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Congress wants more documents on runaway acceleration from Toyota

The House Energy and Commerce committee sent a letter to Toyota U.S. sales head Jim Lentz asking for deep and complete documentation -- and actual human beings -- about the possibility that Toyota runaway acceleration is caused by electronic, not mechanical, problems as the company has (mostly) maintained.

Toyota set itself up for this, to be honest. Last month, Lentz appeared before the committee and was asked if he thought the current Toyota recalls -- for entrapped floor mats and sticking gas pedals -- would solve the runaway issue. "Not totally," Lentz said.

The very next day, Toyota released a statement and Toyota president Akio Toyoda testified in another congressional committee that there's nothing wrong with Toyota's electronics and the recall fixes will work.

So, the House committee wants to know, which is it?

You can tell from the tone of the committee's letter, from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), that lawmakers are not pleased with what they've gotten so far from Toyota. Quoting from the letter:

"After we sent our letter on February 22, Toyota provided a few additional documents to the committee early in the morning on the day of the hearing. Several of these documents were written in Japanese."

Lesson: Don't toy with a congressional committee.

Not only does the committee want more documents showing that Toyota actually did extensively and robustly test its electronic throttle control and attendant acceleration system, but it wants the company to produce the person or people who did the testing to interview with the committee next week.

Here's what's interesting about this: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been harping on what he calls the "broken business model" between Toyota headquarters in Japan and Toyota North America, saying that Japan has not listened to what North America has been saying. This disconnect between what Lentz said about the gas pedals and what Toyoda said the very next day may illustrate that.

In other Toyota news today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it has received 60 complaints from Toyota owners who have taken their recalled vehicles in for fixes but are still experiencing runaway acceleration.

NHTSA is contacting each of the 60 owners -- and presumably everyone else who makes the same complaint.

“We are determined to get to the bottom of this,” said David Strickland, administrator of the auto safety agency.

Follow me on Twitter at @theticker

By Frank Ahrens  |  March 5, 2010; 3:28 PM ET
Categories:  Autos , Congress , Corporations , The Ticker  | Tags: Jim Lentz, Toyota problems, toyota, toyota congressional hearings, toyota recall model and years  
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Comments

Get to the bottom of the liars from Toyota and lexus.Too many deaths of Americans from the japanese company.

Posted by: dcg326 | March 5, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

How about dragging Government Motors aka GM in for a chat. They just recalled 1.3 Million cars!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | March 5, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

The basic reality is that no responsible engineer would discard the possiblility that electronics played some part in the problems. The only way that possibility could be eliminated is if Toyota had a specific design for how the electronic systems were intended to work in the problem situation and direct evidence that the electronics actually worked as intended. In that case, they would be fools not to make their evidence public. There have been two big problems in Toyota's response to the failures of its car.
One is in the design of their cars. Any automobile should be designed so that no single failure can render the car uncontrollable. When the problem with the accelerator sticking surfaced, Toyota should have been able to describe a simple way how a driver could control a car safely even if it experienced the problem.
The second is in the nature of their response. Any company is almost certain to start their response to problems like Toyota has experienced by focusing on managing public relations and the flow of information. Given the inevitable uncertainties about the causes of problems, that approach is not unreasonable. But, as it has become clearer that Toyota has some real problems, they do not seem to have been able to get beyond cover up mode. There is no way that the public is going to regain trust in their automobiles until they open up about their designs and their evidence on the causes of the problems. The fact that they continue to resist is a very strong indication that real uncertainty remains in how resilient their electronic control systems are to problems.

Posted by: dnjake | March 5, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

If the fixes Toyata is performing don't work then what is the problem? In my book there is an anomaly that occurs and the onboard computer and data recorder don't catch it. Toyota is too set on the preconceived notion that the electronics are not at fault. I think they have a big problem.

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Posted by: titkonlyyou | March 8, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

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