WASHINGTON – Toyota and federal officials told a House subcommittee Thursday that the automaker is fixing sudden unintended acceleration in its vehicles.
But committee members said they have yet to see evidence of those claims.
The Energy and Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee met with representatives of Toyota Motor Sales,U.S.A. Inc. and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a second hearing on problems with Toyotas that have caused accidents and deaths.
David L. Strickland,NHTSA administrator,and James Lentz,president of Toyota Motor Sales,assured the committee that Toyota and NHTSA have taken adequate steps since a Feb. 23 hearing to investigate and understand the role of electronics in sudden unintended acceleration.
Lentz said the company is making quality assurance its top priority,aggressively investigating unintended acceleration reports,significantly increasing the speed of its response to customer reports of unintended acceleration,equipping vehicles with advanced safety features,validating the safety of electronic throttle control system and setting a new standard for quality customer care.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman,D-Calif.,said Toyota and NHTSA are no closer to solving the problem.
“The public has a right to expect that Toyota will do everything possible to find any potential electronic defects. But Toyota didn't do that,” Waxman said. “Instead,Toyota asked its defense counsel to hire a firm whose mission appears to be the exact opposite: to obfuscate and to find no problems.”
Strickland said NHTSA has taken two major steps to solve the unintended acceleration problems.
“The first is a review of the electronic throttle control system in Toyota vehicles,” Strickland said. The review,which should be finished in August,includes research into the system's design,function and safety,including all of its electronic components and software.
The second step is convening a panel of independent experts to review electronic control systems in the entire automobile industry. Strickland said the panel should be in place by July and complete its report in 15 months.
Rep. Bart Stupak,D-Mich.,said the record doesn't support Toyota's statements that it conducted extensive testing.
“The truth is that we don't know whether electronics plays a role in sudden unintended acceleration,and Toyota doesn't know either,” Stupak said. “What's disappointing to me is learning that Toyota seems to have focused more on discrediting its critics than on solving the problem.”
Strickland said NASA is assisting in the investigation,which could result in a “defect investigation,” if it finds flaws in the electronic throttle control. That could lead to a recall of cars for required repairs.
Waxman said the committee has found no evidence that Toyota has conducted extensive testing of its vehicles for potential electronic defects that could cause sudden unintended acceleration.
“Toyota does no testing for multiple-event faults or faults that could affect more than one component in the same way at the same time,” Waxman said.