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Lawmaker wants Toyotas out of the Capitol garage [Updated]

February 3, 2010 |  5:24 pm

A state assemblyman who represents Toyota's North American headquarters in Torrance is so peeved by the automaker's safety problems and its recent decision to close a California plant that he's asking his colleagues to stop buying the Japanese-made hybrid cars.

Assembly Rules Committee Chairman  Ted Lieu, who is running in June to be the Democratic Party's candidate for attorney general, said he plans  to ask the committee on Thursday to reinstitute a "Buy-American" policy when purchasing pool vehicles that the house's 80 members use to get around Sacramento.

“Frankly, I'm quite upset that Toyota is shutting down the NUMMI plant in Northern California,  even though the state of California has been very good to Toyota,” Lieu said. Toyota has decided to close the quarter-century old New United Motors Manufacturing Inc. factory in Fremont, east of San Francisco, on April 1. The facility was a joint venture between Toyota and the now-bankrupt General Motors Corp.

"With the massive safety problems that Toyota is experiencing, I think it's an appropriate time to back to the Buy American policy,” Lieu said.  That stricture was dropped in 2003 because many environmentally sensitive lawmakers wanted to drive low-emission, fuel-efficient Toyota Priuses, one of the few gas-electric hybrid vehicles available at that time.

None of the Legislature's Toyota hybrids are currently subject to recalls from the automaker, Lieu said.

[Updated at 5:34 p.m.: Lieu's office reports that 87 of the 133 vehicles in the Assembly fleet are Toyota hybrids.]

-- Marc Lifsher in Sacramento