We will have analysis of day one's Toyota Testimony (available in full here) and we'll try to liveblog today's events. Stream available here. Some documents are becoming available and we'll post as we can. You can always check the Committee's website too.
Chairman Towns - Opening Remarks.*.pdf
Sec. LaHood - Prepared Testimony *.pdf
Mr. Akio Toyoda - Prepared Testimony *.pdf
Mr. Yoshimi Inaba - Prepared Testimony *.pdf
Ms. Joan Claybrook - Prepared Testimony *.pdf
***MAKE SURE YOU REFRESH YOUR BROWSER FROM TIME TO TIME IF YOU ARE FOLLOWING ALONG.***
5:45pm - Mrs. Lastrella is testifying and it is very emotional. I really hope Toyodasan hasn't left yet and hears this testimony.
5:32pm - It appears clear to me that the staffers on the majority at least have found lots of Tacoma instances. That's reading between the lines folks!
5:23pm - Rep. Clay (D-MO) follows up the electronic problem question. Mr. Toyoda has said today that he is certain the problem is not electronic. Then why, asks Rep. Clay, are you including a software fix and did you hear the testimony yesterday saying there was an electronic problem? FWIW, we're losing this argument in its semantics and translation issues. Toyoda says "thus far" there is no electronic problem found. He says he heard Dr. Gilbert's testimony, but doesn't know details. He emphasizes this isn't about who is right or wrong, but we need to conduct more tests and extend cooperation. Inaba says he is happy to meet with Dr. Gilbert. Wasn't this on ABC news last folks? They are talking about the Gilbert test like its some sort of black op or something. Inaba says this is intended manipulation, not an unintended acceleration test. Of course, that's the point of the test. Come on. This is like saying you can't prove gravity unless you're in space.
5:15pm - Rep. Kaptur (D-OH) starts by ripping into Toyoda. "Where is the remorse" invoking the death of a Michigan woman who tried to stand on the brakes in order to stop it. Unfortnately, Rep. Kaptur thinks NHTSA is actually NISHTA, which is a whole different thing. She's bringing up the Toyota Way book. "How did Toyota lose its way? You say your company grew too fast. Some smart lawyers gave you those words." Sounds like a prelude to panel III. "Isn't the Toyota way to push deregulation?" Toyoda's response: "our people may have not kept pace with expansion." He says he is going to transform the Toyota business. Lots of transformation talked about today, as well as trips to Japan. Maybe if we agree to have a transformative trip to Japan? Some of this is really silly, and Rep. Kaptur was obviously doing her best to make sure the sober seriousness is not lost in the talking points.
5:07pm - Rep. Speier (D-CA) expresses dismay that Toyoda didn't know that NHTSA came over to Japan. Toyoda says its true. Speier asks for all docs, memos, etc. that came from that meeting. He says he will do so. Someone needs to tell the committee staffers to keep their reps asking for memos, and docs, because apparently Mr. Toyoda cannot say no. Speier says I hope you will never use excuse that this is driver error ever again. Yikes! Isn't that their stated defense? Mr. Toyoda promises to never never link customer fault going forward. That could hurt. Well done Rep. Speier. Seems to have gotten some really good concessions from the witnesses late in the day. Does Mr. Toyoda not understand that Toyota's official position is that ALL of the cases of injuries in SUAs are the result of driver error? This is a pretty big deal that he promises never to make that argument again.
4:54pm - Toyoda agrees that NHTSA should ask manufacturers to report problems worldwide instead of just inside this country and agrees to assist in doing that. I get the feeling that the initial testimony was vetted nearly as carefully as the talking points are being vetted. Not sure why almost every Congressman on this panel feels the necessity to start off saying: "now I've owned Toyotas." Or "my wife drives a Lexus" but... Are we getting ready for an "If by Toyota" speech? Mr. Toyoda is still apologizing... and still feeling regret. Toyoda says to the question of why it took so long to act, "we're setting up a committee." Who said they didn't know Washington lingo?
3:44pm - Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) asks Mr. Toyoda what he's learned. There was an interesting moment there prior to this in Inaba's Q&A about the Santee crash. Toyoda is now speaking about what he's learned, and its hard to hear because the buzzers are going off for the next vote. I think this is like the 3rd or 4th interruption today.
3:37pm - Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) reps the area where Toyota's major N. American presence is located. He's really talking about how great Toyota is, how much we've all learned from them. And he says we all need to remember that Toyota is doing a great job here by "taking responsibility" for this and holding themselves "accountable." We'll have more to say on this, but I haven't seen Toyota "take responsibility" for a single instance of SUA yet. I've seen them apologize, but they haven't taken responsibility.
