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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

NHTSA to test former runaway Lexus as Toyota adds safety executives

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NHTSA to test former runaway Lexus as Toyota adds safety executives

02/26/2010, 5:08 PMBY MARK KLEIS

NHTSA announced that it has purchased a 2006 Lexus ES350 that was involved in a former unintended acceleration case, while Toyota Motor Corp. announced that it will be creating two new senior executive positions within the company that will be tasked with monitoring safety issues in the U.S.

Following the emotionally charged testimony by Rhonda and Eddie Smith that detailed Rhonda’s six-mile long experience of unintended acceleration. Rhonda explained that once her Lexus ES350 surged and began accelerating uncontrollably on October 12, 2006, she attempted several times to punch the start/stop ignition while standing on the brakes – both without results. Eventually after Rhonda navigated the freeway for six miles she was able to regain control and bring the vehicle to a stop, but not before Rhonda made a phone call to her husband. “I knew he could not help me but I wanted to hear his voice, ” she testified.

The Smith’s sold the car after the incident with only 3,000 miles on the odometer, and now NHTSA tracked the vehicle down with 30,000 miles on the odometer. The new owners reported no instances of unintended acceleration since acquiring the vehicle from the Smith’s.

Ed Lewis, spokesman for Toyota said, “Toyota is pleased that we immediately located the 2006 Lexus ES350 formerly owned by Rhonda and Eddie Smith, as promised in our testimony this week before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. We look forward to the results of the agency’s independent analysis of the vehicle’s electronic throttle control system.”

Toyota takes action against future safety concerns

Toyota announced that it will be creating two brand new senior executive positions that will be tasked with monitoring safety issues.

One official will be a chief safety executive tasked with working full time on recall matters and safety concerns. The second officer will be higher-ranking chief quality officer, who will be responsible for ensuring quality on future products, in addition to sitting on the Special Committee for Global Quality, to be led by Akio Toyoda.

Akio Toyoda pledged to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that Toyota will “advance safety to the next level.”

Toyota’s new focus will be on the importance of safety and protecting consumers, rather than a focus on achieving large sales volumes, as admitted by Toyoda during the hearings. Toyoda explained that the automaker had “lost its way” over the years, and will need to regain its focus on safety, quality and then volume.

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