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Toyota Chief Apologizes for Recalls

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During testimony today in front of Congress, Akio Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota’s founder and who currently runs the company, said in a prepared statement that the company’s growth directly led to missing serious safety issues.

He also apologized numerous times to the families of victims of accidents in Toyota vehicles.

However, he did reiterate that there is no problem with Toyota’s electronic throttle control, a hotly debated topic during Tuesday’s hearing. Not any of the recalls have involved throttle control but instead floormats, accelerator pedals and brakes. 

Toyota’s U.S. chief, Yoshimi Inaba, says the brake override system being installed in the eight models of the 15 recalled make up 72% of the total units covered under the recall. The older models not getting the upgrade are not compatible with the brake override system, he said.

Inaba did say a report from Europe about sticking acceletor pedals did pop up a year prior to the U.S. recalls, but the difference in models, right-hand drive and other factors led to the automaker not connecting the two.

Inaba also said that commercial readers for electronic data recorders – EDRs – will roll out by the middle of next year. Toyota’s prototype EDR reader can be read only by Toyota representatives, and there is only one in the U.S. Inaba said the readers will be widely available next year and will be easily read. The government currently doesn’t require EDRs; they’ll be mandated in 2012.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood answered questions for nearly three hours before Toyoda, but little was revealed in his testimony. There were a number of miscues by congressmen, however, especially regarding recalls. At least one representative mentioned there was a recall of the the Corolla and not one for the Chevy Cobalt, even though both had similar problems with power steering, and the Cobalt had even more complaints. Both models are in the early stages of investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and both had similar numbers of crashes attributed to them despite a higher number of complaints for the Cobalt. The Cobalt investigation is further along, with an information request filed that GM must reply to by March 26. However, neither the Cobalt nor the Corolla has been officially recalled.

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