3:29pm - Some interesting questions about awareness of Mr. Toyoda and the problems related to SUA. Rep. Connolly is doing the questioning here. Says that Mr. Toyoda is contradicting Sec. LaHood's testimony. Asks Toyoda for clarification. Mr. Toyoda dodges, says someone else was in charge of that. Connolly: "what did we know and when did we know it?" Btw, the old saying from my days working on the Hill was that once they start asking that question, you're in trouble. Asks Inaba what was meant by "secured favorable ruling" in the Toyota docs.
3:18pm - Some technical difficulties on our end... so our coverage between 2:20pm and now is kapoof. Looks like Rep. Mica is back. From our perspective, this testimony has been extremely boring. Kanjorski made some great points, but we've really just been talking about how bad all this is and very little about how to fix this going forward and make sure it doesn't happen again. Mica is just shocked, shocked to see that "no defect found" is in Toyota's list of "wins". Not sure if Mica thinks anyone is buying this. Inaba responds. Once to straighten facts. I just got on the job. Mica points out he'd been working for Toyota 40 years. It is a shocking statement to have this in your corporate presentation that its a "win" to kill a product defect investigation. But I'd be surprised if other car companies don't have similar statements in similar instances. Mr. Toyoda claims he knows nothing about such documents. But he is upset about them. Should not be looked at as the type of thing that Toyota endorses. Looks like another vote is being called. So Del. Norton is back in the chair.
2:20pm - We're back. Toyota's representatives are sworn in. Mr. Toyoda and Mr. Inaba. Chairman Towns begins with remarks, noting this is a voluntary appearance by Mr. Toyoda. Giving Mr. Toyoda a little more time. There is a translator available, though I believe Mr. Toyoda is widely known as fluent in English. His prepared testimony is linked above, which he is reading from now.
1:07pm - We are taking a break. The testimony is still going on. We'll be back when Mr. Toyoda begins his testimony.
***EARLIER COVERAGE CONTINUES ON THE FLIP***
12:59pm - Flake yields to Issa. Issa says the Cobalt has "far more complaints" than Toyota and wonders why we aren't moving more quickly? Is GM not willing to do what Toyota was willing to do? Personally, I've seen no evidence that Cobalt's have more complaints than "Toyotas". This is an apples to oranges comparison. LaHood agrees to stand guard on this. Rep. Davis (D-IL) begins.
12:55pm - Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) brings back the issue of whether domestic and foreign motor companies are being looked at the same. He argues the recall will cost Toyota billions of dollars. He wants to be assured that there's no favoritism here. Wants to look at the statistics of complaints and how they are dealt with. There is a real dissonance here between the allegation that NHTSA and Toyota were "too cozy" and that at the same time, NHTSA is grilling Toyota because the government owns GM. LaHood says absolutely positively no way we are treating them differently.
12:53pm - Back to other side of the aisle. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) asks LaHood why NHTSA denies petitions because they are looking at other things. Sees NHTSA's credibility at stake.
12:46pm - Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT). Questions about whether Toyota is being looked at the same. Asks about the 2005-2006 GM Cobalts. LaHood says NHTSA looks at every complaint. Congressman wants to know why did it take so long? Alludes to whether or not there is UAW involvement. LaHood: "absolutely not." This line of questioning isn't going anywhere, but Chaffetz continues. "Why is the agency negotiating with Toyota?" LaHood already laid out that they wanted to move quickly, so they brought the company on board rather than making it adversarial. Now we're back to the resources question. Wants to know why petitions are routinely denied for "lack of sufficient resources." LaHood doesn't know about the language. Chaffetz wants to know why there are more attorneys coming into NHTSA than engineers. LaHood doesn't know exact numbers, will get back to put it on record precisely. It is astonishing to me that members of this committee have absolutely no idea how NHTSA operates. "Do you believe there is too cozy a relationship between NHTSA and the industry?" LaHood says "No!" Repeats that in the last 3 years there have been 23M vehicles recalled. That is a lot of cars folks, and it makes me wonder how safe these "next generation" vehicles really are.
12:41pm - Rep. Mike Quigley (D-.IL) asks LaHood about the black box standards (EDRs). LaHood doesn't seem to know the exact status of whats going on there. Somebody at DOT should have briefed this issue before the testimony. Here's a link to the FedReg notice (scroll down). Maybe someone has an iPhone on the front row?
