Toyota boss faces grilling over recalls

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Toyota's under-fire president will reveal more tomorrow about the company's massive global recall following severe criticism for being largely invisible during the crisis.

Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda - who may appear before US Congressional hearings later this month - will give updates on the global recall of some 400,000 Prius gas-electric hybrids at a Tokyo news conference, the company said today.

Toyota has recalled 8.5 million vehicles worldwide during the past four months because of problems with accelerator pedals, floor mats and brakes, threatening the safety and quality reputation of the world's number one car maker.

Complaints of deaths connected to sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles have surged in recent weeks, with the alleged death toll reaching 34 since 2000, according to new consumer data gathered by the US government.

Complaints to a database maintained by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the popular Prius grew by nearly 1,000 in just over a week.

Calls have been growing for Mr Toyoda to answer questions from US politicians. Mr Toyoda told reporters last week he planned to go to the US, mainly to talk to American workers and dealers.

Criticised for initially being largely invisible, Mr Toyoda has appeared at two recent news conferences, where he has apologised for the recalls and promised to be more responsive to customers.

At tomorrow's press briefing, Mr Toyota will outline repair efforts on anti-lock brake software for its other hybrid models including the Sai, sold only in Japan, and the luxury Lexus HS250h, the national newspaper Yomiuri said.

Toyota's global recalls for various models - including the Camry, America's best-selling model, and the Prius, its flagship ecological car - have ballooned around the world.

The company has been trying to reassure consumers by quickly releasing details about its recalls after being criticised for being slow.

Vice president Bob Carter told reporters at the National Automobile Dealers Association Convention in Orlando, Florida, that dealers had fixed more than 500,000 of the 2.3 million cars and trucks covered by the sticky accelerator pedal recall. About 50,000 vehicles were being repaired every day, he said.

Mr Carter said the company was considering offering incentives or increasing the length of its warranties to attract customers.

Toyota was already offering zero-per-cent financing for 60 months in some of its regions, as well as cash to dealers to help sweeten deals, he said.

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