Toyota pledges tighter safety controls



TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Toyota will employ new quality control officers, conduct testing and will consult an independent research agency to fix their vehicle problems, the automaker's president said Wednesday.

But Toyota President Akio Toyoda said he will not appear before U.S. lawmakers at hearings scheduled for later this month.

Mr. Toyoda addressed reporters for the third time in two weeks about the massive recall.

Toyota has recalled more than 8.1 million vehicles worldwide for problems related to sudden acceleration and unresponsive brake pedals, among other things. The company has apologized for the safety lapses and pledged to repair the recalled vehicles quickly.

On Wednesday, Mr. Toyoda said the company has found a fix for the Toyota Sai, sold in the U.S. as the Lexus HS 250h, and began notifying owners about recall procedures.

"Toyota is not perfect. But when we find a problem or are made aware of it, we act as quickly as possible. We are sincerely working on that," Mr. Toyoda said.

The company is conducting "vigorous" testing on issues with the vehicles' throttle control system and has employed an independent agency to test the system. The company will also release the results of the tests to the public, Mr. Toyoda said.

The company will hire quality control officers to be deployed worldwide, Mr. Toyoda said.

Mr. Toyoda also spoke about some technical changes that will be made to vehicles.

The company will add a brake override system to future vehicles that will cut engine power when the accelerator and brake pedals are applied at the same time.

Some other auto companies, including Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler, already use such a system on all of their cars.

The company will also put more data recorders in vehicles so that technicians can use them to get valuable information on cars that malfunction.

Along with many disgruntled car owners, Toyota now is fielding questions from the U.S. government.

Regulators said Tuesday they have demanded documents from Toyota to determine if the automaker conducted its recent recalls in a timely manner.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it has ordered Toyota to provide documents showing when and how it learned of the defects affecting approximately 6 million vehicles in the United States.

Federal regulations require all automakers to notify NHTSA within five days of determining that a safety defect exists and to promptly conduct a recall, the agency said.

Toyota has said it would cooperate with the request.

The issue is scheduled to be discussed at U.S. congressional hearings this month. Mr. Toyoda said he will not attend the hearing and will instead sending North America chief Yoshimi Inaba.

"I would think given the tremendous scrutiny Mr. Toyoda and his company are under, he would have seized the opportunity to personally appear and use the hearing as a forum to move forward," said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "Obviously, Mr. Toyoda is not as eager to give Congress and the American people answers as we first thought."

-- CNN's Kyung Lah contributed to this report. To top of page

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