WASHINGTON -- For months Toyota Motor Corp. failed to notify U.S. authorities about braking problems with its Prius hybrid, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said today in opening the second day of congressional hearings on Toyota’s safety defects.
“Toyota knew about this problem and was already addressing it for new cars on the assembly line,” said Rep. Ed Towns, D-N.Y. “But at the same time, Toyota withheld that information from both NHTSA and current Prius drivers until months later.
“If the spotlight had not already been shining brightly on Toyota, would the public have ever been told?”
Towns said Toyota’s handling of the Prius problem was part of a “troubling pattern of delay when it comes to revealing safety information.”
On Feb. 4, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation of more than 100 complaints that the 2010 Prius suffered momentary braking loss when the vehicle drove over uneven surfaces.
Five days later, Toyota announced a recall of 148,000 vehicles in the United States.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking Republican on the panel, said NHTSA lacks a system to learn about problems in other countries on its own.
“NHTSA is not prepared to proactively act,” he said. “How is it that NHTSA doesn’t have a system to know about problems in other countries?”