– The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Toyota’s top U.S. sales executive plans to tell Congress that the automaker believes faulty electronics are not to blame for unintended accelerations in its vehicles.

Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., will tell lawmakers Thursday that the company “remains confident” that electronics did not cause the problems that led to more than 8 million recalled vehicles, according to excerpts of his testimony provided by Toyota.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing Thursday to review complaints of electronic problems in Toyotas. Safety groups have said electronics could be the culprit for the safety issues. The government and Congress is investigating.

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, has paid a record $16.4 million fine for a slow response to an accelerator pedal recall and faces hundreds of state and federal lawsuits. The Transportation Department could assess more penalties if it finds evidence the company delayed other recalls.

Toyota’s safety concerns have led to the first major review of U.S. auto safety laws in Congress since the large tire recalls by Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. in 2000.

A Senate committee on Wednesday heard from David Strickland, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, along with automakers and safety groups.

Strickland said in written testimony that documents provided by Toyota are so numerous that NHTSA is working with the Justice Department to categorize and analyze the documents. “That task will take some time,” he said.

The Senate legislation would require auto manufacturers to meet new standards related to brake override systems, vehicle black boxes and auto electronics. It would give NHTSA the power to order an immediate recall if it finds an “imminent hazard of death or serious injury.”

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