Toyota CEO to appear before Congress next week


Toyota shares are already up a bit in Tokyo trade following news that Akio Toyoda, the carmaker's chief executive officer, will testify next week before U.S. lawmakers to explain what happened with all those recalls.

Toyota had planned to send the company's North American chief to testify before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota's founder, decided it might be best if he made a personal appearance. Toyoda had been criticized for appearing not to take the recalls seriously enough. It's unclear whether he'll testify in English or Japanese. The hearing is scheduled for Feb. 24 at 10 a.m. EST.

"I look forward to speaking directly with Congress and the American people," Toyoda said in a statement.

Lawmakers are sure to ask him uncomfortable questions, such as why it took so long to issue a recall on more than 6 million cars following reports of sticky accelerator pedals, either by a loose floor mat or problems with the pedal assembly. Up to 34 deaths have been blamed on unintended acceration in Toyota cars since 2000.

There's also a report by a former Toyota employee who claims the carmaker routinely hid safety problems; the congressional committee has issued a subpoena for those records.

Toyota shares have fallen 20 percent since Jan. 21, the date of the first recall announcement, wiping out more than $25 billion in market capitalization. Toyota's U.S. sales fell 16 percent in January.