The U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, said during a House Appropriations panel hearing, owners of Toyotas, especially those recalled should stop park them and take them to their dealers to be repaired. We think that's great advice!
LaHood said his advice was to “stop driving it, take it to a Toyota dealer because they believe they have a fix for it.” At the time, Toyota had thought they had found a fix for it.
“We need to fix the problem so people don’t have to worry about disengaging the engine or slamming the brakes on or put it in neutral," said LaHood.
His comments were said in normal conversation and after he was speaking with reporters that he had planned to speak with the president of Toyota, who is Akio Toyoda, regarding recalls and afterwards the Japanese govt. told toyota to inspect the breaks on the Prius. Owners of Toyotas in both Japan and the United States have both complained that brakes on these cars can momentarily stop working when driving at slow speeds.
“I’m going to take the initiative to have a conversation with Mr. Toyoda very soon, to talk to him about how serious this is, and to make sure that he understands,”, said LaHood. He continued with “I think he understands, but I’ve never talked to him. I just feel like I need to have a conversation with him.”
LaHood’s words were the latest in an an attempt to get Toyota to remedy their grave situation and start making safe cars. Lahood felt that he had helped in making Toyota decide to halt production on the cars which included eight models over accelerator pedals that have the chance of sticking and killing the passengers. Toyota attempted to blame the drivers for this, then blamed it's floor mats then finally gave in when the government forced them to do a recall and fix it.
Some safety advocates said however that Mr. LaHood might be trying to protect federal safety regulators from potential liability issues over their role in investigating defects.
LaHood said that regulators have the means and experience to do a thorough review of consumer complaints regarding Toyotas acceleration issues and focus on electronic throttles. The NHTSA “is not finished with this safety issue involving Toyota,”. He continued by explaining that the department would look into a small possibility of electromagnetic interference with Toyotas accelerator system.
“I think at the department, we will continue to look at the electronics, continue to study that, continue to work with Toyota on that, and then make a judgment about that,” Mr. LaHood said.
Lahood mentioned that the Transportation Department was thinking of starting a civil penalty against Toyota over the handling of their many recalls.
It came as no suprise that that Toyota had no immediate comments or response to LaHood’s words. Toyotas stock took a dive following the LaHoods comments.
Unlike the U.S. government, the Japanese goverment has a history of protecting it's domauto companies. Lawmakers and the Transportation Department have stepped up pressure on Toyota, seeking proof that problems that could cause its cars to speed up unexpectedly were limited to floor mats and sticking pedals.
Mr. LaHood said in a statement Tuesday that Toyota had announced the recalls only after department officials flew to Japan “to remind Toyota about its legal obligations.”
Toyota said it had received and was reviewing the committee’s letter sent to them
“We will of course cooperate with the committee’s inquiry,” Martha Voss, Toyota spokeswoman, said. She did not comment on Mr. LaHood’s statement.
Toyota has said that computers on its cars were not at fault.
Lawyers, safety advocates and consumers continue to raise questions about the cars’ electronic systems, which they say could cause a car’s throttle to stick. Toyota faces 11 class-action lawsuits resulting from accidents involving the defect.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform plans its own hearing on Toyota next week. Mr. LaHood is expected to testify, as is Yoshimi Inaba, the chief executive of Toyota’s North American operations.
In response, the Energy and Commerce Committee asked Toyota to submit documents supporting the claim as well as information that might counter it. It is seeking the documentation by Friday. In the letter, Mr. Waxman and Mr. Stupak also took issue with Mr. Lentz’s comments that Toyota first knew of sticking gas pedals in late October.
During a meeting with committee staff members on Jan. 27, Toyota officials said they first learned of this problem through reports of sticking pedals in vehicles in England and Ireland in April or May 2009.
In August, Toyota began production changes on models sold in Europe, and it recalled 1.8 million vehicles there last week for the pedal problem. They will receive the same repairs as cars sold in America, a Toyota Europe spokesman said.
The letter asked Toyota to clarify when it first learned of the problem and any action that might have been taken.
The representatives also made note of Mr. Lentz’s comments Monday in which he expressed confidence that the repair to the Toyota vehicles “is going to stop what’s going on.”
In the meeting with committee staff members, Mr. Waxman and Mr. Stupak said company officials had said the causes of sudden acceleration were “very, very hard to identify.”
The statements by Mr. LaHood came as he criticized the company Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.
Mr. LaHood contended that federal safety officials, in the meeting with Toyota in Japan, had to “wake them up” to the seriousness of the situation.
LaHood stands firm in that pressure from him and his department was the reason Toyota had decided to stop building and selling eight models involved in the recall for sticking pedals. Toyota claims that they did it voluntarily, however, this volunteering came as the government forced them to do it.
“They should have taken it seriously from the very beginning when we first started discussing it with them,” said LaHood to The Associated Press, “Maybe they were a little safety deaf.”
The federal safety agency has it's own critics, with pressure coming from the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer group.
The agency did mention that that the Toyota acceleration cases did not paint a clear picture regarding how the agency had conducted it's investigations or what was reported by them.