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TOKYO – Toyota said Friday it's planning a new level of disclosure about car problems that would go beyond what the automaker is legally required to reveal as it seeks to rebuild consumer trust.
Toyota Motor Corp., criticized for being slow to act on safety problems that led to the recall of 8.5 million vehicles for gas pedal and brake problems, said it would announce details of the plan for more openess in the near future.
Company spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said the automaker will voluntarily disclose problems that are below recall-level seriousness.
"We're trying to be proactive," said Takeuchi. "Some consumers are worried, so even if the information doesn't rise to the level of a recall, we are taking this step to restore the company's credibility."
"They might be minor (problems), but drivers may need this information," she said, declining to describe what kinds of problems this might include.
The news shows Toyota is going on the offensive to win back trust that has been battered by the string of recalls.
Symptomatic of the public relations disaster for Toyota in the U.S. — its biggest market — the company's woes have become joke fodder for popular TV talk shows such as David Letterman's Late Show on CBS and the Jay Leno Show on NBC.
The company's president, Akio Toyoda, is to visit the United States in early March to meet with government officials and members of Congress amid pressure from a House Republican that the automaker's leader testify before Congress about the automaker's safety lapses.
The move toward greater disclosure comes after the company on Tuesday recalled nearly 440,000 Priuses and other hybrids globally for faulty brakes, a move that came about a week after the first reports about the problem started surfacing.
Some analysts said the company was initially reluctant to announce a recall to fix the brake problem, which in the past may have been dealt with through a service campaign that notifies owners to get a fix done at their convenience. The decision to recall the Prius — Toyota's showcase "green" car and best-selling model in Japan — suggests the company is now willing to do whatever is needed to restore consumer confidence, they said.
Earlier this week, Toyota also declined to accept a Japanese government energy efficiency award given to its Prius, saying the honor is not appropriate for a car hit by massive recalls.
Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, is also in the midst of recalling about 8 million cars for a gas pedal that can stick in the depressed position and floor mats that can get stuck under the accelerator.