Newly-released documents show that Toyota officials in Japan and the United States spent months debating how to handle problems with defective accelerator pedals, even though the company was required to disclose safety-related issues to the U.S. government within five days of discovering such problems.
A senior American executive, worrying about the potential impact on the company’s once-bulletproof image, finally warned his colleagues at Toyota’s Japanese headquarters that if the automaker didn’t “come clean,” it might trigger the collapse of its business.
“WE HAVE a tendency for MECHANICAL failure in accelerator pedals of a certain manufacturer on certain models,” wrote Irv Miller, the outgoing group vie president of communications for Toyota Motor Sales USA, wrote to Katsuhiko Koganei, on January 16, 2010, using capital letters to underscore his concerns.
As TheDetroitBureau.com has reported, on several occasions, there was an apparent split between U.S. and Japanese Toyota executives over the company’s problems with so-called “sudden acceleration.” But the letter by Miller, who was scheduled to retire in January of this year, provides clear evidence of the problem, with the U.S. executive’s note insisting, “The time to hide on this one is over.”
In October 2008, the maker had recalled 3.8 million vehicles for what it described as “carpet entrapment,” where loose floor mats would occasionally jam accelerator pedals. In the weeks that followed, American executives described as “unwarranted speculation” reports of additional problems.
But a cache of tens of thousands of documents recently provided to U.S. officials by Toyota reveal that even before the first American recall — by no later than June 2009 — the automaker had already realized there was an additional problem with the actual accelerator pedal assembly on at least some Toyota models sold in Europe.