Toyoda faces Congress: 'I'm deeply sorry'

(AP) - Toyota chief executive Akio Toyoda apologizedpersonally and repeatedly Wednesday to the United States andmillions of American Toyota owners for safety lapses that have ledto deaths and widespread recalls. Unimpressed lawmakers blisteredthe world's largest automaker with accusations of greed andinsensitivity.

"I'm deeply sorry for any accident that Toyota drivers haveexperienced," the grandson of the founder of the Japanese autogiant told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Hesuggested his company's "priorities became confused" in a questfor growth over the past decade at the expense of safety concerns.

Toyoda told the panel he was "absolutely confident" there wasno problem with the electronics of Toyota vehicles and repeated thecompany's stance that sudden accelerations were caused by either asticking gas pedal or a misplaced floor mat. Some outside expertshave suggested electronics may be at the root of the problems.

Toyota has recalled 8.5 million vehicles, mostly to fix problemswith floor mats trapping gas pedals or with pedals getting stuck.

In addition, Toyoda said the company is making changes so brakepedals can override a sudden acceleration and bring a runawayvehicle to a safe stop.

The company said Wednesday it will offer free at-home pickup ofvehicles covered by the national safety recall, pay for customers'out-of-pocket transportation costs and provide drivers free rentalcars during repairs. The deal - costs to the company weren'tspecified - was initially announced as part of an agreement betweenToyota and New York state.

Toyoda pledged his company would change the way it handlesconsumer complaints, including seeking greater input from driversand outside safety experts when considering recalls. Toyotamanagers will also drive cars under investigation to experiencepotential problems first hand, he said.

"My name is on every car. You have my personal commitment thatToyota will work vigorously and unceasingly to restore the trust ofour customers," he said.

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