WASHINGTON -- U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said today that Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda's visit to the United States “has been a game changer” in the automaker's concern about the safety of its U.S. vehicles.
“Toyota became a little safety-deaf,” LaHood told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today. “Things have changed.”
LaHood said safety concerns that had been voiced internally in the past by Toyota's North American executives “might not have been heard in Japan.”
Toyoda has agreed to testify today before the House panel.
In prepared testimony released yesterday, Toyoda said, “Toyota's priority has traditionally been the following: first, safety; second, quality, and third, volume. These priorities became confused.”
Toyoda's testimony added: “We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and our organization, and we should sincerely be mindful of that. I regret that this has resulted in the safety issues described in the recalls we face today.”
LaHood has said he spoke with Toyoda in recent months to urge him to make safety a higher priority.
This phone call followed a December visit by NHTSA officials to Toyota executives in Japan to express concern that they weren't taking complaints of unintended acceleration seriously enough. In January, NHTSA also met with Toyota managers in Washington to urge them to recall vehicles for sticky pedals.