Check back often as I will be updating this blog as soon as I get new info. You’ll be reading it almost as soon as my colleagues at the Fox News Channel will read it…
Our hearing is scheduled to start at 11:00a with testimony from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
UPDATE 10:12 Fox News has just learned through a spokesman for Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) that NHTSA Admin David Strickland will not be at today's Toyota Hrng.
Issa Spox: "If there are questions that sec LaHood cannot answer we will call a second hearing with the NHTSA Administrator."
UPDATE 11:41 Rep Dan Burton (R-IN) asked in his first question why NHTSA Admin Strickland was not testifying in today's hearing. He cited an LA times report for this information. LaHood had a very emphatic response, and Congressman Burton tried to lighten the mood.
LaHood: Mr Strickland has been on the jobs day 40 days and I'm taking responsibility for this as I said in my testimony safety is # 1. I'll be responsible. I'm not going to duck it and give it to someone who's been on the job for 40 days…
Burton: Don't get mad at me Ray that was the LA Times (laughter)
Rep Burton let LaHood know that they were still friends despite the tough questions at the end of his time: Thank you very much and I still love you Ray (laughter)
UPDATE 11:46 LaHood: Toytas on Department of Transportation Website May Have Electrical Problems:
Asked again if he thought Toyotas were safe, Sec LaHood said if the owner’s car is on their website, that car may have an electrical prob.
The cars on our website... we believe we need to look at the electrical systems on these cars because people have told us there may be a problem.
UPDATE 12:18 LaHood says that Toyota has been slow to respond to this crisis during questioning by DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D). LaHood says Toyota was slow to respond, but that the situation has changed.
Eleanor Holmes Norton: Do you believe Toyota has been slow to respond to this?
LaHood: “Yes I do that's why we went to Japan that's why I spoke to Mr Toyoda directly.”
He did say the situation has gotten better. “Things have changed his visit here has been a game changer.”
UPDATE 12:34 Toyota Hearing taking a “bathroom break” during a series of votes in the House. The original plan was for the hearing to continue through the vote series. DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton had been chairing the hearing for quite some time while members were on the floor voting. Finally after a long and protracted question and answer session, Trans Sec Ray LaHood asked for a brief "bathrooom break" recess to wait for other members to return.
UPDATE 13:39 A staffer in the office of Rep John Mica (R-FL) passes along the following information on NHTSA’s budget
2006 $806mn (increase due to behavioral safety funding in SAFETEA LU)
NOTE: The 2011 budget request proposes to cut NHTSA's vehicle safety research budget by $7.6mn.
In 2010 NHTSA received $140.4 mn for vehicle safety research. The 2011 budget proposes only $132.8mn.
The 2011 NHTSA budget proposes an $11mn increase in behavior safety programs mainly to combat distracted driving.
UPDATE 14:04 “Is that it Mr. Chairman?” a seemingly exhausted witness, Transportation Secretary has been testifying for almost 3 hours straight!
Update 14:06 “What a joy Mr. Chairman! It’s great to be back!” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has finally been dismissed from testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda and Toyota Motors USA President Yoshimi Inaba.
UPDATE 14:15 Toyoda and Inaba being sworn in now. The sound of camera shutters almost covers the words…
UPDATE 14:20 Toyoda: (I)n the past few months, our customers
have started to feel uncertain about the safety of Toyota's vehicles, and I take full responsibility
for that. Today, I would like to explain to the American people, as well as our customers in the
U.S. and around the world, how seriously Toyota takes the quality and safety of its vehicles
UPDATE 14:28 Toyoda: "I would like to point out here that Toyota's priority has traditionally been the following: First; Safety, Second; Quality, and Third; Volume. These priorities became confused, and we were not able to stop, think, and make improvements as much as we were able to before, and our basic stance to listen to customers' voices to make better products has weakened somewhat. We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and our organization, and we should sincerely be mindful of that. I regret that this has resulted in the safety issues described in the recalls we face today, and I am deeply sorry for any accidents that Toyota drivers have experienced."
UPDATE 14:37 Toyota Motors Sales, USA, Chairman and CEO Yoshimi Inaba: "We are confident that customers who have not experienced problems are safe to drive and our dealers are working rapidly to fix the problem."
UPDATE 14:40 Inaba: "Our Washingtion office has always been in touch with NHTSA and we are fully cooperating with NHTSA."
UPDATE 14:50 Inaba on the newly installed brake override system: "I can only say this is an added measure to consumer confidence and I do not say that it will solve all problems.
UPDATE 14:58 Rep Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) took the time to praise Mr Toyoda for appearing before the committee, especially in light of the tough questions he would face in front of the panel. “It’s a unique experience to withstand Congressional testimony.… It’s quite a badge of courage in the United States.”
An interesting exchange here at House Govt Oversight and Reform as DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton holds down the fort as other members vote on the floor. Holmes Norton told Toyota execs that she purchased a Toyota Camry Hybrid car, and she wanted to know if it would be recalled for any reason. She didn't get a yes or no answer to that question, but he did give her a very interesting response.
15:56:22 Mrs Chairman you are driving and American car." Norton interjects, "It has Mr Toyoda's name on it."
"The Camry hybrid is produced here the majority of the parts are American souced."
"… I don’t understand the distinction."
"You did buy an American car it is produced here supplied here."
"But the worldwide reputation begins in Japan."