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U.S. Rep Raps Toyota's Toyoda's Decision to Skip Congress Testimony

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WASHINGTON DC February 18, 2010; Japan Today reported that a spokesman of U.S. House of Representatives lawmaker Darrell Issa on Wednesday criticized Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda’s decision to skip congressional testimony, saying he is ‘‘not eager’’ to give an account of the problems to Americans.

Toyoda’s decision suggests he is ‘‘not as eager to give Congress and the American people answers as we first thought,’’ the spokesman said in a statement.

The Toyota chief was ‘‘given every opportunity to come before Congress and the American people voluntarily to provide assurance that Toyota will do everything in its power to ensure the safety of American drivers,’’ he said.

The spokesman added that he thought Toyoda would use the congressional hearing to move forward amid tremendous pressure on him and the Japanese automaker.

Issa, a Republican on a House committee looking into Toyota’s massive recalls, is expected to get tough on Toyota over a series of safety recalls when the hearing is held next week.

In Tokyo on Wednesday, Toyoda told a press conference that he will not appear before the congressional hearing committee and that Toyota Motor North America Inc President Yoshimi Inaba would be the best person to do so.

Issa sent a letter to Inaba, demanding that the automaker account for Toyota’s past reports to U.S. regulators after 2005 that conclude there were no factors or trends suggesting defects in vehicles or parts in connection with the problem of sudden acceleration.

The lawmaker also called on Inaba to explain when the Japanese carmaker became aware of the brake problem of the Prius hybrid car and the problem of power steering of the Corolla and when it reported to the U.S. authorities.

In a related development, Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki voiced concern Wednesday over possible repercussions from the Toyota recalls on the Japanese business circle as a whole.

The problem of Toyota ‘‘should not affect the image of Japanese products which have been built together until now,’’ Fujisaki told reporters.

Fujisaki also unveiled he had asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to handle the matter appropriately.

Fujisaki said he and LaHood talked over the phone on Tuesday but declined to elaborate further on the Toyota problem.