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Toyota to meet with Senate committee today

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Toyota to meet with Senate committee today



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WASHINGTON -- Toyota’s top engineer will tell a U.S. Senate committee this morning that the automaker’s electronic engine controls have been designed with “absolute reliability” and that Toyota does not believe the system has ever caused sudden unintended acceleration.

The Japanese automaker will also say it’s forming an outside panel of experts led by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, to oversee new worldwide procedures for quality and safety.

Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s executive vice president and the former chief engineer for the Prius, is one of three Toyota executives set to testify to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Toyota has been under fire for weeks following worries over sudden acceleration that have grown to include 3,300 complaints to U.S. auto safety regulators, including reports linking the problem to 58 deaths.

During hearings before two House committees last week, Toyota said that two recalls covering 5.6 million vehicles for floor mats and sticking accelerator pedals would solve all sources of sudden acceleration it was aware of. Yet several lawmakers said the automaker was not doing enough to explore possible electrical problems, noting that the recalls would not apply to 70% of the vehicles mentioned in complaints.

In his prepared remarks, Uchiyamada contends that Toyota’s electronic throttle controls are designed to prevent sudden unintended acceleration and would shut down or warn of a problem if one cropped up.

Its electronic throttle control system, or ETCS, is “designed and tested to make sure it withstands all of the foreseeable environments in terms of temperature, moisture, vibration, and electromagnetic interference,” Uchiyamada said.

He adds that Toyota has tested its system to double the level of electromagnetic radiation required by European officials with no failures.

“I want to be absolutely clear: As a result of our extensive testing, we do not believe sudden unintended acceleration because of a defect in our ETCS has ever happened,” he said. “However, we will continue to search for any event in which such a failure could occur.”

Yoshimi Inaba, Toyota’s top U.S. official, will say that Slater’s appointment is one of several steps meant to give Toyota’s regions more say in safety and recalls. Under Toyota’s current structure, all decisions about recalls in the United States or other countries must be made in Japan.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said that National Highway Traffic Safety Officials had to fly to Japan last year to warn Toyota that it was “a little safety deaf," following foot-dragging over recalls.



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