentz refused to describe the move as a safety measure and simply said it was meant to improve “consumer confidence … I think for some people it could be safety … I can’t speak for all consumers … I can’t say 100% it’s necessarily going to make a car safer,” quoted FreeP.

When asked why Toyota was not putting the new brakes system on all computer-assisted models, Lentz said that move would present an enormous technical undertaking that would involve reengineering dozens of vehicle models, reported FreeP.

This week we wrote that Toyota was preparing for another vehicle recall. This time, 11,500 Lexus vehicles are being recalled for steering problems. Most recently we wrote about news that the auto giant allegedly delayed another recall for nearly one year.

Toyota has been plagued with problems surrounding sticky pedals and, among other problems, has been the subject of months of recalls and probes, an historic NHTSA fine, and a Congressional probe.

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