Toyota President to Testify before Congress

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TOKYO - Toyota President Akio Toyoda will be in Washington next week to testify in congressional hearings about the company's massive recalls.

"I am hoping our commitment to the United States and our customers will be understood," Toyoda, the grandson of the automaker's founder, said at a press conference in Nagoya on Friday.

Toyoda, who has been criticized for responding too slowing to the recall of more than eight million vehicles worldwide, said he had waited for an invitation to the congressional hearings.

Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued a formal invitation to Toyoda.

"I will be happy to attend. I will speak with full sincerity," Toyoda told reporters. "It was not just up to me to decide," he said.

Japanese officials lauded Toyoda's decision.

"Whether speaking before Congress or at a press conference, [Toyota can] explain [its position] to the U.S. public, clarify its handling of the troubles and regain consumer confidence," Japanese Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima told Kyodo News Agency.

Naoshima said he hoped the situation would not spark political divisions between Japan and the U.S.

Three congressional committees will hear testimony on Toyota's recall.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's hearing will take place on February 23, followed by a hearing with the Oversight Committee the next day .

Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, and David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are both slated to testify.

On March 2, Toyota officials will speak with senators at a hearing chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

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AP contributed to this report.

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