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LaHood backs off 'misstatement,' tells owners to take Toyotas to dealer if they are uncertain

UPDATED with additional comments and "misstatement" from LaHood at 12:20 p.m.:

In Hill testimony moments ago, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued the toughest shot yet against embattled Japanese auto giant Toyota when asked what advice he has for Toyota owners.

"My advice is: If anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it, take it to a Toyota dealer because they believe they have the fix for it."

UPDATE: LaHood tried to back off from his tough statement moments ago in comments to reporters on Capitol Hill, saying that it was a "misstatement" when he said Toyota owners should stop driving their Toyotas right away and take them to dealers. He now says that if Toyota owners are uncertain about their Toyotas, they should take them into their dealers.

LaHood was referring to the Toyota vehicles on the stop-sale list issued last week. Toyota says it has already shipped repair kits to dealers. But federal regulators and lawmakers say the probe into the safety problem is just beginning.

UPDATED: In comments to reporters on the Hill moments ago, LaHood expanded his comments to say: If you are even in doubt about your Toyota, take it in to the dealer to make sure it is or is not one of the affected calls. This of course has only created more confusion for Toyota owners.

Toyota executives face a congressional hearing on the safety issues next week. And, according to an article in today's Washington Post, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will look at the electronics systems across manufacturers as well as the possibility that engine operation could be disrupted by electromagnetic interference caused by power lines or other sources.

Here's the thing: The fixes from Toyota may not yet be at Toyota dealers. People are going to start taking their cars in today and the dealers may not going to have the parts.

UPDATED with additional LaHood comments to reporters moments ago:

-- Toyota is doing all that it can to fix this problem.

-- We have looked at the fix, but our job is not to sign off on it. If we we something wrong, we tell them.

-- I want to talk to Toyota president Akio Toyoda in the next several days.

LaHood's advice to Toyota drivers has had the effect of tanking Toyota stock in today's trading, as the bad news about the automaker -- long seen as the leader in quality and reliability -- seems to come by the minute.

Shares of Toyota stock in midday trading are down 7 percent and falling. And here's a potential conflict-of-interest for Secretary LaHood: Don't forget that his employer -- the U.S. government -- owns 61 percent of General Motors. Also, shares of Ford are up 1 percent today even as the overall market is down.

This morning, the Associated Press reports that the Toyota Prius has received over 100 complaints from drivers over its braking system. The Prius is not one of the Toyota models recalled over the gas pedal problem.

(It's not quite clear to me how you're supposed to stop driving one of the affected Toyotas AND take it to a dealer, but I get the secretary's point.)

Follow me on Twitter at @theticker

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 3, 2010; 12:20 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Akio Toyoda, Ford, General Motors, Ray LaHood, Toyota  
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Next: U.S. government will investigate Prius brakes


Isn't he transportation secretary? Anyway, this guy makes no sense. He has very little understanding of the issue and is trying to raise his profile and power now that the issue is appearing the media.

Good luck in getting him to get any of the less responsible car manufacturers to take any action on their outstanding issues. With LaHood's brand of outlandish behavior, it makes it very hard for companies to do the right thing.

Posted by: staticvars | February 3, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Destroy Toyota. Bring Ford and GM back as the premier makers of cars sold in the US. Screw the japs and their quality BS.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | February 3, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Right now Ray LaHood does know what he is talking about. I experienced sudden acceleration on my 2007 Toyota Matrix just this week and the dealer determined that the electronic throttle body was bad. So far the dealer says it is an out of warranty part but I am going to fight this with Toyota. I also believe that this affects more Toyota models and year then they are saying. By the way it is a $900 part that could go bad again at any time.

Posted by: bb1969 | February 3, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Toyota has been dancing around the central issue for some time. Many of the reported acceleration problems happened when the throttle was not depressed leading to a commonsense conclusion that the problem is not a sticking plastic friction washers, so, Toyota seems more interested in protecting its public image than really getting to all of the problem; electronics a far scarier. Maybe we should be buying Buicks; last year consumer reports ranked them ahead of Lexus in reliability.

Posted by: commonsense67 | February 3, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

What are people supposed to do without a car for what could be weeks until their turn to get fixed? My 2007 Camry has not yet been recalled, so I don't know if I'm on the list or not. However, I have 50K on this extremely well-made, reliable car, without the slightest hint of any acceleration problems. Two major dealers in Central Massachusetts said today they have not yet received one complaint of an acceleration problem in any of the thousands of these cars they have sold since 2007. I think it is an extremely rare occurrence and this is an extreme reaction.

