Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, who leads an investigative subcommittee, said his staff would meet with Toyota officials on Wednesday following the automaker's decision to suspend U.S. sales of eight of its vehicle models, including the Camry, the best-selling car in the United States. The company is also halting production at assembly lines at six North American car plants, beginning the week of Feb. 1.
"We want to find out what Toyota knows about the sudden acceleration problem with several of their vehicles and we want to know what will be done to protect consumers who are currently driving those vehicles," Stupak said in a statement.
Stupak is a senior member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which held high-profile hearings and pushed for new auto safety requirements following the massive recall of Firestone tires in 2000. Congress approved legislation requiring automakers and other manufacturers to provide data on deaths, injuries, consumer complaints, property damage and warranty claims.
Toyota issued a recall last week for the same eight models involving 2.3 million vehicles. It followed a separate recall of 4.2 million vehicles last year because of problems with gas pedals becoming trapped under floor mats, causing sudden acceleration. That problem was the cause of several crashes, including some fatalities. About 1.7 million vehicles fall under both recalls.
The Obama administration said it pressed Toyota to protect consumers who own vehicles under recall and to stop building new cars with the problem.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told WGN Radio in Chicago that "the reason Toyota decided to do the recall and to stop manufacturing was because we asked them to."
David Strickland, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told reporters in Washington that the Transportation Department had been in regular communication with Toyota about the recall. He said the company's decision to stop selling the vehicles was "an aggressive one and one that is the legal and morally correct thing to do."
"Toyota was complying with the law. They consulted with the agency. We informed them of the obligation and they complied," Strickland said. Strickland wouldn't address why Toyota failed to stop selling the vehicles five days earlier when it announced the recall.