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Toyota is making conflicting claims on runaways, U.S. lawmakers say

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Toyota is making conflicting claims on runaways, U.S. lawmakers say

Neil Roland

Automotive News -- February 3, 2010 - 9:43 am ET

WASHINGTON -- Toyota Motor Corp. officials have made different statements publicly and privately about the causes of unintended acceleration, says the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Henry Waxman.

In a television appearance this week, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. President James Lentz said the problem was restricted to two causes: floor mat interference with the accelerator pedal and a sticky pedal, Waxman noted in a letter yesterday to Lentz.

But in a private Jan. 27 meeting with staff from Waxman's committee, Toyota officials said the causes of unintended acceleration are "very, very hard to identify," the letter said.

At this same meeting, Toyota officials said sticking accelerator pedals "are unlikely to be responsible for the sensational stories of drivers losing control over acceleration as their cars race to 60 miles per hour or higher," said the letter from Waxman, a California Democrat, and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., head of the oversight subcommittee.

Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight said the company is reviewing the letter and will cooperate with the committee's inquiry.

The Waxman letter also asked Lentz to provide any evidence related to his televised assertions that electronic defects were not to blame for Toyota's accelerator problems.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is looking into whether cases of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles can be traced to defects in the electronic controls rather than just the mechanical problems cited by the automaker, a Transportation official said yesterday.

The lawmakers' letter asked Lentz to clarify his statement about the role of sticky accelerator pedals. He also should provide any new information that had surfaced since the Jan. 27 meeting that led Toyota to think that sticky pedals may have caused high-speed accelerations, the letter said.

Waxman and Stupak gave Lentz until Friday, Feb. 5, to respond.

The two congressmen have begun an investigation of Toyota's problems dating from 2000 and have scheduled a Feb. 25 hearing.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100203/OEM/100209959/1143#ixzz0eVxvZTQL

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