Report: Toyota accused of putting own defense ahead of safety

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 25, 2010

Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, claims that Toyota Motor Corp. was unable to keep the impartiality of its investigations into potential electronic defects in its vehicles because it is more focused on defending against lawsuits rather than in examining the causes of the unintended acceleration flaw.

Rep. Waxman said that the findings of a staff inquiry challenge the repeated claims by Toyota executives that their tests don't show any electronic links to speed-control difficulties. James Lentz, the President of Toyota Motor Sales USA, disputed the congressional findings in testimony before the committee's oversight and investigations panel.

Lentz gave a prepared statement, citing Toyota's confidence that its electronic throttle-control system is not a cause of unintended acceleration.

He claims that the vehicles are tested extensively to ensure that the fail safes and redundancies work. Rep. Waxman argues that the tests for electronic defects by the Exponent consulting firm hired by Toyota are managed by Toyota's trial lawyers.

In the December contract between Toyota and Exponent, the firm's research is obligated to seek to assist the carmaker in defending against class action suits.

Waxman added that since Toyota's lawyers are absorbed in each aspect of Exponent's work, lawyers should have the right to approve publication of all of Exponent's work. Rep. Waxman claims that he has yet to get evidence from Toyota that an extensive or rigorous testing could result to sudden unintended acceleration.

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