Toyota to let U.S. unit order recalls |

March 2, 2010 by Post Team 

Toyota to let U.S. unit order recallsToyota to let U.S. unit order recalls | YORK ( — Toyota will give its U.S. and Canadian divisions more authority to decide when to issue a recall, according to prepared Congressional testimony Tuesday from one of the automaker’s top executives.

Under new plans to improve quality control, Toyota’s North American operations “will have more autonomy and decision-making power with regard to recall and other safety issues,” Yoshimi Inaba, president and chief operating officer of Toyota North America, said in remarks for delivery before the Senate Commerce Committee.

Inaba was also set to announce that Toyota has enlisted Rodney Slater, a former U.S. Transportation Secretary, to head a panel of independent experts that will review an investigation the automaker is conducting into its global operations.

Toyota came under fire last week during two separate House hearings for the automaker’s management structure, which some lawmakers said gives Japanese executives too much power over U.S. operations.

“I believe that Toyota’s business model is broken,” said Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation, in testimony before the committee. “When you have good people in North America making recommendations and they don’t listen to them, your business model is broken.”

LaHood’s comments came during a hearing on Capitol Hill aimed at exploring Toyota’s quality issues and how the government handled the recent recalls. Inaba and other senior Toyota executives will testify before the committee later Tuesday.

Toyota has recalled millions of vehicles worldwide for problems related to sudden acceleration, which have been blamed for several accidents resulting in injuries and death.

The automaker has repeatedly apologized for the lapses in quality control and Toyota technicians are working extended hours to repair the recalled vehicles. Akio Toyoda, the company’s president, acknowledged last week that Toyota’s rapid growth over the last few years has contributed to the recent safety problems.

Since 2000, there have been 43 complaints of fatal incidents that allegedly involve sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

While those complaints have not yet been confirmed, the reported incidents involve 52 fatalities and 38 injuries, NHTSA said.

The sudden acceleration issue has been in the spotlight since it was disclosed last month that an accident involving a Toyota vehicle killed four people in San Diego last August.

That accident sparked the recall of millions of Toyota vehicles for problems with floor mats that could cause accelerator pedals to become trapped. Toyota has subsequently recalled millions more cars for “sticky” accelerator pedals.

However, some lawmakers and outside researchers have suggested that sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles could also be caused by electrical defects.

LaHood said NHTSA is conducting a review of the electronic throttle control system in Toyota vehicles. He also said the Transportation Department may recommend that all cars sold in the United States come equipped with a brake override system.

Toyota has also come under fire for a 2009 memo in which staffers boasted of the company saving $100 million by negotiating with U.S. regulators for a limited recall for certain cars.

In response to a question about that report, David Strickland, NHTSA’s administrator, denied that the agency has shown Toyota any preferential treatment.

“The claims that Toyota made about negotiating or influences are false,” he said. “That document has no foundation.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said he intends to work on “comprehensive legislation” aimed at overhauling how the government regulates the auto industry.

“The American people deserve a top-to-bottom review, not just on past errors, but on the road ahead,” Rockefeller said.

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