Officials of Toyota Motor Corp took preliminary steps to publicly question the integrity of two witnesses testifying before a US Congress panel that is probing the Japanese automaker's safety record, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
The newspaper said Toyota never produced advertisements about the witnesses, but the House Energy and Commerce Committee wants to know whether a campaign to discredit them was put into action.
The committee held hearings this year into possible acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles. More recently, new questions have arisen over Toyota's product recall practices.
According to the Washington Post, Toyota issued a statement saying that witnesses Sean Kane, a Massachusetts safety consultant, and David Gilbert, an auto technology professor, made "assertions" that "created unwarranted consumer concern."
The statement went on to say that Toyota "conducts regular public opinion research" and a pollster had "tested for the widest range of potential messages to measure effectiveness," the newspaper reported.
It cited House committee documents and reported that a poll was conducted for Toyota titled the "Kane/Gilbert Debunking Message test."
Both Kane and Gilbert had been critical of Toyota, the newspaper said.
Committee Chairman Henry Waxman sent a letter to Toyota in March demanding "all documents" relating to the poll, according to the Washington Post.
The story quoted a committee spokesman saying Congress would "take very seriously any effort to malign or intimidate witnesses" who cooperate with investigations.