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U.S. Safety Agency Eyed in Toyota Recalls

A senior U.S. lawmaker says he wants to know why it took so long for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to cite Toyota for safety violations.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calf., said Tuesday he's seeking information on how the NHTSA, which regulates auto safety, and the Japanese car maker interacted in the months before it issued recalls for some 8 million vehicles, The New York Times reported.

"This is the most extensive vehicle recall in history, and we want to know, what did Toyota know about its defects and when did they know it, and what did NHTSA know and did it act quickly enough?" Waxman said.

The Times cited internal NHTSA documents and interviews indicating the NHTSA and Toyota "engaged in a Kabuki dance" in the run-up to the recalls, with the automaker promising answers to complaints about mysterious accelerations and regulators complaining they weren't getting the information they needed.

The newspaper said some suspect the agency has become too close to the industry it is supposed to be regulating.

"Over just the last three years, NHTSA's investigations have resulted in 524 recalls involving 23.5 million vehicles -- a stellar record," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

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