What's that, a scandal?!?!?! Time for everyone and their mother's legislator to seek the spotlight at Toyota's expense. This time it's House Representative Ed Towns, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He's scheduled a hearing on Toyota's current recall for defective accelerator pedal mechanisms for February 4th, the second hearing scheduled so far after the House Energy and Commerce Committee scheduled a separate hearing yesterday for February 25th.

This time, however, it's not so much Toyota on the hot seat as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Towns sent an invitation for the hearing to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today that details exactly what the committee wants discussed. Included are:
  • What is the scope of DOT's investigation into this matter and what are the preliminary findings?
  • What makes and models does DOT currently believe have a gas pedal problem and what are its possible causes?
  • If consumers are driving any of the recalled models, what steps should they be taking to ensure their safety?
  • What steps are DOT and Toyota taking to alert consumers that this problem may affect a vehicle they are currently using?
  • What steps are being taken to ensure that the problem is being corrected?
There are many unanswered questions surrounding this recall, some of which may be answered in either or both of these hearings. In the meantime, shares of Toyota Motor Company continue to fall in the wake of the recall, some 16.7 percent over the last five days.

UPDATE: The hearing has been moved to February 10th.

[Sources: The Detroit News, Automotive News - sub. req. | Image: Mark Wilson/Getty]
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Chairman Towns Announces Hearing on Federal Government Response to Malfunctioning Toyota Gas Pedals

WASHINGTON – Chairman Edolphus "Ed" Towns (D-NY) announced that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing next week titled, "Toyota Gas Pedals: Is the Public At Risk?", to better understand the Federal government's response to the recall of millions of Toyota vehicles due to reports of malfunctioning gas pedals. Chairman Towns is also looking into the problem due to widespread public concerns and indication that the problem may not be limited to Toyota.

"There appears to be growing public confusion regarding which [Toyota] vehicles may be affected and how people should respond. In short, the public is unsure as to what exactly the problem is, whether it is safe to drive their cars, or what they should do about it," said Chairman Towns.

Chairman Towns has invited Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to testify during the hearing that will be held on Thursday, February 4, 2010. More information on the hearing to come.

Chairman Towns' letter to Secretary LaHood is below.

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January 28, 2010

The Honorable Raymond H. LaHood
Secretary of Transportation
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood:

As you know, there is widespread public concern regarding reports of malfunctioning gas pedals in Toyota motor vehicles. Toyota has recalled millions of its vehicles and even halted production. In addition, there are reports that this problem may have been the direct cause of serious injury and even death. Moreover, there is some indication that the problem may not be limited to Toyota.

There appears to be growing public confusion regarding which vehicles may be affected and how people should respond. In short, the public is unsure as to what exactly the problem is, whether it is safe to drive their cars, or what they should do about it.

To help clarify this situation and to better understand the federal government's response to the problem, I am inviting you to testify at a hearing of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Thursday, February 4, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. in room 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

Among the issues we would like you to address are the following:

What is the scope of DOT's investigation into this matter and what are the preliminary findings?

What makes and models does DOT currently believe have a gas pedal problem and what are its possible causes?

If consumers are driving any of the recalled models, what steps should they be taking to ensure their safety?

What steps are DOT and Toyota taking to alert consumers that this problem may affect a vehicle they are currently using?

What steps are being taken to ensure that the problem is being corrected?

You may submit written testimony for the record, of any reasonable length. In addition to your written testimony, you should be prepared to provide a five minute opening statement and answer questions posed by Members of the Committee.

Information for witnesses appearing before the Committee is contained in the enclosed Witness Information Sheet. In particular, please note the procedures for submitting written testimony at least two business days prior to the hearing.

We ask that you please contact the Committee by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, February 1, 2010, to confirm your attendance. Should you have any questions, please contact John Arlington or Steven Rangel of the Committee staff at 202-225-5051.

Sincerely,
Edolphus Towns
Chairman