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AP: Former Toyota exec said in e-mail: 'We need to come clean.'

Irv Miller, a Toyota vice president, wrote an e-mail in January five days before the automaker issued a 2.3-million vehicle recall, saying: "I hate to break this to you but WE HAVE A tendency for MECHANICAL failure in accelerator pedals of a certain manufacturer on certain models," the Associated Press is reporting. (Emphasis in original.)

"We are not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet," wrote Miller, who recently retired. "The time to hide on this one is over."

Is this a smoking gun? Let's call it a slightly warm sword. This e-mail specifically addressed the sticking accelerator pedal -- and note that he pointed out that it is a "mechanical" problem. Five days later, Toyota issued a recall.

Had Miller written about electronic problems with runaway Toyota acceleration and used the word "hiding," then, yes, that's a smoking gun. But he didn't.

"We better just hope that they can get NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to work with us in coming (up) with a workable solution that does not put us out of business," Miller wrote to Katsuhiko Koganei, executive coordinator for corporate communications for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

NHTSA has drawn fire from lawmakers for being too lax on Toyota. In response, NHTSA hired a bunch of under-employed NASA scientists to get to the bottom of the runaway acceleration, evidently to give them something to do since President Obama essentially scrapped the manned spaceflight program.

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By Frank Ahrens  |  April 7, 2010; 7:06 PM ET
Categories:  Autos , Congress , The Ticker  
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Comments

So now I'm confused ... are you saying that Toyota's problem is actually NASA's fault ?

Posted by: jralger | April 8, 2010 6:08 AM | Report abuse

All the souring pad in this country couldn't remove the stench from this corrupt company. Is this a smoking gun you say, Hell Yea, it's a smoking gun. I personally don't have to get the hot poker shoved up my behind to know it's hot. Mr Ahrens if you're waiting for Toyota to tell you, "this is a smoking gun Frank", you will probably miss the 5:30 train.

Posted by: Kudzu1 | April 8, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

I had a couple of tire irons in the fire a week and a half ago. It's a story and a half. They didn't come clean. Some people need a tire iron up side the head and I'll be glad to provide you with a tire iron. Can't send via email.

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Posted by: ufiodsafsajk | April 8, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

"a slightly warm sword" is rather like saying "Tiger Woods had a bad day recently."

Toyota is playing GM in the 1965 drama, "Unsafe At Any Speed," here. once the magnitude of the public hit on their reputation became clear, they started moving off the dime, and at least came up with a stopgap that could be installed at once even if it didn't address all failures.

the ultimate resolution IMPHO is to retrofit all electronic throttle cars with new code that forces a brake override to any operating condition, and commands idle speed. priority #2 in that code should be shutoff of the engine under any conditions if the brake override is active.

Posted by: swschrad | April 8, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

So why is Mr. Miller a "former" Toyota executive?
If Toyota took his word for it and reported the sticky accelerator issue within five days, and he quit Toyota for other reasons, the sword isn't even warm.
If he was pushed out of the company for the memo he wrote, that's a different issue.

Posted by: StoreyRC | April 8, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

So why is Mr. Miller a "former" Toyota executive?
If Toyota took his word for it and reported the sticky accelerator issue within five days, and he quit Toyota for other reasons, the sword isn't even warm.
If he was pushed out of the company for the memo he wrote, that's a different issue.

Posted by: StoreyRC | April 8, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Frank;

I happen to know at least one of the NASA employees working on the Toyota issue. I can assure you he is not under-employed. The person I know is one of the most respected Electrical Engineers at NASA. He is actually being pulled off another very important program to assist in the investigation. If there is an electrical element to this problem, he will find it. That assumes of course that NASA engineers are given full access to the hardware and software design from Toyota...

Posted by: wtmeyer4 | April 8, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

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