"I want to be absolutely clear: As a result of our extensive testing, we do not believe sudden unintended acceleration because of a defect in our [electronic throttle control system (ETCS) ] has ever happened.”
Those are the words of Takeshi Uchiyamada, a VP with Toyota and chief engineer who spoke Tuesday along with three other Toyota executives before the Senate Commerce Committee.
The executive told lawmakers that the company has been unable to find any electronic defect that would cause the sudden acceleration problem that has led to a massive recall of Toyota vehicles, but it will keep trying.
The ETCS was put into 40 million Toyota vehicles.
Adding fuel to the fire of consumer cynicism, Shinichi Sasaki, the company’s vice president in charge of quality assurance and customer service, suggested that driver error might account for sudden acceleration.
He pointed to improperly placed floor mats.
Senators also spent part of the day slamming the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and its handling of the Toyota problem saying it had been slow to identify the technical problems with the increasingly complex electronic systems.
Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) blamed both NHTSA and the quest for corporate profits over safety.
While acknowledging that Toyota is important to his state -- it has an engine and transmission plant in Buffalo, W.Va. -- Rockefeller said "it is clear that somewhere along the way public safety took a back seat and corporate profits drove the company's decisions” reports the Los Angeles Times.
David Strickland, the new NHTSA administrator, testified for the first time about Toyota recalls.
His agency has 125 engineers and President Obama has proposed adding another 66 new hires. Strickland said the agency will conduct the most comprehensive review of the electronic throttle control system in the industry’s history.
Rockefeller ended the hearing by promising new legislation would be needed to toughen defect standards on car makers. He added that Toyota should be offering the brake override on all older vehicles, no matter what it costs, reports the Detroit Free Press.
“I think NHTSA’s investigations have failed, he said.
Ties To Toyota
Rockefeller may have a reason for the tough talk to Toyota.
NPR reports that he has known Toyota’s founding family for some time and that helped persuade the company to build a factor in his state, West Virginia.
Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson has also taken credit for helping Toyota build a factory in San Antonio. She is the committee’s top Republican.
NPR reports on the other conflict-of-interests on the panel, including California’s Barbara Boxer, who drives a Prius and helped keep, at least temporarily, a Toyota factory in Fremont, California. #