By on February 16, 2010

With Congress already investigating a possible Toyota unintended acceleration cover-up, the NHTSA has decided that it should probably be getting a piece of the action, and has invoked its statutory power to request documents relating to when Toyota learned of the defects involved in its recent gas pedal recall and how it reacted to them. Federal law requires that manufacturers notify the NHTSA within five days of discovering a safety defect, reports the Wall Street Journal [sub]. The WSJ [sub] also notes that Toyota is offering to disclose new details about its crisis response task force (which reportedly includes “outside quality experts”), as the world’s largest automaker struggles to respond to a rash of recalls that has affected over 8m vehicles worldwide and will cost the company at least $2b. CEO Akio Toyoda will hold his third recall-related press conference in two weeks on Wednesday evening to disclose these details and more on the company’s plans to boost testing and transparency. According to yet another WSJ [sub] report, those measures are said to include less reliance on computer modeling in vehicle design, improved consumer feedback capabilities and more stringent testing of supplier-designed parts.

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10 Comments on “As NHTSA Requests Documents, Toyota Pledges Greater Transparency...”

  • avatar

    The more hysterical the press gets about Toyota, the more I come to believe that this is mostly a scam to keep American lawyers in the money. Fact is that Toyota is one of the few auto makers with a huge cash horde. Fact is that when this is all said and done, most of that cash will be in the pockets of bipedal cockroaches….er, I mean American lawyers.

  • avatar

    You may know the old American joke:

    Question — “Why did the lawyer not run over the snake?”

    Answer — “Professional courtesy!”

  • avatar

    I hope somebody in his organization gave him input similar to the advice of the ttac spin-doctors so that he avoids a repeat of his “little-boy lost” performance from the last newscon; and for god-sake, use a translator!

    And the hits just keep on coming: In other news, there are about 44 class action suits pending against Toyota in the US, one professor estimates damages could rise to 3.6G USD…

    • 0 avatar

      The bulk of that money will go to law firms, not the consumer. You can be sure of it.

    • 0 avatar

      3 big checks and balances on encouraging companies to do the right thing and to raise their game… 1. regulation, enforcement and fines, 2. law suits, 3. market forces … these three are not interchangable, nor do they all come into play in every case, nor do they have effect in the same timescale.

  • avatar

    The lawyers will get 3 billion in fees.
    8m million customers will get coupons for an oil change and new floormats.

    Count on it.

  • avatar

    Toyota faces a $16.4M fine for delays in reporting safety issues. If the requested documents show anything beyond just delays, such as scheming to deceive NHTSA, then things could get much worse for both Toyota and Toyoda.

    I assume that this order will require that Toyota turn over the documentation from the fired lawyer that has been protected from release by court order. This documentation may be the real reason for this order.

    Just heard on the news that Toyota refused previously to release ‘black box’ data collected by their late model cars.

    Sounds like a couple of opportunities for smoking guns.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Ah, I see that some news agencies have fallen for Toyota’s spin that the documents were “requested”. The NHTSA didn’t say “please may I”, they demanded the documents in question. Here is an excerpt from the actual Department of Transportation press release:

    “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today announced that it is using its statutory authority to obtain documents from Toyota to determine if the automaker conducted three of its recent recalls in a timely manner. Federal law requires all auto manufacturers to notify NHTSA within five days of determining that a safety defect exists and promptly conduct a recall.

    “Safety recalls are very serious matters and automakers are required to quickly report defects,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

    The auto safety agency is requiring Toyota to provide documents showing when and how it learned of the defects affecting approximately 6 million vehicles in the U.S. alone. The probe will examine how the manufacturer learned of these defects, such as through consumer complaints or factory testing. Investigators are also looking into whether Toyota discovered the problems during pre-production or post-production of the affected vehicles. ”

    Note the use of the word REQUIRING, not requesting. It is Toyota which has tried to spin this as a request they are considering. Toyota remains tone deaf and aloof. Perhaps in Japan Toyota is accustomed to the government taking second chair, but that isn’t happening here.

    Toyota (and the other Japan based auto makers) also continues to take the position that only it is able to read out black box data from cars, and it will only release the portions of that data it considers relevant, and then only under direct court order. The US based automakers, on the other hand, have published their protocols so that third party companies can make data readers.

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