WASHINGTON -- About 100 Toyota Motor Corp. dealers are flying to Washington today for a lobbying campaign on the eve of congressional hearings into the automaker’s safety problems.
The dealers plan to tell the representatives on the House investigating committees that Toyota’s recalls are not out of the ordinary compared with those of other automakers, said Tammy Darvish, a Toyota dealer in Silver Spring, Md., who is helping to organize the effort.
The dealers also plan to tell lawmakers how the Toyota recalls are proceeding, she said in an interview.
“It makes a big difference when Congress can hear firsthand from constituents how we’re handling the recalls,” Darvish said.
Separately, an Edmunds.com analysis released today shows inconsistencies in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigations.
The Chevrolet Cobalt was the subject of 1,157 complaints about its steering between 2005 and 2010 while the Toyota Corolla was the subject of 84 complaints about its steering, Edmunds.com said.
Both the Cobalt and the Corolla are under investigation by NHTSA for possible safety defects connected to their steering.
Darvish said today that the Toyota dealer lobbying effort, which starts today, will continue through Wednesday.
Among the lawmakers that the dealers have met with or plan to meet with are Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House; and Chris Van Hollen, also a Maryland Democrat, the sixth ranking House member, Darvish said.
Toyota has recalled about 6 million vehicles in the United States since October for unwanted acceleration linked to floormat interference and/or sticky gas pedals.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing tomorrow at which Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., is scheduled to testify.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee plans a hearing on Wednesday at which Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp., and Yoshi Inaba, COO of Toyota Motor North America, are scheduled to appear.
Darvish said she is acting in her capacity as a Toyota dealer and not as one of the leaders of the Committee to Restore Dealer Rights, a group of rejected General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group dealers.
She said the lobbying effort also is being led by Paul Atkinson, chairman of the Toyota national dealer council, and the American International Automobile Dealers Association.
National Automobile Dealers Association data show that there are 1,468 Toyota showrooms with about 73,000 employees, NADA spokesman Bailey Wood said.
As for the Edmunds.com research, the group said: “The complaints about the Cobalt’s steering are far more serious and more dangerous than are the complaints about the Corolla’s steering.”
In response to the Edmunds report, GM issued a statement saying customers “should have no concerns with driving their 2005-2009 Chevrolet Cobalts.”
“If the loss of power steering should occur, a warning lamp illuminates and there is a chime that sounds to inform the driver,” the statement said. “At highway speeds, there will be little change in the effort required to steer.
“At lower speeds the effort required to steer will increase, but the vehicle will still be controllable. GM is cooperating with NHTSA in its preliminary evaluation, which is the first step in an investigation. NHTSA will send questions that we will answer, then the preliminary evaluation will either be closed or advanced to an Engineering Analysis, which is the second stage of an investigation.”