House committee postpones Toyota hearing - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

House committee postpones Toyota hearing

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WASHINGTON – A congressional hearing into Toyota's massive recalls has been postponed because of a snowstorm expected to hit the capital beginning Tuesday.

A House oversight panel says it hopes to hold the Toyota hearing on Feb. 23. Lawmakers are expected to hear testimony from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Toyota Motor North America Chairman CEO Yoshi Inaba, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator David Strickland and two safety experts.

Toyota has recalled 8.5 million vehicles globally to fix floor mats that can trap gas pedals, faulty gas pedals that are slow to return to the idle position and problems with the brakes. The company announced a recall Tuesday of the 2010 Prius and other hybrids over brake problems on bumpy roads.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The largest U.S. auto insurer said Tuesday it alerted federal safety regulators in late 2007 about a rise in reports of unexpected acceleration in Toyota vehicles, the latest warning sign to emerge about the massive recall.

State Farm insurance said it noticed an uptick in reports of unwanted acceleration in Toyotas from its large customer database and warned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in late 2007. NHTSA officials said the report was reviewed and the agency issued a recall later that month.

NHTSA received complaints about acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles as early as 2003, and congressional investigators are looking into whether the government missed warning signs of the problems. A House committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday into the Japanese automaker's recall of about 8.5 million vehicles globally over floor mats which can trap gas pedals, sticking gas pedals and brake problems.

Toyota announced early Tuesday it would recall about 437,000 Prius and other hybrid vehicles to fix brake problems. There have been about 200 complaints in Japan and the U.S. about a delay when the brakes in the Prius were pressed in cold conditions and on some bumpy roads.

The U.S. government has launched an investigation into the Prius. In a statement, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Toyota has acknowledged a safety defect by issuing the Prius recall, which includes 133,000 Prius cars and 14,500 Lexus HS250h vehicles in the United States.

LaHood said Toyota leaders had assured him they were taking the safety concerns "very seriously" and the transportation agency will "remain in constant communication with Toyota to hold them to that promise." U.S. owners will start receiving letters about the recall next week.

State Farm, meanwhile, said it routinely tracks claim trend information and shares its data with NHTSA. "In the name of safety, we voluntarily and routinely communicate with the appropriate government agencies when we see a product-related claim trend," said spokesman Jeff McCollum in an e-mail.

NHTSA spokeswoman Karen Aldana said State Farm forwarded the agency a Sept. 7, 2007, claim letter to Toyota concerning a crash involving a 2005 Camry. She said the report was reviewed and added to their complaint database.

The agency had been investigating problems with floor mats in Toyota vehicles and later in September 2007, Toyota recalled 55,000 Camry and ES350 vehicles to replace the floor mats.

Toyota officials have apologized for the recalls and vowed to fix customer vehicles. Akio Toyoda, the company's president and grandson of its founder, wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post on Tuesday that Toyota "has not lived up to the high standards you have come to expect of us" and called the recent spate of problems "the most serious" the company has ever faced.

"We fully understand that we need to more aggressively investigate complaints we hear directly from consumers and move more quickly to address any safety issues we identify," Toyoda wrote.

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