NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As Toyota was making its case before Congress, New York's attorney general captured some of the spotlight in a carefully orchestrated PR play the automaker was absent from.
On a sidewalk today in lower Manhattan and standing in front of three recalled Toyota's from his own office's car fleet, two Camry's and one Highlander, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced his office reached an agreement with the beleaguered automaker to assist the nearly half a million New Yorkers dealing with the recall.
Mr. Cuomo said the deal between Toyota and his office was the first of its kind in the country. The attorney general's office will benefit from this agreement as well, as 19 of the 28 Toyotas in its fleet are part of the recall. Mr. Cuomo said the cars have not yet been repaired.
He added that the recall has created an additional financial burden to New Yorkers who are already stretched to the limit financially.
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As part of the agreement, Toyota Motor Sales USA has agreed to provide transportation accommodations and financial reimbursements for Toyota owners living in New York whose cars are part of the recall. Toyota dealers will facilitate the repairs by picking up recalled vehicles and returning them after repair. The dealerships will also provide rental cars for the length of the repairs and reimbursement for transportation expenses. Toyota Motor Sales will reimburse the already financially strained local dealerships for the cost of all of the accommodations.
In a release issued by Toyota, the company said "reimbursement of these expenses is separate from the stipends of $7,500 to $75,000 that the company already has provided to dealers in connection with the recalls."
"This agreement is a short-term relief for consumers," he said. "The loss of a car is a significant economic loss. This agreement is not a [cure-all] but it will help remediate the situation right now."
All this staging from New York's top attorney comes as Toyota Motor Corp.'s president-CEO, Akio Toyoda, began testimony in front of Congress today, the second day of the automaker's mea culpa on Capitol Hill. Jim Lentz, president-CEO of Toyota Motor Sales USA, testified before Congress yesterday and apologized for unintended acceleration in the company's vehicles, admitting that he felt the company had, "lost sight of the customer."
To date the automaker has recalled 8.5 million cars worldwide and more than 6 million in the U.S.
Mr. Cuomo also said that the majority of the 500,000 Toyota vehicles in the state that have been recalled haven't been repaired yet, and most vehicle owners have yet to receive notification letters from Toyota informing them on how to schedule repairs with local dealers. The attorney general, who said the agreement will go into effect tomorrow, also launched a website, NYToyotaHelp.com, that New York Toyota owners can visit for information about the accommodations available to them.
Mr. Cuomo also said that he will continue his investigation of the recall to "find out who knew what and when they knew it" and that he would be closely "monitoring the hearings taking place in Washington."
Asked if he drives a Toyota himself the attorney general smiled and said, "No."
He then jumped into his chauffeured Chevy Tahoe and left.