Hot Water

Toyota: 'We Need to Come Clean'

Less than a week before Toyota announced its more than 8 million recalls, one of the company's PR executives emailed colleagues: “We need to come clean.” Irv Miller was referring to problems with some models’ accelerators. "We are not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet... The time to hide on this one is over." Miller wrote the email, addressed to an executive coordinator for corporate communications for Toyota's U.S. sales team, on January 10, and has since retired. Toyota recalled 2.3 million cars 11 days later. The documents show major concerns among top-level company executives that they weren’t addressing safety problems—which would damage Toyota’s stellar safety reputation. "I hate to break this to you but WE HAVE A tendency for MECHANICAL failure in accelerator pedals of a certain manufacturer on certain models," Miller wrote in an email. "We better just hope that they can get [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] to work with us in coming [up] with a workable solution that does not put us out of business." Toyota declined to comment on the emails. The company is also facing a $16.4 million fine from the government for not alerting regulators to the safety issues.