Top 10 Toyota hearings moments

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Jim Lentz answers questions for Congress, the customer gets hosed

There’s a Toyota recall in progress – and someone’s responsible!

Actually, a number of pieces within the organizational puzzle are responsible for the braking and acceleration problems that have landed the Japanese automaker in hot water. Congress has Toyota’s North American sales force President Jim Lentz on the carpet for questions about why it has taken Toyota so long to get the vehicles under scrutiny out of circulation.

So here are your top 10 Toyota hearings moments in chronological order, with thanks to USA Today’s live blog of the event. Remember, as Lentz told Congress, “Nothing is more important to Toyota than the safety and reliability” of their cars, so electronics, floor mats, defective accelerator pedals and more are all being considered.

10) 2:27 p.m. ET – Pertinent models of Toyota and Lexus models will have a break-override retrofitted, because locking the brakes is bad news.

9) 2:31 p.m. – Turns out it isn’t floor mats, accelerator pedals or computers, but Toyota is listening to customer complaints… to do their job for them, I say.

8) 2:37 p.m. – Lentz says his engineering people can’t replicate the acceleration problem and says it’s doubtful other engineers who claim to have replicated the problem actually did so. J’accuse!

7) 2:45 p.m. – “Sometimes customers are wrong,” says Lentz. But “we are not here blaming customers.” Double j’accuse! These are shaping up to be some interesting Toyota hearings.

6) 2:54 p.m. – Lentz informs the panel that U.S. and Canada will now be represented on the Toyota safety board in Japan. This will facilitate quicker communication.

5) 3:03 p.m. – Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) wonders if the timing of the Toyota recall isn’t more than coincidence. Lentz isn’t sure, but manages to slip in that once an assistant Transportation Department secretary visited Japan a month after problems began to occur, the Toyota recall “might” have built steam.

4) 3:07 p.m. – Could electromagnetic interference be involved here? Lentz says Toyota hasn’t tested for that yet.

3) 3:27 p.m. – “We didn’t do a very good job of sharing information around the globe,” says Lentz. This after admitting Toyota knew “for years” about the problem. Perhaps they should graduate from the Pony Express method of message delivery.

2) 3:45 p.m. – “We lost sight of the customer,” Lentz says. Who would have thought that floor mats move, or that a customer might place them on top of one another and create a potential pedal problem?

1) 4:28 p.m. – I didn’t know cars have black boxes, but apparently it’s so. Yet only Japan can read them right now. The U.S. will catch up in April, says Lentz.


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