In his opening statement before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. president Jim Lentz addressed his company's current recall situation by saying that the automaker had failed to live up to "the high standards our customers and the public have come to expect from Toyota." He went on to note: "It has taken us too long to come to grips with a rare but serious set of safety issues, despite all of our good faith efforts."
The head of Toyota's U.S. operations followed up by stating: "We now understand that we must think differently when investigating complaints and communicate faster, better and more effectively with our customers and our regulators." To that end, Lentz outlined a series of policy and practice changes that the automaker plans to begin implementing. These include a top-to-bottom review of operations that will be led by Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda himself, supported by a new team of Chief Quality Officers for North America and other principal Toyota sales regions. Toyota will use independent, outside experts to evaluate the findings of this review board to make sure the company meets or exceeds industry standards. Lentz also said Toyota plans to expand its network of U.S. technical offices to ensure they can gather information faster and respond more aggressively to any specific incident reports.
During a sometimes contentious 2 hour and 15 minute session in which he responded to questions from various committee members, Lentz admitted that although 70 percent of all of the unintended acceleration incidents under investigation still remain unexplained, the automaker remains confident that no problems exist with its electronic throttle-control system and its multiple built-in fail-safe mechanisms. However, that specific area of investigation appears destined to become an increasingly important focal point for all subsequent recall-related hearings. On Wednesday, Akio Toyoda, grandson of Toyota's founder, will appear before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to offer his explanation of the problems that have now led to a recall of more than 8.5 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles worldwide.