12:38pm - We're back. Rep. Duncan (R-TN) is questioning. Toyota has a fairly large presence in Tenessee. LaHood says they are going to hold Toyota's feet to the fire. They aren't compromising on safety, even if there's a savings in money.
12:30pm - 10 min. break. LaHood will cont. after break. Later today Mr. Toyoda will testify.
12:10pm - Del. Norton (D-DC), still chairing, asks about the "culture" of secrecy... ? LaHood says he phoned Mr. Toyoda directly and sent his people to Japan to avoid that problem. Norton says that apparently the culture at Toyota is that these things work themselves over time. LaHood says the business in Toyota doesn't always hear what the folks in North America are telling them. LaHood says that the game has changed completely with Mr. Toyoda coming here directly to testify. Is that really a game-changer? Don't we expect our captains of industry to come and answer the people directly? Maybe LaHood means that in Japan, they don't expect that. Not sure of the point of this line of questioning. Norton wants to know how Toyota's brand got tarnished so quickly. LaHood says: "Toyota became a little safety deaf." Those are pretty strong words from the U.S. Sec. of Transportation. He also says that the Japan needs to listen to North America. Norton brings up the over-ride system. Notes that other companies did have over-ride systems in their vehicles, but not Toyota. Why wasn't over-ride in Toyotas? asks Norton. Norton wants to know why a company with such a sterling safety record wouldn't put the over-ride in to begin with. LaHood defers to Mr. Toyoda. Norton quotes an auto safety consultant, talking about the brake over-ride feature being a standard to be looked to. Norton asks LaHood whether or not brake over-rides need to be in all electronic throttle controlled vehicles. LaHood demurrers. This is really the essential question and LaHood doesn't have a final answer. That is strange because Toyota has already announced they will make the brake over-ride standard in their new lines. Del. Norton asks about making EDR's openly available. LaHood agrees. Norton wants to know if there should be a federal standard. Both seem to not know that in 2012 all EDRs will be opened up to consumers. "How long will it take" asks Del. Norton. LaHood defers again. I bet LaHood is wondering when that vote will be over. LaHood wants to use the restroom, requests a breather for 10 min. We'll be back folks!!!!
12:00pm - DC Delegate Norton now chairs the session (votes going on in the House, and since DC doesn't vote, she's got the chair). Rep. Souder (R-IN) (did he already vote?) begins. He asks LaHood, "no vehicle is 100%?" LaHood doesn't take the bait, thankfully. LaHood is very animated right now. It is refreshing in some sense to watch. Souder asks about the suppliers, are they supplying other companies? Is it a supplier problem? Etc. Toyota initially looked at one of the problems coming from an American supplier, CTS. CTS is in Indiana, many of the workers live in Souder's district. Rep. Souder worries that we aren't allowing the companies to fix the problem with all the hysteria. Wonders if LaHood is concerned that the sunlight will keep manufacturers from researching the problems. LaHood, again, doesn't take the bait. Says he hopes the manufacturers will make cars that are safe. Souder uses a strained analogy, lowering the speed limit on interstate highways to 30mph. Lahood: "our job is for people who drive cars." Says they won't rest until all the Toyotas are 100% safe. Again, this leaves the elephant in the room... Toyotas, at least in LaHood's opinion it seems, aren't 100% safe.
11:54am -Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) begins with CBS documents. Asks if Sec. LaHood is aware of the docs. LaHood says no. Says he's interested in these docs. The electronic interference issue is "going to be" investigated by NHTSA according to LaHood. LaHood states: "we have asked for a voluminous amount of data" from Toyota. If they need to go to Japan to get these docs, they will. I wonder if LaHood knows that Toyota can simply email the docs to him through YouSendIt, or a similar service. I wonder if Kucinich knows that. All these trips to Japan sound expensive. Kucinich does get at the issue of why, if no electronic issue is responsible, did Toyota include a software patch in their recall fixes? LaHood agrees to investigate fully that issue. "Its on our radar screen"
11:49am - Inside baseball on having Administrator Strickland testify. Rep. Mica (R-FL) begins his questions. Says he's "baffled" by the President's request of "only $5M." Here's a question for Rep. Mica, are you going to agree to vote for more taxes to pay for more safety engineers? Rep. Mica wants to know how many vacancies there are at NHTSA. More inside baseball. He brings up the issue of "revolving door." Mica brings up Scott Yon, another NHTSA employee working for Toyota. Wants to know what sort of ban there is. LaHood says its a two year ban. Mica supports LaHood's call for tightening standards and "closing revolving door." LaHood wants the ol' Oberstar bill to get support of the committee for transit safety.
