Sen. Amy Klobuchar opened fire today on Toyota executives and federal Transportation officials, blasting the auto company for not recalling their cars quickly enough after drivers reported problems with stuck accelerators and questioning why federal regulators didn’t force them to.
She charged that complaints over safety got batted back and forth between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Toyota, without the problem getting resolved, like a puck in a nightmare hockey game. Two cases she cited involved Minnesotans whose vehicles accelerated on their own to 80 miles per hour, but who thankfully were able to stop their cars using emergency maneuvers. A resulting federal investigation into one of the incidents found no fault with Toyota.
“Drivers would file complaints by the dozens, federal regulators would open official reviews, Toyota would promise to answer, the regulators would complain about not receiving the information they needed and in the end the puck never got in the net, nothing was resolved and people died,” Klobuchar said.
Today’s Commerce Committee hearing was the latest in a series of Congressional hearings on Toyota recalls. Last Thursday, the president of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, apologized before a House committee for his company’s safety failings.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, whose department includes the agency responsible for investigating those consumer complaints, promised that the NHTSA would conduct a thorough investigation this time. Toyota, for its part, is continuing with a wide-ranging recall of its vehicles and again promised lawmakers that these safety lapses would never be repeated.
Asked after the hearing if she was satisfied with what she heard, Klobuchar replied, “It was a beginning.”