Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, was part of a follow up hearing Thursday on the response of Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to the problems caused by Toyota cars suddenly accelerating. Braley questioned NHTSA administrator David Strickland about the problems.
Braley asked Strickland how many reports the administration has received of sudden acceleration in vehicles that had been previously serviced. Strickland told Braley there had been “a number of reports” in the February to March time period after the repairs were completed.
“We have conducted numerous interviews and done field investigations, I’ll definitely get back to you with a specific number, I do know for a fact that the number of those remedy repairs complaints have markedly decreased,” Strickland said. He also said his agency has worked with Toyota on the issue.
Strickland says his staff has worked very closely with Toyota to inform them of their findings. He says there were some problems with how the repairs were being made, and there were changes made, and that has led to a decrease in the complaints. Braley expressed concern that Toyota hired a company called Exponent to conduct an analysis of its electronic throttle control system with an unlimited budget.
Braley says Exponent failed to conduct the investigation of the electronic throttle and instead focused on discrediting the work of a professor at Southern Illinois who said he was able to duplicate the unintended acceleration in a Toyota vehicle without the vehicle’s computer noting the problem.
Braley asked Strickland if he had seen any additional preliminary, draft or final reports from Exponent detailing the work on analyzing the problem of sudden unanticipated acceleration. Strickland told Braley he had not. Braley also asked Strickland if he was aware that Exponent has billed approximatley 11,000 hours of work to Toyota on the problem.
“I was not aware of that, but that is a significant amount of work,” Strickland replied. Braley also questioned Toyota president, James Lentz about their relationship with Exponent. Braley says Exponent was originally hired to help Toyota defend against lawsuits, and wanted to know how they could also investigate the vehicle problems.
Lentz told Braley Exponent was originally hired to defend against lawsuits, but their role has changed