Toyota President Agrees to Testify Before Congressional Panel

The president of Toyota has agreed to testify before a congressional committee next week after all. Akio Toyoda said yesterday he would accept an invitation to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on February 24.

Just a day earlier, Toyoda – the grandson of Toyota’s founder – said he would not be attending the hearing. At that time, Toyoda had said North American president, Yoshimi Inaba, would be a better choice to testify before Congress. But his stance drew criticism, and prompted Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the committee, to issue Toyoda an invitation urging him to attend. As we reported last week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the committee’s ranking Republican, threatened to subpoena Toyoda to testify before the committee.

Toyoda will answer questions from the committee regarding Toyota’s recent safety issues and recalls. Since September, Toyota has recalled nearly 8 million vehicles worldwide for issues involving unintended acceleration and faulty brakes. The recalls have seriously injured Toyota’s long-standing reputation for quality and reliability.

North American president Inaba and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood are also expected to testify at next week’s hearing.

Meanwhile, various media outlets are reporting that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has also issued a subpoena for documents held by Dimitrios Biller, a former top attorney for Toyota North America. Biller, who worked for Toyota from 2003 to 2007, has claimed that Toyota hid data from the government and the public that would have allowed liability cases to go forward against it, the Washington Post said.

According to the Post, Biller was prevented this month from releasing the documents by a federal arbitrator who agreed with Toyota that they were privileged. However, a congressional subpoena overrides the arbitrator’s injunction.

The committee’s subpoena is demanding “all documents relating to Toyota motor vehicle safety and Toyota’s handling of alleged motor vehicle defects and related litigation” that are held by Biller, the Post said.

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