Smoking Gun Toyota Email Warned Execs to "Come Clean"
What looks to be a smoking gun Toyota email was found among the 7,000 documents supplied by Toyota to NHTSA relating to its investigation of the car company over problems with sudden acceleration or sticking accelerator pedals in its cars. In an email to executives, Toyota's vice president of environmental and public affairs, Irv Miller, said the company ought to "come clean" about the acceleration pedal problems the Toyota vehicles had been experiencing.
According to the Free Press, Miller sent his email five days before the company announced its U.S. recall of 2.3 million cars. On January 16, he wrote, "WE HAVE A tendency for MECHANICAL failure in accelerator pedals. We are not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet. The time to hide on this one is over (emphasis original)." Miller went on to note that since company representatives Yoshi Inaba, Toyota's top U.S. executive, and U.S. sales chief Jim Lentz were meeting with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "We better just hope that they can get NHTSA to work with us in coming to a workable solution that does not put us out of business."
As noted in a previous post, NHSTA has hit Toyota with the largest fine against a car company ever for a recall. The NHSTA has said it believes Toyota knew as early as September 29 that they would have to deal with the complaints about sticking accelerators and unintended acceleration and yet did not report problems to regulators within the five day time period required by law. In fact, when the recall was announced, months later, the company revealed the first complaints of sticking pedals had been heard from customers as far back as 2007.
None of these revelations will be helpful to the car company in the dozens of lawsuits over the sudden acceleration problems still on-going.
Mr. Miller has since retired from Toyota.
- Toyota executive: 'We need to come clean' on defect (Free Press)
- Toyota Fined $16 Mil: Small Number, Big Implications (FindLaw's Common Law)
- Toyota Recall and Lawsuits (FindLaw)
- NHTSA, Toyota Have Been Looking at Unintended Acceleration for Years (FindLaw's Common Law)
- Vehicle Defect Recalls (provided by Solomon & Relihan, P.C.)
- What is Product Liability? (provided by McSweeney & Fay, P.L.L.P.)