Toyota's under-fire chief postpones US visit | autos | Hindustan Times
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Toyota's under-fire chief postpones US visit

Toyota said on Friday its chief, under pressure to face US lawmakers over mass safety recalls, had postponed a visit to Washington until early March, as the company considers disclosing all its vehicle flaws.

autos Updated: Feb 12, 2010 10:42 IST

Toyota said on Friday its chief, under pressure to face US lawmakers over mass safety recalls, had postponed a visit to Washington until early March, as the company considers disclosing all its vehicle flaws.

The Japanese giant, battling accusations in the United States that it dragged its feet in responding to a series of safety problems, declined to say whether president Akio Toyoda would miss a February 24 congressional hearing.

"The president was planning to go to Washington as early as February 10 but was forced to change it due to heavy snow. At the moment he plans to reschedule it to around early March," company spokeswoman Mieko Iwasaki said.

The top Republican on a House committee looking into the company's handling of dangerous defects said Wednesday he would ask the panel's chairman to invite Toyoda to take part in the February 24 hearing.

US Representative Darrell Issa said US lawmakers were eager to "hear directly" from the Toyota chief about the auto giant's woes.

Toyota, the world's biggest carmaker, has been accused in the United States of being too slow to act on the accelerator and brake problems behind the recalls of more than eight million vehicles worldwide.

In a bid to regain consumer confidence after massive vehicle recalls, Toyota plans to disclose all flaws it fixed following complaints from drivers, the Yomiuri Shimbun said Friday.

Toyota is believed to potentially be the first major automaker to disclose all information on problems with its cars, including minor flaws such as difficulty in closing doors or shifting seats, the newspaper reported.

"We are now considering concrete measures to promote information disclosure on quality improvement," the Toyota spokeswoman said.

Toyota faces a host of class action lawsuits in the United States, where Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood vowed Wednesday to hold Toyota's "feet to the fire."

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform had set a hearing for February 10, but put it off because of a winter storm lashing Washington and an intervening congressional recess next week.

Toyota's North America president Yoshimi Inaba is scheduled to appear at the February 24 hearing. Further congressional hearings on the matter are also scheduled for the following day and on March 2.

The Asahi Shimbun reported Friday that Toyoda planned to face the US Congress but was waiting for a formal invitation before making a firm decision.

Toyota's recalls cover models with accelerator problems blamed for several deadly high-speed crashes, as well as brake system trouble in the Prius and other hybrid models.

A federal court hearing in San Diego next month will aim to group legal action involving 22 law firms across 16 states involving Toyota vehicle owners chasing financial compensation as a result of the crisis.

Tim Howard, a professor of law at Northeastern University and a leading authority in consumer law cases, is coordinating the latest wave of lawsuits under the banner of Attorneys Toyota Action Consortium (ATAC).

Howard, who helped win a 20-billion-dollar settlement for the state of Florida during the wave of litigation against big tobacco in the 1990s, said the Toyota cases would be one of the biggest in US history.

"This is the strongest and largest case for economic damages to American consumers we've ever had," Howard said.

Toyota faces more potential trouble after US authorities said they may investigate some models of its best-selling Corolla after receiving more than 80 complaints that its steering veers off-centre at high speeds.

In another blow to the image of Japanese car makers, Honda on Wednesday recalled more than 400,000 vehicles to fix airbags that it said can explode and spray out potentially deadly metal shards.