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Internal Memo From Toyota Raises Questions

An internal memo from Toyota is raising questions about whether Toyota had safety in mind when they did their floor mat recalls. Reuters reports that the internal memo from Toyota lauded the recall due to floor mats as an inexpensive way to stave off federal investigations into the sudden acceleration problems in their vehicles.

The internal document, which is dated back to 2009, reveals that Toyota's Washington D.C. staff spoke of how the recall would save Toyota more than $100 million because it would end a federal investigation that commenced in 2007 about sudden acceleration complaints in Toyota vehicles.

While Toyota maintains that it is always looking out for its consumers' safety, there are others who say that Toyota has been slow to address problems with their vehicles. We wrote about how Toyota has been accused of playing down defects in their vehicles in FindLaw's Injured blog. This internal memo is basically adding fuel to those accusations. Reuters quotes the U.S. Department of Transportation's spokeswoman Olivia Alair as saying, "Unfortunately, this document is very telling."

Toyota is claiming that its internal memo does not capture the whole story about its focus on safety. Toyota released a statement on Sunday which was quoted by Reuters: "Our first priority is the safety of our customers and to conclude otherwise on the basis of one internal presentation is wrong."

Toyota's President Akio Toyoda is set to testify before Congress this week. Many experts are saying that his testimony is a make or break moment for the embattled automaker. Mr. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale School of Management senior associate dean told Reuters: "Congress is doing him a favor. He can be apologetic and be contrite and take responsibility and acknowledge that there have been some stress points in growth of the company." It seems that if he does, then Toyota will have a better chance to recover from all of the bad publicity over the recent recalls of their cars. Toyota stock has dropped 19% over the past month.  

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