Toyota denied on Feb. 5 it had covered up safety problems with its cars and insisted they were safe to drive, as it began to repair some of the millions of vehicles recalled due to faulty accelerators.
Toyota announced it had begun repairing sticky accelerator pedals in the United States, where the auto giant faced allegations it had covered up vehicle defects -- a suggestion it strongly denied.
"The company never concealed these cases," said vice-president Shinichi Sasaki.
But the crisis rocking Toyota has escalated as the automaker looked set to recall several hundred thousand Prius hybrids.
Toyota said on Feb. 4 it had redesigned the anti-lock braking system (ABS) -- designed to prevent skidding -- for the latest version of its Prius produced since last month and would soon announce steps for those already on the road.
"For the Prius cars that are in the hands of customers already, I have instructed that a solution be found as quickly as possible," Akio Toyoda said. "Once the decision is made, we will inform the public."
"As for the accelerator recalls in the U.S., Europe and China, repair work preparations are being made at our dealers," Toyoda said. "As soon as these preparations are completed, we will inform you."
Toyota's U.S. arm said earlier its dealers across the United States had already received the parts, information and training needed to fix accelerator pedals, and that repairs had started. "We're working hard to ensure that our dealers have the resources and support they need to make sure our customers get their cars fixed quickly," said the company's U.S. head, Jim Lentz.
Standard & Poor's on Feb. 5 threatened to downgrade Toyota's credit rating, saying the recalls were putting the auto giant's brand image and sales at risk.