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US Demands Toyota's Safety Documents

Japanese auto giant Toyota says U.S. federal prosecutors and securities regulators have demanded information about the company's handling of its vehicles' safety problems.

Toyota said Monday it has received a federal subpoena asking for all documents related to braking problems with the company's Prius hybrid car.  The subpoena, from a federal grand jury in New York, also seeks information about faulty accelerators in other Toyota cars.

The government's action raises the possibility of an indictment against Toyota for its handling of vehicle safety problems.

Toyota, the world's top automaker, says the Securities and Exchange Commission also has requested documents about the safety problems, and for its corporate disclosure policies.

Toyota says it will comply with the requests.

Monday's developments followed news that U.S. Congress investigators have received internal Toyoto Motor Corp. documents indicating that company executives reported they saved Toyota $100 million on recalls through lobbying efforts with U.S. regulatory authorities.  

Recent revelations about defects in Toyota cars - chiefly involving accelerators and brakes - has prompted the company's biggest recall ever - a request to the owners of 8.5 million vehicles worldwide to bring their cars in for safety checks and possible repairs.

Since most of the recalls affect American Toyota owners, the U.S. Congress is opening a hearing Tuesday on the company's handling of the problem.  The president of the global Toyota companies, Akio Toyoda, is due to testify in Washington on Wednesday.

Some members of Congress are concerned that Toyota's private corporate documents indicate the U.S. branch of the company may have put profits ahead of customer safety.  Toyota has said its first priority is customer safety, and that any contradictory view based on what it calls "one internal presentation" would be wrong.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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