Former Toyota Exec Urged Company to "Come Clean"

Hindsight, it seems, is always 20-20. Although Toyota was slow to acknowledge issues with its accelerator pedal designs -- the source of a major recall -- it seems at least one North American executive within the company was urging the firm to "come clean."

Automotive News recently obtained an internal email sent on January 16 by Irv Miller, who was then vice president of communications at Toyota's U.S. wing. Nearly a week before the automaker recalled 2.3 million vehicles, Miller told other executives -- both in North America and in Japan -- that "the time to hide on this one is over."

"We are not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet," Miller's email read.

In fact, Toyota wasn't even protecting itself. The automaker now faces a maximum penalty of $16.375 million from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or not informing the agency of its pedal situations.

Miller, who announced his retirement from Toyota in December 2009 and left the company after 30 years at the end of January, wouldn't comment on the email. Toyota's communication department wouldn't comment on the communiqué either, but did acknowledge the firm had done a "poor job" of communicating defects in the past.

"While Toyota does not comment on internal company communications and cannot comment on Mr. Miller's e-mail, we have publicly acknowledged on several occasions that the company did a poor job of communicating during the period preceding our recent recalls," read a statement from Toyota. "We have subsequently taken a number of important steps to improve our communications with regulators and customers on safety-related matters to ensure that this does not happen again."

Source: Toyota, Automotive News (subscription required)

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