Regulators hired by Toyota narrowed the scope of at least four government investigations into the now infamous accelerator problems that have recalled millions of vehicles. “At least four U.S. investigations into unintended acceleration by Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles were ended with the help of former regulators hired by the automaker, warding off possible recalls, court and government records show. Christopher Tinto, vice president of regulatory affairs in Toyota’s Washington office, and Christopher Santucci, who works for Tinto, helped persuade the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to end probes including those of 2002-2003 Toyota Camrys and Solaras, court documents show. Both men joined Toyota directly from NHTSA, Tinto in 1994 and Santucci in 2003. While all automakers have employees who handle NHTSA issues, Toyota may be alone among the major companies in employing former agency staffers to do so. Spokesmen for General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC and Honda Motor Co. all say their companies have no ex-NHTSA people who deal with the agency on defects. Possible links between Toyota and NHTSA may fuel mounting criticism of their handling of defects in Toyota and Lexus models tied to 19 deaths from 2004 to 2009. Three congressional committees have scheduled hearings on the recalls.”
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