WASHINGTON -- Toyota dealers are regrouping to try to use their economic muscle to lobby another congressional committee that plans a hearing tomorrow on the automaker’s safety defects.
Both Tammy Darvish, a Toyota dealer in Silver Spring, Md., and the American International Automobile Dealers Association contacted dealerships over the weekend, asking them to contact members of the Senate Commerce Committee.
They also urged the dealers to attend tomorrow’s hearing as a show of support for the senior Toyota executives who will be testifying.
“We need to make sure that we all make the effort to contact our senators to discuss the impact of the recalls, hearings, etc., on our businesses, our employees and our communities,” Darvish said in Saturday, Feb. 27, e-mail.
A number of the 1,458 Toyota dealerships in the United States also lobbied two House committees that held hearings last week. Dozens of the dealers sat behind top Toyota executives during the hearings.
It’s unclear what impact their efforts had on the committee investigations. Lawmakers aggressively questioned Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda about the company’s recent recalls of 6 million vehicles for unintended accelerations and reports of 34 deaths related to the defects.
Toyoda acknowledged apologetically that the company had dragged its feet on notifying U.S. regulators about safety defects that he said led to the acceleration problems.
A number of the lawmakers said they were dissatisfied with Toyoda’s testimony.
After his testimony last week, Toyoda arrived to a standing ovation at a Washington gathering of Toyota dealers, employees and executives.
“At the hearing, I was not alone,” Toyoda said in English as he held back tears. “Words cannot express my gratitude.”
Toyota executives due to testify tomorrow are Toyota Motor Corp. executive vice presidents Takeshi Uchiyamada and Shinichi Sasaki and Toyota Motor North America President Yoshi Inaba.
Toyota dealerships in the United States employ 114,000 people, said company spokeswoman Cindy Knight.