Nightly News   |  February 09, 2010

Ray LaHood: ‘We are holding Toyota’s feet to the fire’

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood details what measures are being taken to make sure that Toyota drivers are kept safe. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> on the fix. you may recall almost a week ago transportation secretary ray lahood warned toyota owners to stop driving their recalled cars. that happened during a hearing. he later said it was obviously a misstatement. the question is, what do you tell toyota owners right about now? secretary lahood has been kind enough to join us from our washington, d.c., newsroom. mr. secretary, we do appreciate your time. a lot of americans don't believe the fix. a lot of them never believed it was floor mats. how do they believe now that this is over? what will be their assurance?

>> the fact that we're paying a lot of attention to this, brian . our safety people are working night and day to make sure that these toyota customers that are driving these cars will drive safe cars. we listed on our website all the cars recalled. we encourage people to take these cars back to their toyota dealer and get them fixed. safety is our number one priority. we are going to make sure these recalled automobiles are the safest the toyota drivers can drive.

>> and we realize you're not toyota , you're the federal government , regulators, folks in charge of safety where u.s. drivers are concerned. toyota says they are definitely sure it's not the electronics. do you believe them? does that company at this point still have credibility with you considering the history?

>> we are going to hold their feet to the fire. we are going to hold toyota 's feet to the fire when it comes to these recalls. we are looking into all aspects of complaints that have come to our department. we are going to take them seriously and make this sure that toyota gets it right so these cars are safe.

>> we asked our viewers to submit questions knowing we were going to talk to you tonight. one of them said, ask the secretary if back last week when he said people shouldn't drive their toyotas, he was perhaps speaking his mind before he realized it was impractical. do you feel that way? did you then? do you know?

>> what i feel is i want people to know that we are really on top of this. we will make sure that toyota customers and toyota drivers will be driving safe cars. they should look on our website. if their car is on there take it to the dealer. get it fixed. we will not sleep until all these cars are fixed properly and are safe to drive.

>> and for people who don't know, what can the u.s. government bring to bear on a company like this, a company that may come to you and say, all clear. it's fine. we're going to start production back up again. we are going to put these back on the market, allow people to drive them home.

>> we are not going to sleep until there's 100% assurance that these cars are safe. that every recalled automobile is fixed properly. that every recalled automobile is as safe as it can possibly be, and we are going to continue our investigation and hold their feet to the fire until we have 100% assurance, brian .

>> final question, mr. secretary. you've been on this case, including a trip to japan. you've been on toyota on these issues and suspicions. are you confident that everything possible was done by the federal government or could any of these accidents, even fatal, have been prevented with more aggressive controls?

>> if we had not held toyota 's feet to the fire, if we had not gone to japan, i made a phone call to the president of toyota and i emphasized to him, you need to get on this. safety is most important here. you need to make sure your cars are safe for our people in america to be driving them and around the world. i think they've taken that message seriously now, and i think they get it. we will continue to work very hard to make sure they get it.

>> secretary of transportation ray lahood , thank you very much for joining us.

>> thank you, brian .

>>> we turn to wall street