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Questions from Congress that Akio Toyoda won't answer. Or maybe he will.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda held a news conference in Japan this morning during which he first said he will not come to Capitol Hill to answer questions about his troubled brands, even as pressure increases for him to do so, but then later said he might consider it if "invited."

Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) invitation to Toyoda, issued last week, must have gotten lost in the mail. So too must have Issa's threat yesterday that he is willing to ask his committee, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to subpoena Toyoda, possibly when he sets foot on U.S. soil.

Issa, his committee and probably most of Congress would like to ask Toyoda some questions about his car company. Here is a list of the questions that Issa sent to Toyota North America President Yoshimi Inaba yesterday:

-- Has there been a breakdown in communications between Toyota Japan and Toyota North America that led to a disconnect in reporting vehicle problems to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)?

-- Why was it necessary for NHTSA officials to visit Toyota in Japan for the company to recognize its obligations under U.S. law?

-- When did Toyota first start looking for an explanation to the sudden acceleration problem, which turned out to be caused either or both by floor mat entrapment or sticking gas pedals?

-- Once Toyota engineers believed they had found the problem -- the floor mats -- did they look for other possible reasons?

-- Does Toyota believe that the floor mats and the sticking gas pedals fully explains the sudden acceleration problem?

-- Does Toyota think its electronic throttles are to blame for the unintended acceleration?

-- When did Toyota first become aware of braking problems in the Prius? When did Toyota notify NHTSA? When did Toyota tell NHTSA of the proposed fix?

-- When did Toyota first become aware of potential steering problems with the 2010 Corollas? When did it tell NHTSA?

-- Does Toyota still believe, as it stated, the uptick in drive complaints filed about the Tacoma was fueled by "publicity?"

-- Does Toyota still believe the Tacoma complaints are only "minor drivability concerns?" If so, explain.

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By Frank Ahrens  |  February 17, 2010; 12:26 PM ET
Categories:  Corporations , The Ticker  | Tags: Akio Toyoda, Darrell Issa, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Prius, Toyota recall update, toyota, toyota recall model and years  
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Comments

- Why does Toyota hate their American customers?
- When will he man up, stand in front of the families of the people killed by his company's negligence and the American public, and answer for his negligence?
-Does he think his grandfather would be proud of his failure to protect his customers from being killed by his flawed products?
-Did he learn manufacturing while working at a baby formula factory in China?

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | February 17, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

When will he man up, stand in front of the families of the people killed by his company's negligence and the American public, and answer for his negligence?
________________________________________

For the sake of clarity, this should read "When will he man up, stand in front of the American people and the families of the people killed by his company's negligence , and answer for that negligence?"

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | February 17, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Aren't Jap Ceos supposed to commit hari kari when things get?

Posted by: MRGB | February 17, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Why are people in such a panic over this? How many people have been killed by these issues? How many people are killed by "normal" crashes every day? It just doesn't resonate with me.

Posted by: byxnet | February 17, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

byxnet, however many have been killed, their deaths were completely preventable. Those that could have prevented them but failed because of greed, need to be held accountable. Even if that doesn't resonate with you. Although I imagine it would resonate resoundingly if one of those who lost their life was a loved one.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | February 17, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Around 110 people die every day in car crashes and we're hyperventilating about a trivial problem (stuck gas pedal? don't be in a rush to die, try putting it in neutral or turning off the engine first!) that's killed something like 35 people in ten years?

The whole frantic 911 call from a family hurtling to their fiery death in a runaway Lexus is mainly an illustration of how disappointingly ignorant and incapable we have become as a society. Instead of holding drivers accountable for the safe operation of their vehicles, we react by pointing fingers and holding Congressional hearings.

Posted by: byxnet | February 17, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

The simple fact of the matter is that if the company is cutting corners and creating an unsafe product, they need to be held liable. It may seem like a trivial thing in your mind, but we cannot just throw business ethics out the window. However, I can understand your point of drivers needing to operate their vehicles better, but in that Lexus example the ES350 has a push button ignition and the driver probably did not know that he needed to hold the button down for 3 seconds to turn the engine off; it was a loaner vehicle and not his normal car. The car also had a shift lever on the console that had at least four forward gears and the layout of those gear selections could have make it difficult to shift from a forward gear directly into neutral when he got panicked. Its easy to just blame the victim and write the whole thing off, but the company should not have put out a defective product in the first place.

Posted by: ozpunk | February 17, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

I absolutely agree that it's Toyota's responsibility to address manufacturing defects. But at the same time the perception of drivers being merely helpless passengers rather than the "pilot in command" of their vehicle is just wrong.

If you want a fancy (read: gimmicky) "push to start" button you are responsible for learning how to use it.

Furthermore any of these types of malfunctions could occur without stemming from some systemic design or manufacturing flaw. Regardless of whether the problem occurs in many vehicles or just your vehicle, it's still your responsibility as the operator to know how to use it safely and deal with unusual circumstances.

I don't wish to "blame the victim". As with all things, a close examination of each case reveals that circumstances are rarely as simple as they are portrayed. If in the Lexus example the shifter mechanism broke, the ignition button malfunctioned, AND the gas pedal got stuck, can it still reasonably serve as a poster child to motivate such an outcry?

Posted by: byxnet | February 17, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm really disappointed in Toyota. However, lostinthemiddle, they probably learned their manufacturing techniques from the American auto manufacturers, who have been producing inferior products for quite a while.

Posted by: smitty47 | February 18, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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