NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — A Toyota executive boasted of the company saving $100 million by negotiating a limited recall for Toyota Camry and Lexus ES cars over a problem that could cause unintended acceleration.
In an internal Toyota (TM) document used as part of a company presentation on its government relations, dated July 6, 2009, the phrase “Negotiated ‘equipment’ recall on Camry/ES re: [sudden acceleration], saved $100 million+ with no defect found” is among a bullet-pointed list of “wins.”
An “equipment” recall is a more limited type of recall, often to repair an accessory or non-essential part of the vehicle.
The presentation was given by Yoshi Inaba, Toyota’s top North American executive.
The reference was apparently to a September 2007 recall to secure floor mats that could trap the cars’ gas pedals.
In August 2009, the month following the presentation in which the executive boasted of saving $100 million over a full recall, a family of four was killed in a Lexus with its gas pedal stuck under a floor mat.
In November 2009, Toyota had full recall to reconfigure the gas pedals of numerous Toyota models to prevent such incidents.
Among other “wins” listed were “Avoided investigation on Tacoma rust” and helping win delays in various new federal safety regulations.
“Safety is everybody’s responsibility. It’s not just the federal government’s job to catch safety defects,” said Olivia Alair, a spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “It’s the responsibility of automakers to come forward when there is a problem. Unfortunately, this document is very telling. And that’s why Secretary LaHood has been saying we’re going to hold Toyota’s feet to the fire and make sure they do what’s necessary to make their cars safe for the driving public.”
A copy of Inaba’s presentation was provided to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is set to grill Toyota president Akio Toyoda on Wednesday. It is unclear who provided the document to the Committee.
“If anything but the safety of America’s drivers influenced the decision-making process, the entire purpose of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be undermined,” said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
A Toyota spokesperson was not available to comment for this report.