Toyota executive claims he warned of accelerator defect

City A.M. Reporter
A senior Toyota executive in the US warned in a January email that the automaker needed to “come clean” on a safety defect that caused accelerator pedals to become stuck open.

The 16 January email from Irv Miller, then Toyota’s top US spokesman, was sent five days before the automaker launched a recall for about 2.3m vehicle to fix the sticky accelerator pedals. “We are not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet,” Miller said in his email. “The time to hide on this one is over. We need to come clean.”

A copy of the document was obtained by Reuters. Its release comes as Toyota considers whether to appeal a proposed $16.4m safety fine by US safety regulators.

The email exchange between Miller and a Japanese colleague arguing against responding to media reports of mechanical failures highlights the gap in the level of urgency at the US arm and headquarters – a problem that Toyota later acknowledged contributed to delays in its responses.

The email from Miller, who was about to retire a month later, was one of thousands of pages of internal correspondence collected by US government officials investigating Toyota.

The US Department of Transportation proposed the fine against Toyota – the largest allowed by law – and said that the automaker had knowingly delayed the recall for defective accelerator pedals.