Toyota Needed to 'Come Clean,' Exec Said in Email

Five days before Toyota announced a massive recall, a U.S. company executive wrote in an internal e-mail: "We need to come clean" about accelerator problems.

A Tacoma pickup truck on the lot of a Toyota dealership.
David Zalubowski
A Tacoma pickup truck on the lot of a Toyota dealership.

Irv Miller, Toyota's group vice president for environment and public affairs, wrote: "The time to hide on this one is over."

CNBC also obtained a copy of the e-mail, which can be seen in its entirety here.

He went on to say: "We are not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet."

The recently retired Miller wrote the internal e-mail as Toyota officials were on their way to Washington to discuss the problems with federal regulators.

"We better just hope that they can get NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to work with us in coming (up) with a workable solution that does not put us out of business," Miller wrote.

The e-mail was addressed to Katsuhiko Koganei, executive coordinator for corporate communications for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

"I hate to break this to you but WE HAVE A tendency for MECHANICAL failure in accelerator pedals of a certain manufacturer on certain models," Miller's e-mail began with several words in capital letters.

In a memo earlier that day, Koganei wrote Mike Michels, vice president of external communications, "Now I talked with you on the phone, we should not mention about the mechanical failures of acc. pedal because we have not clarified the real cause of the sticking acc pedal formally, and the remedy for the matter has not been confirmed."

Koganei further wrote that Toyota executives were concerned that news of the mechanical failures "might raise another uneasiness of customers."

The subject line said the e-mail was in regard to a draft statement to respond to an ABC News story.

A Toyota official did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday on the e-mails. Miller declined comment.

CNBC's Phil LeBeau and Ryan Ruggiero contributed to this report