Posted by: Jem248 | February 3, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

"It's not quite clear to me how you're supposed to stop driving one of the affected Toyotas AND take it to a dealer,"

Have it towed.

Posted by: member5 | February 3, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Never let a good crisis go to waste! Sorry, but this "accelerator problem" fits perfectly the hype over H1N1, global warming, Bailouts, etc... Seems to me Mr. LaHood is pimping for Government Motors and the UAW.

Sorry, but I trust Toyota much more than I do the Federal Govt.

Posted by: pgr88 | February 3, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I am glad the government is pushing Toyota to investigate and fix their problems but how about they use the vigor on the other auto manufactures including MB, Chrysler, Ford & GM? What about other products outside of the auto industry?

Posted by: neil64 | February 3, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

It strikes me that Toyota needs some protection from hysteria here. Although Toyota is not an American company, it certainly provides plenty of American jobs in assembly plants and dealerships, and generates a big segment of our economic strength. I'm not saying to bail them out, just to get off their back a little.

Posted by: jacquescustodian2 | February 3, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

this is just the Obama Administration trying to boost sales for GM. There is nothing wrong with these cars.

Posted by: djrhood | February 3, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

2005 Avalon and 2009 RAV4. Bought both new and, especially for the 05 Avalon, have been driving them long enough to not be overly concerned. I'll keep driving and wait for the recall. In some way, I'm glad that I have my Toyotas and hope at the same time that the American car makers can take advantage of the situation and get Detroit to rebound.

Posted by: bkhoward1 | February 3, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I've never understood why manufacturers no longer use a mechanical throttle connection. I suppose its because they can, or maybe the assembly weighs a few ounces less. If there's an advantage it's certainly not obvious to me.

Posted by: jhfleet | February 3, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

What do you expect? LaHood works for the corporation (US) that owns GM (Government Motors) which can't even compete with Toyota. What a coincidence this recall happens the first year of government ownership of GM?

Posted by: AForgottenMan | February 3, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

What do you expect? LaHood works for the corporation (US) that owns GM (Government Motors) which can't even compete with Toyota. What a coincidence this recall happens the first year of government ownership of GM?

Posted by: AForgottenMan | February 3, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Toyota reportedly has not had any problems with any of their cars in Japan re: this malfunction. If that is correct, then one has to wonder: what the heck is going on then, with Toyota vehicles in the U.S. Or, are the problems associated with Toyotas in North & South America.
I can only hope that Chrysler, Ford and GM all have taken care of their own products, and are poised to initiate some kind of special deal with trade ins from Toyota owners. I hope that our auto companies DO have products ready to sell and ready to be driven. If they have no malfunctioning vehicles ready to go, this could be a tremendous boon for those three companies.
If these American auto companies make special deals to Toyota owners -- some kind of extra trade in incentive -- they can REPLACE Toyotas with our own manufactured cars & trucks. Exploiting this weakness of Toyota is all fair in the "capitalist" world. If American auto companies can slice off even a full % off Toyota's share of the market on the road right now, in these models, that could boost American auto production.
The American economy can take any break it can get: I had this problem happen to me several times with an older Camry, and while I managed to do the right thing, it was troublesome.
I hope that American auto companies have caught up with foreign auto makers in quality, affordability, as well as durability.

Posted by: zennheadd | February 3, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

LaHood is a rube from Peoria, Illinois. There are a lot of LaHoods there and none has ever amounted to much, except for one that owns a shop near Bradley University making submarine sandwiches. LaHood spent his life a a gofer for Bob Michael and others. He has surpassed his level of incompetence in his current position.

Posted by: BaracksTeleprompter | February 3, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Gee, who should I trust? A car company that has provided me with excellent transportation since 1971 or a Washington politician with a stake in another car manufacturer?

Posted by: eldergent | February 3, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

All I can say is: "It couldn't happen to a nicer company." Buy American cars!!!

Posted by: detroitred28 | February 3, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Maybe LaHood can shut the entire Toyota car company down? With 175,000 employees plus, ripple effect employees, am sure the liberials in Washington are hireing. What might be next from Washington, just maybe, EPA,or health services, will issue a decree to stop smoking?

Posted by: jskantze | February 3, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

There are two kinds of issues that also ought to be investigated. One is software failure due to some kind of rare problem. The other is electrostatic discharge that can put latent damage onto chips that then just waits for something else to trigger full failure.

