Washington has stepped up its pressure on Japanese car maker Toyota. It is calling on it to urgently address a range of safety issues as the company deals with a worldwide car recall.
Its executives are to face a Congressional hearing next week and the US Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood said he was looking into possible million-dollar fines for safety violations.
But he has since tried to clarify a “don’t drive” warning.
“If anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it, take it to a Toyota dealer because they believe they have a fix for it,” he said.
Toyota’s nightmare started with complaints about a sticking accelerator pedal and a faulty mat. It has since got worse after concerns were raised over the breaks on its new Prius model.
But, while the company is investigating the problems, the Obama administration has been accused of a conflict of interest. Since a bail-out, Toyota’s biggest rival General Motors is 61 percent owned by the US government.