HEADLINES -- February 24, 2010 at 9:08 AM ET
Wednesday Headlines: Toyota President to Testify; Senate to Vote on Jobs Bill
Toyota's president, Akio Toyoda, will testify Wednesday before a House committee about the massive recall that has tarnished the world's largest automaker's once sterling reputation for safety.
In prepared remarks to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Toyoda, the grandson of the company's founder, takes personal responsibility for giving higher priority to sales over safety in recent years.
"Toyota's priority has traditionally been the following: First; Safety, Second; Quality, and Third; Volume," according to Toyoda. "These priorities became confused, and we were not able to stop, think, and make improvements as much as we were able to before, and our basic stance to listen to customers' voices to make better products has weakened somewhat."
Aside from a mea culpa, the chairman of the committee, Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., told the Washington Post he wants to make sure the focus at Toyota is back on safety. "We want to make sure that they're really reaching out and recalling these cars in an aggressive fashion to make sure these cars are safe," Towns said. "We're concerned about safety -- that's the real issue."
The hearings, which began Tuesday, have not only exposed safety lapses at Toyota, but also the challenges faced by regulators in monitoring growing complexity in auto manufacturing, particularly electrical engine components that Toyota's top U.S. executive James Lentz could not rule out to lawmakers as a cause of the sudden acceleration problems that prompted the recalls.
As Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, put it to Jim Lehrer on Tuesday's NewsHour:
"These engines now are highly technical. They are built with sophisticated electrical and computer components. And because of that, I'm concerned that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is lacking in the resources and the trained personnel to deal with some of the problems we're trying to analyze."
We'll have lots more on the Toyota hearings here on the Rundown -- including a profile of Akio Toyoda -- as well as on Wednesday's broadcast of the PBS NewsHour. Stay tuned.
For the record, Toyota is an underwriter of the NewsHour.
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the Senate is poised to pass a $15 billion jobs bill that would give tax breaks to companies that hire new workers. The bill would exempt businesses that bring on new hires from the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax through December. It would also provide a $1,000 tax credit for keeping new employees for a full year.
As the Senate votes on jobs, President Barack Obama will meet with leaders from some of the nation's largest companies about boosting America's global competitiveness. According to prepared remarks, the president will tell the Business Roundtable that, "Despite growing global competition, this country can continue to lead.''
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, meanwhile, will arrive for the first of two days of testimony on the nation's monetary policy. In a viewer's guide to his appearance, Planet Money's Adam Davidson says, "The Fed's unpopular everywhere these days, so Dems and Republicans alike will try to impress the folks at home by sticking it to Bernanke."
Preparations are being finalized for Thursday's bipartisan health care summit, but big questions still linger on the eve of the meeting on everything from the aim of the talks to the all-important issue of perception.
As Politico surmises, "The issue might seem petty, but it illuminates just how seriously Hill Republicans regard every detail of the high-stakes meeting -- which comes weeks after Obama embarrassed the House GOP Conference during a one-sided question-and-answer session at the party's annual retreat in Baltimore."