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Toyota boss to testify in Congress
Top executive of Japanese car maker to explain handling of recent safety recalls.
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2010 04:12 GMT
Akio Toyoda is expected to appear before
the US Congress next week [AFP]

Toyota's president has confirmed that he will appear before a US congressional panel next week, to explain the Japanese carmaker's handling of a series of damaging safety recalls.

In a statement Akio Toyoda said he would speak sincerely to the US Congress and the American people about his company's commitment to tackle the problems that have led to recalls of more than 8 million cars around the world.

Toyoda, the grandson of the carmaker's founder, had said earlier this week that he would not attend the US hearings.

His change of mind follows a direct invitation from the head of the congressional panel leading an investigation into the Toyota recalls.

"I look forward to speaking directly with Congress and the American people," Toyoda said in a statement.

He is expected to give testimony in Washington on Wednesday.

Toyota has recalled more than 6 million vehicles in the US – its biggest single market – over problems involving the accelerator pedal becoming stuck, either because of a loose floor mat or as a result of a design fault in the pedal assembly.

According to US safety regulators up to 34 crash deaths have been blamed on unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles since 2000.

'Helpful'

A separate recall involving the braking system on Toyota's Prius hybrid cars is also under way.

"It's good that he has decided to accept. But it's a shame there was flip-flopping on the decision"

Seiji Maehara, Japanese transport minister

In a joint statement Edolphus Towns, the Democratic chairman of the congressional oversight panel and Darrell Issa, the ranking Republican, said they were "pleased" Toyoda had agreed to appear in person to answer questions.

"We believe his testimony will be helpful in understanding the actions Toyota is taking to ensure the safety of American drivers," they said.

Towns added that Toyoda's appearance was needed to address what he said was "growing public confusion" about the recalls.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo on Friday, Japan's transport minister said it was the right decision for Toyoda to travel to the US, but added it was regrettable that he had earlier said he would not be going.

"It's good that he has decided to accept," Seiji Maehara said. "But it's a shame there was flip-flopping on the decision."

The massive scale of the recalls has badly damaged Toyota's reputation for quality and reliability, and hit its share price.

Toyota's US sales dropped 16 per cent in January and are expected to take a big hit in February as well.

Source:
Agencies
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