Toyota adds brake system to calm fears

TOYOTA will add a brake-override system to all future models worldwide in the wake of brake and accelerator defects that led to the recall of more than 8.5m vehicles.

The system cuts engine power when the accelerator and brake pedals are applied at the same time and Toyota hopes the move calms customer fears, particularly in North America.

The addition is likely to cost the car manufacturer significant sums of money, as design plans that were signed off years ago will have to be revisited.

The car manufacturer said it would also appoint a chief quality officer to each major geographical region to serve on Toyota’s newly established Special Committee for Global Quality. The Committee will meet for the first time on 30 March and is headed by president Akio Toyoda.

“This committee … will move the company’s quality improvement to a new, higher level,” Toyota said.

But further recalls could be on the cards following complaints about power steering issues with its Corolla subcompact models.

Toyota sold nearly 1.3m Corolla cars around the world last year.

US Congressional hearings investigating Toyota’s recall begin next week, and controversially Toyoda has decided not to attend. Yoshmi Inaba, Toyota’s North America head, will testify instead.

Toyoda said: “I have full confidence in the management of Toyota Motor North America, led by Mr Inaba, and I believe he is the best placed to testify. I am sure they are well equipped to respond well to the questions and concerns of congressmen.”

It is estimated that 34 deaths have been caused by unintended acceleration and class action lawsuits are piling up against the company for failing to act quickly enough.

Toyota could be fined up to $16.4m if it is found guilty of taking longer than five days to notify US authorities of any defects.