D.C. calling louder for Toyota chief

February 12, 2010 http://detnews.com/article/20100212/AUTO01/2120350

D.C. calling louder for Toyota chief

Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Pressure is building in Congress for Toyota’s top official to testify on the company’s string of recalls.

The top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, said the committee should subpoena Toyota president Akio Toyoda if he isn’t willing to testify.

Committee chairman Ed Towns, D-N.Y., who has set a Feb. 24 hearing, said he’ll discuss the issue with Issa.

Toyota North American chief Yoshimi Inaba is to testify at the hearing. Toyoda, however, has delayed a trip to the U.S. until March and could testify at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing March 2.

Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles in the United States for sticky pedals, and 5.4 million over issues of pedal entrapment.

About 2,000 complaints and 19 deaths linked to sudden acceleration claims have been reported over the last decade.

The Japanese automaker also recalled 437,000 Prius cars and other hybrid vehicles worldwide this week.

But the embattled automaker got more support Wednesday, when President Barack Obama told Bloomberg News that he thought the company would recover from a "glitch."

"Every automaker has an obligation when public safety is a concern to come forward quickly and decisively when problems are identified," Obama said in a White House interview. "We don’t yet know whether that happened with Toyota. That’s going to be investigated …

"Obviously, Toyota has been an extraordinary automaker for a very long time, and I suspect that they will continue to be, despite this recent glitch."

Four governors, who alleged the government has a conflict of interest investigating Toyota because of its stake in General Motors, continued to defend Toyota. Indiana’s Mitch Daniels called the mounting drum beat against Toyota in the capital "a witch hunt."

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told MSNBC the media has unfairly singled out Toyota, and created a "feeding frenzy."

"They are as American a company as any other manufacturer here," Beshear said.

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