11:39am - Rep. Cummings (D-MD) begins. Starts in on whether or not the Toyotas are safe. Sec. LaHood says the cars affected by the recalls "are not safe." "For now, any car on the website needs to go back to the dealer to be fixed. They are not safe." LaHood says there are people who believe there is an electronics problem in Toyotas. But for now, the DOT doesn't have the information to say one way or the other. States NHTSA will look at other issues. LaHood reminds Rep. Cummings the President has proposed 66 new employees for NHTSA in the budget.
11:34am - LaHood is asked why the Adminstrator from NHTSA is not testifying... "Don't get mad at me Ray, that was the LA Times." Rep. Burton (R-IN). LaHood states that Strickland has been involved for about 40 days, strikes a "buck stops with me" pose. Rep. Burton asks about "sweetheart deal" between Toyota and former NHTSA employees. Chris Santucci, a former NHTSA employee, and now a Toyota employee in their Washington office, is intimately involved in the Toyota recall investigations. LaHood says they can work for Toyota (former NHTSA), but they "cannot come back and talk about things they worked on" while at the agency. LaHood concedes that the regulation ought to be tightened up. Burton ends: "I still love you Ray."
11:29am -Rep. Kanjorski (D-PA) begins his statements. Commends Sec. LaHood at outset. Wants to find a way to utilize information from around the globe that is shared by the countries and available to the world "since we're in a global marketplace." He confesses his love of Portuguese sardines. I'm hoping this isn't a metaphor.
11:23am - Rep. Towns beings Q&A. Asks Sec. LaHood: "Do you think its safe to drive a Toyota today?" LaHood doesn't answer directly. Repeats they are going to work 24/7 until every Toyota is safe. This leaves the question answered in the negative. Rep. Issa asks about the NHTSA website, saying it isn't so simple to use. LaHood agrees they need to make that information more readily available. Rep. Issa asks Sec. LaHood about the recall in Great Britain. Wonders whether there is some sort of alert that NHTSA can use. LaHood agrees it should be part of it. Wants to share more information with manufacturers. Rep. Issa asks about the Toyota Blade (Japan only) which had a change to the pedal length.
11:11am - Chairman Towns swears the first witness, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. Begins remarks with plea for greater authority from Congress by citing other disasters (FAA, Metro transit accident, etc.). Talks about "distracted driving". "I'm on a rampage" against people texting, talking on the phone, etc. "Toyota recall situation is extremely serious." Notes the recalls are among the largest in history. Tells consumers to contact Toyota dealers now if experiencing problems. Asks affected drivers to take floormats out of their car until recall fix obtained from dealer. On the Prius, asks folks who experience change in brake response to immediately contact their dealer. Sec. LaHood is very animated today, moreso, in my opinion, than usual. You can tell he's upset about this, and about the criticisms levied against NHTSA. "When there needs to be a recall, we do it." LaHood states that NHTSA was unhappy with Toyota's response. So they flew to Japan. LaHood argues that by engaging Toyota directly, they (NHTSA) sped things up. Sec. LaHood stumbles over "electro-magnetic interference." Freudian? Safety is top priority. He listened to the 911 tape of the Saylor crash. This is the Santee crash, referred to by Chairman Towns at opening. You can learn about the Santee tragedy here. "We will not sleep at DOT and we will work 24/7 at NHTSA to make sure every Toyota is safe to drive."
11:05am - Issa opens with his statements. Asks that Rep. from KY be allowed to attend. Kentucky his home to one of the largest Toyota manufacturing plants outside of Japan. Rep. Issa shows a slide "From Recall to Recovery" showing big recalls from different industries. "We judge them ... by how quickly they respond." "Today we will be asking Mr. Toyoda as to whether they are a good company or a great company." "Prior to today we cannot say that Toyota was a great company." Shows a second slide. Its a brief timeline of the SUA investigation and complaints. Issa questions whether NHTSA did all the could, as well as whether Toyota did all they could.
11:00am - Chairman Towns (D-NY) opens with emotional quotes from SUA crash. He notes serious questions of whether or not NHTSA used all available tools to investigate the problem. Expresses his own personal doubts since former NHTSA employees were hired by Toyota. He also points out that Toyota officials bragged about closing down NHTSA investigation. Alleges Toyota withheld information from NHTSA during Prius recall investigation as well. "NHTSA failed the taxpayers. Toyota failed their customers." "We now have 39 deaths attributed to sudden acceleration." He recalls the Pinto explosions from the 1970s, noting only 27 deaths occurred in those Fords. "Can the American people trust NHTSA...?" He yields to Rep. Issa (R-CA).