It is apparent that the investigation of Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles has widened when five leading automobile insurers were asked if they had notified U.S. regulators of unintended acceleration reported by consumers starting in the year 2000.
Letters were sent out to Allstate Insurance, Farmers Insurance Group, GEICO, Progressive Group and State Farm Group by House Energy Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., on Tuesday.
These companies were asked to provide copies of their communications with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about defects in Toyota cars by Feb. 17.
What the panel is trying to get is how Toyota has reacted the past years to identify and address its defects. It also wants to gauge the effectiveness of NHTSA's oversight over the years.
The letters were also signed by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of an oversight subcommittee. The inquiry came about due to a Tuesday Washington Post report saying the NHTSA had been notified by State Farm Insurance numerous times starting in 2007 about an unusual number of cases of unintended acceleration.
The congressional letters said that it wants to know if they have notified the NHTSA similarly. In 2007, NHTSA's probe had resulted to a recall of 55,000 floor mats.
There's no evading the matter as there are two committees intent on probing this controversy. The House Energy Committee has a hearing scheduled for Feb. 25, and the House Oversight Committee postponed a hearing that had been scheduled for today until Feb. 24.