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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Questions for Toyota

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Questions for Toyota

BY MARK PHELAN

FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

What did Toyota know? When did the automaker know it, and what did it do about it?

Those are the things we should learn from congressional hearings into the automaker's safety recalls.

Several recalls and investigations involve sudden acceleration the automaker has attributed to at least two different causes or how its brakes work.

Figuring out the cause of Toyota's recalls and evaluating the company's response is like trying to follow a single strand of spaghetti through a plate of pasta.

As congressional hearings begin today, here are the questions Toyota executives should answer to unravel the mess:

1. What, if anything, is the difference between the sudden-acceleration problem you attribute to floor mats that initially led to the recall of 55,000 cars in 2007 and the later one that caused the recall of more than 5 million cars in 2009?

2. When you discovered a problem with Prius brakes in 2009, why did you fix it in new cars you were building, but not notify owners already driving cars that had the fault?

3. When you discovered accelerator pedals could stick, you changed the part in vehicles you produce in Europe in 2009. Why didn't you make the same correction to vehicles you build in the U.S.? Why didn't you immediately notify people driving the vehicles?

4. Why is the fix for that problem you implemented in European production last year different from the one you just announced for your U.S. plants?

5. What other changes have you made to brakes, engines and other safety-related systems in vehicles you were building without notifying customers who drive the vehicles every day? Please describe the problems customers reported that led to those changes.

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