WASHINGTON -- (BY LARRY MARGASAK and KEN THOMAS, AP) The president of Toyota's operations apologized for the company's handling of safety issues Tuesday while insisting that electronic problems did not contribute to sudden acceleration of its cars. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood argued that such a possibility could not be ruled out.
(Scroll down for the prepared remarks from Toyota's president, Akio Toyoda regarding the automaker's growth in the U.S.)
Toyota's James Lentz and LaHood presented differing views in prepared testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigative panel, the first of three congressional panels holding hearings on Toyota's problems.
The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigative subcommittee, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michm, set the tone for sharp questioning of Lentz at the hearing's outset.
"Toyota all but ignored pleas from consumers to examine sudden unintended acceleration events," he said. "They boast in a briefing of saving Toyota $100 million by negotiating a limited recall. They claim that they first became aware of sticking pedals in late October of 2009 when in fact they had received numerous complaints many months and years earlier."
"They misled the American public," Stupak added, "by saying that they and other independent sources had thoroughly analyzed the electronics systems and eliminated electronics as a possible cause of sudden unintended acceleration when, in fact, the only such review was a flawed study conducted by a company retained by Toyota's lawyers."
Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton cautioned his colleagues against conducting a "witch hunt."