TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Bill Radke: Toyota made it official this morning and announced a recall of more of 400,000 of its Prius and other hybrid models, in this case for brake problems. This is on top of a recall order covering another seven million vehicles for faulty gas pedals. Safety regulators are also coming under scrutiny
here. But not everybody was asleep at the wheel. Brett Neely is inWashington bureau. Good morning, Brett.
Brett Neely: Morning, Bill.
Radke: So who did know that there was a problem with Toyota?
Neely: Well according to the Washington Post, in 2007, State Farm, the country’s largest auto insurer, noticed a rise in reports about unexpected acceleration in Toyotas. They’ve got an enormous database of accident information and customer complaints, and the company got in touch with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration several times about the reports. But it took over a year for the government to respond. The feds did have an investigation into Toyota open at the time regarding defective floor mats, which resulted in a small recall order. But none of those cars were included in the State Farm report.
Radke: And why didn’t the regulators act more quickly on this information?
Neely: Well, Congress is sure to ask that same question. If you recall, about 10 years ago there was a giant safety scandal involving Ford Explorers and Firestone tires. After that incident — I’m sorry, before that incident, State Farm had also warned the Feds, who didn’t act on the tip. Congress created an early warning system, but in this case it seems to have failed here. There are supposed to be more hearings tomorrow on Capitol Hill with regulators and Toyota executives, and this is sure to come up. However, there’s also another blizzard headed towards Washington, so that could shut things down.
Radke: Right. Reporter Brett Neely in Marketplace’s Washington bureau. Thanks, Brett.
Neely: Thank you, Bill.
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