Toyota apologizes for handling of safety issues

(AP) - The president of Toyota's U.S. operations insisted Tuesday that electronic problems did not contribute to sudden acceleration of its cars, drawing sharp criticism from lawmakers who said such a possibility should not be ruled out.

Toyota's James Lentz repeated Toyota's position that stuck gaspedals in some of the company's most popular models were caused byone of two problems - misplaced floor mats and sticking acceleratorpedals.

Meanwhile, Toyota president Akio Toyoda, who will testify beforea separate panel on Wednesday, said he took "full responsibility"for the uncertainty felt by Toyota owners and offered hiscondolences to a San Diego, Calif., family who were killed in lateAugust, reigniting interest in the problems.

Three congressional panels are investigating Toyota's problems.The hearings are important because Toyota has recalled more than 8million vehicles worldwide - more than 6 million in the UnitedStates - since last fall because of sudden acceleration problems inmultiple models and braking issues in the Prius hybrid. It is alsoinvestigating steering concerns in Corollas. People with Toyotashave complained of their vehicles speeding out of control in theirefforts to slow down, sometimes resulting in deadly crashes. Thegovernment has received complaints of 34 deaths linked to suddenacceleration of Toyota vehicles since 2000.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the panel in hisprepared testimony that possible electronics problems were notbeing dismissed and were being investigated by his agency.

Also testifying were Toyota drives, including Rhonda Smith, aSevierville, Tenn., woman whose Toyota-made Lexus suddenly zoomedto 100 miles per hour as she tried to get it to stop - shifting toneutral, trying to throw the car into reverse and hitting theemergency brake. Finally, her car slowed down before she crashed.

For extended footage of the congressional hearing on Toyota safety issues, go to channel 612 on your iO digital cable box and select iO Extra.

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