House panel asks for more details on Toyota's safety issues

By KEN THOMAS
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - A House committee on Friday questioned how
rigorously Toyota has tested its vehicles for sudden acceleration,
and asked the Japanese automaker for more records on the safety
issues.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee told Toyota executive
Jim Lentz in a letter that there is "an absence of documents" to
show whether the company thoroughly investigated the possibility of
unintended acceleration. The committee demanded to know who is
involved with the testing and receive quarterly reports detailing
allegations of the unwanted acceleration.
"We do not understand the basis for Toyota's repeated
assertions that it is 'confident' there are no electronic defects
contributing to incidents of sudden unintended acceleration,"
wrote Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Bart Stupak,
D-Mich.
Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide to
address gas pedals that can become sticky or trapped under floor
mats, prompting scrutiny from Congress. The world's No. 1 automaker
has said it is investigating reports of sudden acceleration but
remains confident there are no problems with Toyota's electronic
throttle control systems.
Adding to the doubts, the government has received more than 60
complaints from Toyota owners who had their vehicles fixed
following the recalls but say they've had more problems with their
vehicles surging forward unintentionally. Toyota dealers have been
fixing the accelerator pedals but the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration said Thursday that if the remedy provided by
Toyota is not addressing the issue, the government could order the
company to provide a different solution.
Toyota did not immediately respond to the committee's letter on
Friday.
Toyota hired a consulting firm to study whether electronic
problems could cause unintended acceleration. The firm, Exponent
Inc., released an interim report that has found no link between the
two. But committee investigators have said the Exponent test was
flawed because it studied only a small number of Toyota vehicles.
In the letter, Waxman and Stupak also request more details on
brake override systems and "black box" information in Toyota
vehicles.
Toyota plans to install brakes that can override the gas pedal
in future models and many vehicles already on the road. The safety
measure is meant to prevent the unintended acceleration that has
caused some Toyota drivers to speed out of control.
The committee also wants to know what information is available
in Toyota electronic data recorders. The "black box" information
could help investigators learn more about what is happening in the
vehicles before crashes. A review by the Associated Press found
that Toyota has been inconsistent - and sometimes even
contradictory - in revealing what the devices record and don't
record, such as critical data about whether brake or accelerator
pedals were depressed at the time of a crash.
NHTSA has linked 52 deaths to crashes allegedly caused by
Toyota's acceleration problems.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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