An example of a rare software problem is one where two simultaneously arriving interrupts cause one of them to be dropped. That happened on a kidney dialysis machine and caused the blood temperature data to be lost and patients to be killed by their blood boiling. A friend of mine who is expert in high reliability systems found and fixed that problem.

Electrostatic discharge can ruin chips and is often overlooked. A person doesn't even feel the discharge until it gets over about 3000 volts, but chips can only handle about 100 volts of overvoltage before they go bad. Sometimes the damage doesn't show up until much later. In really bad cases, chip manufacturers who don't pay attention to ESD can lose up to 90% of their production. Does Toyota (or any other car manufacturer) recommend that technicians wear grounding straps when working on the electronics in their cars? Are the cars and devices tested for ESD immunity? These questions ought to be looked at.

Posted by: StanKlein | February 3, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Who in the hell does this boob LaHood think he is, the Secretary of State? Ambassador to Japan maybe?

This nitwit LaHood gets his name in the newspapers and all of a sudden he starts acting like he is the emperor of the moon.

Posted by: screwjob11 | February 3, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

With Obama/Emanuel's Alinsky style of politics - making scape-goats and enemies of focused, particular groups to achieve political goals - they will soon have alienated pretty much everyone in the USA.

They have attacked or smeared insurance companies, bankers, greedy small-businessmen, SUV-drivers, gun-owners, devout Christians and now Toyota employees.

Before long, he will have included one group or another that will cover most Americans. No wonder people are hatin' on Barack more and more!

Posted by: pgr88 | February 3, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

The last time I looked the Gov only owned GM.
Leave your meddling fingers out of commerce!

Posted by: movette | February 3, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

My daughter has a Pontiac VIBE and I just read that it is made by Toyota. Any word on problems with that too?

Posted by: carolineC1 | February 3, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

The rush to judgment against Toyota brings to mind an old Frankenstein movie where the villagers gather with their flaming torches and storm the castle. Everyone with a self serving motive is on board - politicians, labor unions, lawyers, the media, car dealers, “Buy America” citizens, etc. Compared to some of the chicanery that the Big 3 have pulled on the American public, this is a tempest in a teapot.

You don’t insure a better product by tearing down the competition. The federal government would like us to really focus on this issue so that we'll ignore all their previous failed attempts to solve our country's problems.

Posted by: wmorri | February 3, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

What's the big problem, Mr. Ahrens. People are dying because of a problem with certain Toyotas. Makes sense to me that it would be prudent for people who have a Toyota that's on the problem-car list to take their car to a dealer to make sure that it's okay. It's called PREVENTION!

Besides which, think of all the mechanics who could be employed to fix any problems that they find with the accelerator.

Posted by: marmac5 | February 3, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Is LaHood NUTS!

Who is this man that has the audacity to communicate to ALL U.S., Toyota consumers that they should stop driving their cars, if the car is affected.

The Toyota Corporation has not even sent out recall notices to those consumers that are affected by this recall.

Surely, Toyota knows who these consumers are, based on the cars VIN Number much better than the U.S., Secretary of Transportation.

LaHood is one of the Bush's old croonies.
Get Rid of him, before he causes more wide spread panic and hysteria amongst Toyota consumers.

Btw, I am a Toyota owner and bought my 2007 Toyota brand spanking new and have not had any of these problems; therefore, I will continue to drive it, until (1) I get a recall notice, or (2) I crash into something.

Posted by: lcarter0311 | February 3, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I'll be satisfied that this problem has been adequately addressed when the Federal DOT and Toyota issue a joint press release in which the specific software and/or hardware problems underlying this situation are identified. To date any attempt to explain this problem has been mired in vague, incomplete doublespeak. Since there are deaths and systemic failures, I don't ever expect to know the truth. That's the way our free-market litigious system is designed. There is never any mea culpa accompanied by an explanation, only legal settlement for those with the where-with-all to pursue the matter in court.

LaHood shouldn't be vilified for suggesting the Toyota owners act prudently, he not should he be expected understand electrical engineering, embedded programming or Application Specific Integrated Circuit design, and he should not be expected to promote of protect the financial interests of any automobile manufacturer above that of the safety of the American people. He is a public servant, after all.

This story is a red herring, a distraction, filler for those who want to be in the know and never will be.

