From: C. E. White on
Toyota denies allegations of floor-mat cover up
Hans Greimel
Automotive News
November 5, 2009 - 9:14 am ET

TOKYO -- A senior Toyota Motor Corp. executive denied allegations the
automaker tried to sidestep engineering or design defects that led to its
unprecedented safety recall of 3.8 million vehicles.

Toyota Executive Vice President Yukitoshi Funo said the company is working
closely with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to pinpoint
the problem's cause.

"It is not a part of Toyota's culture and the Toyota Way to cover up
anything. And we are proceeding with open and frank discussions with NHTSA,"
Funo said.

His comments came a day after NHTSA rebuked Toyota for issuing "inaccurate
and misleading information" about the safety recall, which advised drivers
to remove floor mats that may potentially jam underneath the gas pedal and
cause unintended acceleration.

A Toyota statement earlier this week said NHTSA found "no defect exists in
vehicles with properly installed floor mats." In fact, NHTSA said, Toyota
vehicles have a "very serious defect."

The accelerator and floor design of the vehicles create "the potential for
entrapment of the accelerator by floor mats," said a statement by NHTSA. It
said removing the floor mats is only an interim solution that does not
correct the underlying defect.

Funo said Toyota had "no disagreement on this issue."

"Basically, we are proceeding with discussions with NHTSA, and we expect to
have an agreement as soon as possible about what we should do," Funo said.

ABC News broadcast interviews this week with a number of Toyota drivers who
said their vehicles suddenly accelerated out of control even though their
foot depressed the brake and not the gas pedal. ABC cited reports of 16
acceleration-related deaths and more than 200 accidents.

The floor mat recall, Toyota's largest ever in the United States, was
prompted by an Aug. 28 accident involving a runaway Lexus ES 350 in San
Diego that killed four people.

The company said last week it would begin sending letters to owners urging
them to remove the floor mats from their cars while the company considers
what to do to curb unintended acceleration problems.

Funo said Toyota is still investigating the cause and looking beyond the
floor mats. Said Funo: "Certainly, we are talking about the floor mats --
but at the same time, the vehicle side, too."