WASHINGTON -- A House committee has begun investigating whether Toyota Motor Corp. and its top executives, as well as the Obama and Bush administrations, responded adequately to customer complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy Committee, on Thursday expressed dissatisfaction with responses given by Toyota representatives on Wednesday to committee staff.
He sent letters asking both Yoshimi Inaba, president of Toyota Motor North America, and David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for extensive records dating back to 2000.
Toyota and NHTSA were told to supply the documents by Feb. 12.
While the meeting between the committee staff and Toyota “was helpful, it left important questions unanswered, including when Toyota learned about this serious safety defect and what actions the company took to investigate and resolve the hazard,” Waxman wrote to Inaba today.
Sudden and unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles has led to 19 deaths in the past decade -- nearly twice the number associated with all other automakers combined, the letter said.
The letter was co-signed by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the investigations subcommittee.
Waxman also said in a statement today that his panel plans to hold a Feb. 25 hearing on the issue.
Among the records sought in the letter to Toyota are all e-mail and other communications involving senior Toyota executives about the company's Jan. 26 decision to halt production and delivery to consumers of eight models.
The committee also requested all presentations about complaints of sudden acceleration to top Toyota executives made since 2000.
The letter defines senior Toyota management as the level of vice president and above for Toyota Motor North America, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and Toyota Motor Corp.
It also sought all internal reports and analyses since 2000 on sudden acceleration.
Waxman's letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requested all internal analyses of reports and complaints about sudden acceleration.
It also requested all e-mail and other communications between NHTSA and Toyota about sudden acceleration.
"Our enforcement efforts and ongoing dialogue with Toyota helped to facilitate the expansion of this recall," NHTSA Administrator Strickland said in a statement.
Toyota spokespersons didn't respond to requests for comment.