Posted by: Zingdhao | February 3, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Zennheadd The Toyota recall is world wide and does include japan.See how easily you are fooled,Read its in all the news.9 million,not all in The USA wake up.yep I also hope they fix them quickly for safety for me too I don't want to be run into by the Toyota or lexus either.

Posted by: dcg326 | February 3, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm confused as all get out. Should I be concerned about my '98 Toyota Camry?

Posted by: seaduck2001 | February 3, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Government just gotta be stirrin' the pot of discontent makes the bureaucracy feel important.

Posted by: JAH3 | February 3, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Why didn't Toyota be respectful of Steve Wozniak and return his call concerning safety of his Prius. Wozniak said it is not a pedal problem!

Toyota has lied. And they have killed people. And they don't care. They most likely redoing their electronic system now. And Japanese companies don;t believe they have to obey US law. They have and continue to cover up the problem.

Posted by: txengr | February 3, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Isn't this a conflict of interest? The federal government owns General Motors and sics the oaf LaHood against the #1 competitor, Toyota? Well of course it is.

This is Barry the incompetent boob Obama pulling some Chicago dirty tricks on NON UNION Toyota.

Posted by: screwjob11 | February 3, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone in the Obama Administration have a clue...about anything?

Lahood makes this comment.

Rahmbo calls Democrats "F'ing Retards" (I guess it takes one to know one), then apologises to advocacy groups for the retarded, for comparing them to Democrats.

Obama blows it TWICE calling for a quasi-boycott of Vegas causing that city to lose business.

The Obama administration is coming apart the seems.

Posted by: jonweiss1 | February 3, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

It appears that everyone in this Administration, including the President, has foot in mouth problems!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | February 3, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

LaHood should shut up... Let's have some FACTS!

What are the stats? Who'd you trust? Drivers with bad shoes? Unemployed seeking a settlement? Government with a conflict of interest? Toyota who stands to lose a hard-earned reputation?

Personally, my 2004 Prius has zero defects: 77,000+ miles er, unless you include the armrest cover glue that let go, and was fixed with a dab of Gorilla Glue!

Posted by: yklktk | February 3, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

You would think that the Secretary would be measured, prepared, and knowledgeable in his statements, instead of creating an unnecessary panic. Knowing that the gov. has an interest in pushing American cars makes me trust him even less.

I have owned 2 American cars and 1 Toyota & the Toyota has been a pleasure from the point of purchase at the dealership, to the ease and maintenance and the driving experience. I hope that these issues are resolved before it's time for my next purchase but my personal experience with American vehicles (owned & rented) has been so bad that they are out of the question.

Posted by: loved1 | February 3, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

You would think that the Secretary would be measured, prepared, and knowledgeable in his statements, instead of creating an unnecessary panic. Knowing that the gov. has an interest in pushing American cars makes me trust him even less.

I have owned 2 American cars and 1 Toyota & the Toyota has been a pleasure from the point of purchase at the dealership, to the ease and maintenance and the driving experience. I hope that these issues are resolved before it's time for my next purchase but my personal experience with American vehicles (owned & rented) has been so bad that they are out of the question.

Posted by: loved1 | February 3, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

LaHood was right the first time. Anyone here ever have a stuck accelerator? Years ago I did (carburetor icing, when cars had carburetors).

It is really really scary.

LaHood should take some press out to a track and let them "experience" a stuck accelerator, and see if anyone thinks he was exaggerating.

Posted by: oracle2world | February 3, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

How many cases of this happening have occurred?

Does it really merit this kind of freak out?

Would the Government have acted this way if the problem had happened at a Detroit-based car company that they happen to own?

Is there a huge regulatory conflict of interest now that the Government is in the car business?

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | February 3, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

A recall of LaHood's statement?

Posted by: 0460 | February 3, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I think the facts that are coming out today is that Toyota is not being truthful about the "fix." They are claiming the problem is mechanical while independent experts are now saying it is more likely to be an electronics problem.

Posted by: buffysummers | February 3, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Is this the 3rd or 4th time Toyota has offered a fix for a problem that's doubtless computer-related, and hence involves much more cost than Toyota wants to front?

Posted by: kinkysr | February 3, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

This country is run by a pack of total idiots -- Democrats, Republicans, Bankers, Business Executives, Professors and Journalists!

Posted by: pmendez | February 3, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Why are the Toyotas Made in Japan and sold in Japan not having the same problems? Are the affected parts (ie accelerator) made differently in Japan? If so, why don't the American and European Toyotas have the same (exact) engineering as theirs? This is just not making sense.

