The CBS Evening News (2/21, story 3, 2:10, Mitchell) reported that according to the AP, "Toyota officials boasted last summer they saved $100 million back in 2007 when negotiating a limited recall of certain models with the federal government." The piece notes that NHTSA "has received more than 2,000 complaints of sudden acceleration and 34 deaths have been blamed on Toyota vehicles" over the past decade, "according to the Detroit News, which also says the Administration was investigating Toyota for accelerator problems as early as 2003. Still, Toyota was never told to fix anything, and the investigation ended."
USA Today (2/22, Healey, Carty) reports that "an internal Toyota document" states that the savings came from "getting the government to OK just replacing floor mats in 55,000 vehicles as a solution to sudden acceleration complaints. It's listed under 'wins for Toyota -- safety group' in the report, which is among documents obtained by a subpoena from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. That and other references to saving money on safety issues raise the question of 'whether Toyota was lobbying for less rigid actions from regulators to protect their bottom line,' said Kurt Bardella, spokesman for the committee's ranking Republican, Darrell Issa of California." The document also said that "'NHTSA is more sensitive to public/congressional criticism' and that, combined with changes in regulations, will result in 'more investigations and more forced recalls.'"
The AP (2/22, Thomas) says that the documents "could set off alarms in Congress over whether Toyota put profits ahead of customer safety and pushed regulators to narrow the scope of recalls. Two House committees are holding hearings this week on" Toyota's recalls.
The Detroit News (2/22, Shepardson) reports that Issa's committee "has obtained more than 50,000 Toyota documents ahead of a Wednesday hearing at which Toyota President Akio Toyoda is to be questioned. In a separate analysis, Reuters (2/22) examines the impact the revelation of the documents may have on Toyoda's testimony.
Unintended acceleration allegations seen as difficult to prove, disprove. The Detroit News (2/22, Tierney) reports that it may be difficult "to prove or disprove allegations of unintended acceleration in Toyota cars and trucks." As "Congress prepares to open hearings this week on Toyota Motor Corp.'s handling of the recalls, legal experts say the company's liability may be determined in part by any revelations that emerge in the hearings and from an investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation." Increasingly, "Toyota appears to be facing its own version of Ford Motor Co.'s crisis 10 years ago over rollovers of SUVs with Firestone tires." In the "Law Blog" at the Wall Street Journal (2/19), Amir Efrati discussed former Toyota in-house lawyer Dimitrios Biller's connection to the lawsuits.
From the American Association for Justice news release.