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March 17, 2010

As new data continues to surface about Toyota, and why many of its recalled cars tend to accelerate out of control, Toyota representatives went before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Wednesday, Feb. 24. The testimony of Akio Toyoda, the company’s president, and other staff, was the second in two days, as Toyota officials presented to other panels Tuesday, Feb. 23.

The big takeaway from Wednesday’s session for many was the defensive position taken by U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who bristled as he took tough questions about his office’s relationship with Toyota.

LaHood pointed to massive recalls as proof that Toyota did not enjoy a privileged relationship with the U.S. Transportation Department, but many in government continue to question whether lax oversight contributed to problems that they say Toyota has been able to hide for quite a while.

Although there are a number of issues facing Toyota today, the main one seems to be sudden acceleration in many of its newer cars. Testimony Wednesday included questioning on a timeline for Toyota’s response, where internal documents seemed to indicate that the company had tended to minimize safety issues in order to retain profits.

At issue is Toyota’s previous denial that electronic throttle systems were responsible for sudden acceleration, where the company had blamed the problem on recalled floor mats. Under further scrutiny, officials found that floor mats were not responsible for the acceleration. Toyota now faces more controversy over a company that it hired to test the electronic throttle systems, which found no technical issues with the complex technology; even as evidence continues to mount that the electronic throttles played a role in the current recall situation.

Along with all of this frenzied fact-finding, which many feel paints a dark picture of Toyota, some consumer advocates and others were sharp in criticizing what they saw as a lack of remorse on the part of Mr. Toyoda, who took the stage without a lot of emotion to field questions from government representatives. According to official reporting, Toyoda continued to maintain through the end of his testimony that his company cars are safe for U.S. drivers.

As more details become available about the Toyota recall and the sudden acceleration of many of its cars, consumers are looking very critically at fancy new electronic systems, while questioning the future of Toyota and whether it deserves the highest safety marks and general popularity it has enjoyed for several decades in the North American market. U.S. government groups will continue to investigate safety threats related to the Toyota recall and any reported issues with its vehicles on the road.

James O. Cunningham

Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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