Posted by: bonds_john | February 3, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Those who hate what Steve LaHood said have a choice to continue driving Toyota cars.

But the doubt will remain no matter what!!

Posted by: 68b2b | February 3, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Let's make sure that the US Government in general and US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood do not make a bad problem worse. President Obama needs to instruct Mr. LaHood to be extremely careful in what he says. He cannot be a loose cannon shooting his mouth off. Of particular concern would be if the main intent of his remarks were perceived as an effort to generate confusion at Toyota's expense in order to benefit the government-owned General Motors. It is obvious that Nr. LaHood's remarks are beginning to have an impact on the stock market.

Also, the problem with sudden and uncontrolled acceleration is not a new problem. Car owners of both domestic and foreign brands have reported it for the pat 25 years. Since its occurrence is generally low, dealers conveniently argue that it is a driver's fault and refuse to fix it (in part because they don't know how), and the insurance companies pay damages without demanding from automakers to investigate the problem.

Unfortunately, the US Department of Transportation has maintained a cozy relationship with Detroit and foreign manufactures with factories in the US. There has to be a government-led, industry-wide examination of records to fully understand the scope of this problem.

Finally, it is time to dust off the 1965 "Unsafe at any speed" book by Ralph Nader that documented the resistance of automakers to introduce safety features like seat belts and their reluctance to invest in improving car safety. This incident, more than other one in recent memory, has tarnished not only Toyota image but also the entire industry.

Posted by: GoodAmerican | February 3, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

There is a gigantic coverup going on. ALL of the recalled Toyota's have brake and accelerator subassemblies made in China. In spite of the dishonest posting of people like dcg326, there is not one incident involving those made in Japan. Moreover, and this will be the news next week, there is a deadly problem involving steering assemblies made in China and used on "American" automobiles. In return for shipping our jobs, military technology, and money to China, we receive dangerous cars, espionage agents passed off as H1-B guest workers, poisonous toys, paint and food, adulterated pharmaceutical drugs, crappy computers, and so much more! HEY, IT'S "FREE TRADE". The trouble is, there ain't nothing for free and we've already paid enough - it's time to end this free trade madness.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | February 3, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

This smacks of an effort to trash Toyota in favor of government-owned car makes. If you buy this crap, then by a Ford. Don't get sucker-punched by a government that is no more competent or interested in you than the unions and the car companies they dominate. And oh yeah, put your Toyota on the market for well under blue book. They'll be a lot of us in line to buy them. lol.


Posted by: JoeMcD | February 3, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone ever normalize the complaints against Toyota based on the larger number of cars they sell? How many complaints are there against GM, or is the primary complaint against them that the engines fail, which is less dangerous? My mechanic gave up trying to fix all of the leaks in my Oldsmobile. He got me a discount on bulk oil purchases and pan to park the car over in the garage. I have had no issues with my 06 Toyota in five years- literally none.

Posted by: staticvars | February 3, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

LaHood is just playing it safe...its his JOB to promote safe transportation and owners of affected Toyotas SHOULD drive as little as possible until the free repair is made by Toyota.

If anyone can handle this rationally, please examine the final analysis:

(1) There is very little chance anyone else will be affected by this - but you lessen that chance, by limiting your Toyota driving until the fix is done.

(2) Toyota (employer to hundreds of thousands of Americans) has handled this about as responsibly as I've ever seen a corporation handle a product defect.

(3) Toyota will continue to lead the way for carmakers in several areas. They have a lot of brand loyalty and they contribute positively to America's economy (They have never needed our tax-dollars for a bail out).

Ike once commented after the Battle of the Bulge, "the only good thing about a mistake is what you can learn from it". Lets hope Toyota and other manufacturers can learn from this.

I'm very surprised that the Post has not done anything to eliminate the somewhat racist comments I've seen from a few other posters on this article.

Posted by: free-donny | February 3, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I hope someone at the Post will do a thorough investigation of LaHood... Yesterday I heard him interviewed on NPR and his posture was very defensive and aggresive. Definately a man with something to hide. His attacks on Toyota and his slush programs for public transportation are just two areas that need to be looked at deeply. Which high speed rail cronies is the DOT funneling billions in contracts to? Why is the government actively trying to crush Toyota? I hope some good investigative journalism will take a deeper look at LaHood. This guy is nothing but a mobster in a government job.

Posted by: lonepineroad | February 3, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

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