Toyota is counting on a study from an outside consultant to measure its potential liability in upcoming lawsuits. But at the start of congressional hearings today, lawmakers continued to attack the study and the automaker's response to acceleration problems.
The study by Exponent Inc., an engineering consultant, is ongoing. Lawmakers say that Toyota commissioned the study two months ago — long after the start of consumer complaints — and that it did so on the recommendation of Bowman and Brooke, a Minneapolis law firm that specializes in product-liability defense.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of a House oversight subcommittee, said today he doubts the study will be conclusive.
“It is clear that the flawed Exponent study is nowhere near adequate for a sound, scientific review,” Stupak said. He added that his staff has found “numerous shortcomings” in the study, including, for example, a small sample size.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that Toyota should have acted sooner to study possible electronic causes of sudden acceleration. “Toyota did not initiate a study into possible electronic defects until just two months ago,” Waxman said.
In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, Toyota President Akio Toyoda defended the study. He called Exponent “world-class” and said that it will “conduct a comprehensive, independent analysis of our electronic throttle control system that we will make public when completed.”
In their opening statements, Republican lawmakers stopped short of defending Toyota but cautioned their Democratic colleagues against rushing to judgment. “This is too important an issue for us to play around with,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), warning that today’s hearing is “not a trial.”
More updates to come as the hearing continues today.