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Toyota Testifies Before Congress about Gas Pedal Problem

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Washington, DCThe Japanese head of the largest automotive company in the world admitted to a congressional hearing on Wednesday that Toyota may have let quality slide in the pursuit of quantity. Akio Toyoda, in Washington, offered a personal apology for the recent Toyota accelerator pedal recalls and vowed to regain consumers' trust.

A settlement reached this week in New York State with the office of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will see Toyota actually going to the homes of Toyota owners of recalled vehicles, picking up cars and trucks for repair and offering loaners or rentals while repairs to gas pedals and other maladies are made. Consumers will also be reimbursed for all out-of-pocket expenses related to the recall.

Toyota announced on Wednesday that the New York settlement will extend to all states in the US.

Meanwhile, the head of Toyota in the US admitted on Tuesday that inserting a metal shim into a gap in the friction lever of the sticking gas pedals might not fix the problem entirely. In his testimony on Capitol Hill Tuesday to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, James Lentz told congressmen that Toyota is still investigating the possibility that the problem may involve the electronics.

Previously Lentz and Toyota had dismissed the notion that problems with Toyota gas pedals were anything but mechanical. However, many experts conversant in the nuances of electromagnetic fields say that the problem is not due to sticking gas pedals, but rather to a glitch in the cars' computerized electronic systems.

Mechanics have been saying for years that vehicles are getting far too complicated.

In other Toyota gas pedal news, it was revealed during congressional hearings this week that Toyota received complaints about sticking gas pedal problems in Europe a full year before accidents began to occur in the US, according to a report late Wednesday in the New York Times.

Toyota executives in the US stated previously that they only found out about the sticking gas pedals this past October.

According to testimony presented before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the first reports of sticking Toyota gas pedals surfaced in Britain and Ireland in late 2008. In response, Toyota implemented a production change on cars sold in Europe—a change completed by January, weeks before it rolled out the massive US recall.

"We did not hide it. But it was not properly shared," testified Yoshimi Inaba, the chief operating officer for Toyota's North American division, who appeared with Mr. Toyoda at the hearing. "We need to do a much better job sharing what we knew in Europe with the United States to see if there is any danger to American consumers." Inaba said the American side of Toyota "was not aware or not informed of" the European situation until January, when he learned of it.

Meanwhile, Rhonda Smith—with her husband sitting to her right—testified through tears that when her Toyota Lexus accelerated out of control, she telephoned her husband and told him she thought she was about to die.

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