Canada Grills Toyota Execs Over Recall

While Toyota apolgized, they defended their handling of the recall.

On March 16 Toyota executives apologized to Canadians for safety problems that led to a massive recall of their vehicles, but defended their handling of the recall to a parliamentary committee.

"Over the past few months many Canadians have wondered whether Toyota vehicles are safe, and we regret that this has caused our customers both anxiety and inconvenience," Toyota Canada president Yoichi Tomihara told lawmakers.

He appeared before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities along with other Toyota executives to explain how the company dealt with complaints of unintended acceleration in some of its best-selling cars.

During the hearing, MP Mario Lafranboise accused the company of not understanding the problem and warning motorists fast enough. "You took too much time to find out what the problem was and too much time to speak openly about the problem," he said.

But Toyota Canada managing director Stephen Beatty defended the company's actions, saying it took Toyota engineers time to understand the problem after the first reports of a sticky accelerator appeared last October. "As soon as we determined there was a problem, we issued a recall," Beatty said.

Now, nearly two-thirds of recalled Canadian cars have been repaired in Canada, he added, flanked by Tomihara, Toyota's North American president Yoshi Inaba and Toyoto Motor Manufacturing Canada president Ray Tanguay.

Beatty also explained that following a U.S. recall last fall for "all-weather floor mats entrapping accelerator pedals," Toyota looked for similar problems in its Canadian models, but found only one problem in the newly introduced Toyota Venza.

Because of a different design and material used in Canadian mats than those in the United States, "we did not have the same issue," he said.

Still, the company announced a Canadian recall in November "to cover the same models that were affected in the United States ... because we knew that telling our customers there was 'no need to worry' was simply not good enough."

Later, he said, Toyota discovered that in some instances, "a combination of wear and condensation could make the accelerator pedal harder to press, slower to return to the idle position or -- in the worst case - stick in a partially depressed position -- not full throttle."

This led to a broader recall.

Last week, Transport Canada testified before the committee that it had received 17 complaints about acceleration issues in Toyota vehicles since 2006.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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