The documents could set off alarms in Congress over whether Toyota put profits ahead of customer safety and pushed regulators to narrow the scope of recalls.
The memo, from July 2009, observed that Toyota faced a challenge from an “activist Administration and Congress.” Policito.com has posted part of the document here.
Under the heading “Key Safety Issues,” the memo lists the following bulletpoints:
- U.S. DOT/NHTSA under Obama Administration not industry friendly
- OEMs [origina equipment manufacturers] anticipate a more challenging regulatory and enforcement environment, with a potential for revisiting key regulatory proposals
- NHTSA’s new, more aggressive management includes more attorneys at the agency, even in the leadership of Rulemaking and Enforcement
- The new team has less understanding of engineering issues and are primarily focused on legal issues.
And Toyota wasn’t the only one taking notice of issues with unintended acceleration well before the recent recall. Again, from the Associated Press report:
Separately, the government said Sunday it was already investigating reports of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles when the nation’s largest auto insurer shared complaints about the issue.
The Transportation Department released documents showing that in December 2003 it began investigating 39 complaints of sudden acceleration involving 2002-03 Toyota Camry sedans. That was about three months before State Farm shared with NHTSA complaints of sudden acceleration in 2003-04 Lexus ES300s and 2002-04 Camrys.
And today, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, Toyota confirmed that it has received subpoenas from both the Securities and Exchange Commission and a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York.