Wednesday, February 10, 2010

toyota' reall struggles

Toyota is facing a deepening image crises as it continues weekly to expand its recall of cars for problems that include sliding floor mats, sticky pedal and software glitches in brakes.

The latest move came Tuesday when Toyota recalled more than 400,000 of its Prius and other hybrid models over braking problems. The company also recalled more than 7,300 late-model Camrys in the U.S. for a separate braking issue.

Mr. Carter had no comment on a possible Corolla recall amid steering complaints from owners of that model and said the company is studying the issue.

"We are working very closely with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and we have a good relationship with them," Mr. Carter said when asked whether there could be more recalls. "We are working through these situations one at a time."

The executive admitted Toyota had considered canceling the press conference, which overshadowed the global launch of its new Avalon sedan. Indeed, the vehicle became an impromptu work surface for reporters covering his remarks.

Mr. Carter reiterated Toyota's stance that the pedal problems weren't linked to external electrical interference and the steps the company has taken should solve sudden-acceleration concerns.

"There is nothing that we can find that even comes close to indicating our electronic controls would be causing unintended acceleration," Mr. Carter said. "We had discovered some mechanical issues; one was the floor mat and the other was the sticky pedal. But we are confident in the fix we have found for the pedal."

Production of all Toyota vehicles has resumed in the U.S. with new vehicles beginning to arrive at showrooms, the company said.

Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) said he wants Mr. Toyoda, grandson of Toyota's founder, to testify. He also wants to arrange a meeting with Mr. Toyoda and congressional leaders of both parties to go over issues surrounding Toyota's troubles.

Mr. Issa is the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 24 on Toyota's recalls.

"Given the number of outstanding questions surrounding Toyota's relationship with U.S. regulators and in the best interests of moving forward, I'd like to help facilitate a dialogue between Mr. Toyoda and lawmakers from both parties and both chambers," Mr. Issa said.

"I would think that Mr. Toyoda would be receptive to the opportunity to meet with policymakers and there certainly is widespread interest from Capitol Hill and the American people to hear directly from him," the lawmaker said.

Mr. Issa said he asked his committee's chairman, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D., N.Y.), to formally invite Toyoda to the hearing.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Towns said the committee chairman "looks forward to receiving Rep. Issa's letter and to discussing his request." Martha Voss, a Toyota spokeswoman, said Mr. Toyoda "would look forward" to meeting with members of Congress but that, for now, the plan is for Yoshimi Inaba, head of Toyota's North American operations, to testify.

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