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Toyota apologises

Published:Sunday | February 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Toyota's president, Akio Toyoda, apologised Friday for the massive global recalls over sticking gas pedals as the automaker scrambles to repair a damaged reputation and sliding sales.

But Toyoda, 53, who was appointed to the top job at Toyota Motor Corp last June, said the company is still deciding what steps to take to fix brake problems in the popular Prius gas-electric hybrid.

Speaking at a hastily announced news conference that lasted an hour, a stern-looking Toyoda promised to beef up quality control.

"We are facing a crisis," he said, publicly confronting the automaker's safety problems for the first time since the global recalls were announced January 21.

He said the company is setting up a special committee he would head himself.

It would review internal checks, go over consumer complaints and listen to outside experts to come up with a solution to the widening quality problems.

"I offer my apologies for the worries," he said. "Many customers are wondering whether their cars are OK."

Toyoda, grandson of the automaker's founder, said the company was moving quickly on the global recalls covering 4.5 million vehicles for sticking gas pedals, about half of them in the US.

Dealers are scrambling to make repairs on the gas pedals, which need a new steel part to solve the sticking problem.

Toyota would fully cooperate with the investigation by US federal authorities into Prius problems, Toyoda said.

There have been nearly 200 complaints in Japan and the US of drivers experiencing a short delay before the brakes kick in - a problem that can be fixed with a software programming change.

programming glitch

The automaker has fixed the programming glitch in Prius models that went on sale since last month, but has done nothing yet on 270,000 Prius cars sold last year in Japan and the US. The remodelled third-generation Prius went on sale in May last year.

Toyota is also investigating possible brake problems with its luxury Lexus hybrid and the Sai compact sedan, both of which use the same brake system as the Prius. Toyota has not received any complaints about the Lexus HS250h and the probe is to ensure safety, it has said. The Sai is not sold outside Japan.

- AP