The FINANCIAL — Toyota officials claimed they saved the company $100 million by persuading the government to limit safety recalls and rules, according to documents shared with congressional investigators.
The document, an internal company presentation, depicts an automaker focused on getting what it termed "favorable recall outcomes" from regulators, with a goal of saving money even as the death toll climbed from accidents in which Toyota vehicles accelerated uncontrollably, The Los Angeles Times reports.
According to the same source, the presentation by executives in the company's Washington, D.C., office was addressed to Yoshimi Inaba, Toyota's top U.S. executive, and dated July 6, 2009 — months before the sudden-acceleration problem was widely known outside Toyota and the federal highway regulatory agency.
The New York Times reports that in the document, Toyota officials said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which investigates safety complaints, had become “more sensitive to public/Congressional criticism, resulting in more investigations and more forced recalls.” But the company said it had achieved “favorable safety outcomes” and “secured safety rulemaking favorable to Toyota.”
Among those rulings was a 2007 recall of the Camry and Lexus ES 350 sedans for complaints that their accelerator pedals could become stuck, according to the same source. In the document, Toyota said it had “negotiated an equipment recall” without a finding of a defect, saving the company $100 million. Rather than be required to fix the cars, Toyota recalled 55,000 all-weather floor mats, sold as optional equipment, which it said could become lodged under the accelerator pedal.
In other accomplishments described as “Wins for Toyota” the carmaker said it reduced or delayed the effect of proposed rules on roofs, door locks and protection in side-impact crashes, according to the document, Bloomberg informs. Delaying the rules was credited with saving about $135 million.
The documents were turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday. The presentation was first reported by The Detroit News, according to The Washington Post.
The document may add to questions for President Akio Toyoda as congressional hearings begin this week on how Toyota and U.S. regulators handled evidence of unintended acceleration that has led to recalls of more than 8 million vehicles worldwide since September, Bloomberg reports. Toyota has said the recalls may cost about $2 billion in lost sales and warranty repairs.