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Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010
Toyota boss: Throttle unit is not faulty
Faceoff with Congress not planned
Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said Wednesday the automaker has confirmed its electronic throttle-control system is not defective, in a bid to ease mounting concerns in the United States that the system may have caused sudden acceleration incidents.
Toyoda also said he has no plans to appear before a U.S. congressional hearing planned Feb. 24, which Toyota Motor North America Inc. President Yoshimi Inaba will attend. Earlier reports said Toyoda would visit the U.S. in March.
It was the third time in the past two weeks that Toyoda has faced journalists, amid mounting criticism that the auto giant has been slow to react to the massive recalls and accident claims.
Toyota has already recalled more than 4 million vehicles worldwide for sticky accelerator pedals and more than 5 million units in the United States for floor mats that can jam accelerators. Last week, Toyota issued a recall of 223,068 of its latest Prius and other hybrid cars in Japan, and will recall around 400,000 hybrids worldwide.
"The system cannot accidentally induce acceleration," Toyoda said at the news conference in Tokyo.
He explained that the electronic throttle-control system incorporates overlapping fail-safe features linked to several sensors. If something goes wrong, the system works to shift the engine to idle mode or even turn it off.
A third-party research organization is now testing the system and the company will release its findings in the near future, he added.
As for the congressional hearing, asked whether he will appear if he is summoned, the grandson of the carmaker's founder said, "Whether I will attend or not depends on their call." Toyoda said he plans to visit the U.S., but said his specific schedule is currently being worked out.
He also said his company will install the brake override system, which cuts engine power when the accelerator and brake pedals are applied at the same time, in all future models worldwide.
The company will also more actively use onboard event data recorders, which in the event of a malfunction provide information necessary for conducting technological investigations and repairs.
To look into customer claims more widely, Toyota will appoint a chief quality officer in each region, and will hold the first meeting on March 30, Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki said at the same news conference.
Toyota will start conducting on-site inspections in the U.S. within 24 hours of every reported incident of suspected product malfunction.