Toyota’s problems turned worse today as federal officials announced that Toyota executives may face criminal charges regarding their lack of disclosure to the US public concerning the Toyota recalls. While it’s still not clear what criminal charges Toyota may face, it seems certain that the charges may be related to product safety issues and Toyota’s disclosures concerning product defects.
According to an MSNBC report, “Eric Dezenhall, a crisis management consultant in Washington, said the subpoena might cause Toyota to limit its testimony because apologies are admissible in court. He predicted the company would walk a line between carefully phrased testimony and enough disclosure to describe the cars’ mechanical problems and steps Toyota had taken to make the vehicles safer.
House investigators said they believe Toyota intentionally resisted the possibility that electronic defects caused unintended acceleration in their vehicles and then misled the public into thinking its recalls would fix all the problems.
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who will run Tuesday’s hearing, said documents and interviews demonstrate that the company relied on a flawed engineering report to reassure the public that it found the answer to the problem.
In a letter to Toyota, Stupak said a review of consumer complaints shows company personnel identified sticking pedals or floor mats as the cause of only 16 percent of the unintended acceleration reports.
Some 70 percent of the acceleration incidents in Toyota’s customer call database involved vehicles that are not subject to the 2009 and 2010 floor mat and “sticky pedal” recalls.
In a letter to NHTSA, Stupak’s committee raised questions about whether the agency lacked the expertise to review defects in vehicle electronics and said NHTSA was slow to respond to 2,600 complaints of sudden unintended acceleration from 2000 to 2010.”
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