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Toyota E-Mails Show Executive Had Urged Company to “Come Clean”

Toyota just keeps looking worse and worse as more details emerge about their apparent cover-up of (or at least their delay in reporting) their sticking accelerator pedal problem. Here’s a roundup of recent stories:

The CBS Evening News reported that according to internal Toyota emails, “company executives wrestled with how to deal with sticking accelerator pedals. In January, five days before announcing a massive recall, an American vice president wrote ‘we are not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet,’ and ‘the time has come to not hide on this one.’ Toyota had no comment today.”

NBC Nightly News reported on one such email, “written by a company executive here in the US just five days before Toyota announced a massive recall. In the e-mail, the company executive acknowledges the company has accelerator pedal problems. Goes on to say, ‘we are not protecting our consumers by keeping this quiet. The time to hide on this one is over. We need to come clean.’”

Bloomberg News reports that despite calls from within the company for “a more cautious approach,” the email from Toyota US VP Irv Miller urged the company “to ‘come clean’…about mechanical failures in accelerator pedals for some vehicles.” Miller “told other officials in an e-mail on Jan. 16 that ‘the time to hide on this one is over.’” Noting that Secretary LaHood said this week that Toyota waited some four months to relate its findings about unintended acceleration to the public, Bloomberg adds that “Miller, who retired from Toyota later in January, declined to comment.” Nor would Toyota comment directly on Miller’s email.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Miller’s email came in response to an executives’ suggestion that his “colleagues to keep quiet about defective accelerator pedals. … The exchange — which occurred just days before a massive recall of Toyota vehicles to repair accelerator pedals — is the clearest indication so far that Toyota was debating internally when to disclose to its customers and federal safety regulators mechanical problems that were being linked to motorist complaints about sudden acceleration.”

Identifying the author of the email urging reticence as Katsuhiko Konagei, a Toyota communications coordinator, the New York Times reports that the exchange, made some three days before Toyota execs met with NHTSA officials about a potential recall, “was among 70,000 pages of documents requested from the company by the Transportation Department and Congressional committees, which are investigating Toyota’s recalls.” The Times notes that on Monday, LaHood “said he would seek the maximum $16.4 million fine permitted against Toyota over the sticking pedal recalls.”

Toyota told European distributors about sticky gas pedals weeks before informing NHTSA. The AP reports that the documents reveal that “long before Toyota told US regulators about sticking accelerator pedals, [it] warned its distributors throughout Europe about similar problems.” US complaints “were rising at the end of 2009. The documents show that weeks earlier, on Sept. 29, its European division issued technical information ‘identifying a production improvement and repair procedure to address complaints by customers in those countries of sticking accelerator pedals, sudden rpm increase and/or sudden vehicle acceleration.’” The AP notes that “LaHood cited the warnings to the other countries” in announcing the decision to levy the record $16.4 million fine against Toyota.

From the American Association for Justice press release.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

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The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

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