Toyota, Toyota, Toyota......
The more I learn about Toyota Motor, the more disturbing it gets.
It's not just that the deeper the press probes into how Toyota has handled its defects making me wonder how it's come to this point. Now it's that they appear to be having an issue with the fact that the Obama Administration is holding them accountable.
Years ago, there was a big issue in black media about the fact that Toyota ran few if any ads in papers or magazines targeted to a predominantly black audience. Media such as Black Enterprise, Ebony or Essence. Or when it did, well, Colgate has Darkie toothpaste. Toyota has an ad in Jet.
And in March (1999) , executives at Toyota were forced to apologize to Jet readers for an ad it ran on the back cover of that magazine. The ad featured a picture of a Toyota Corolla underneath a headline that read, "Unlike your last BOYFRIEND, it goes to work in the morning." Jet readers responded in a flood of angry letters; Jesse Jackson promptly denounced the ad as "offensive," chastising Toyota for promoting the pernicious stereotype that black men aren't responsible. Facing boycott threats and an uprising from Jet readers, Toyota could only stammer that the ad was also scheduled to run in People and Better Homes and Gardens. Somehow, though, it ended up running only in Jet.
It would seem it needs all the friends it can muster. But Honey, it has a funky way of gettin' 'em.
A few weeks back, I wrote a post at Kos wondering why the Toyota recall list seemed oddly short. As most automakers do, Toyota has models among its brands and badges which share major components. Their eight didn't feel right.
Also, I wondered if a company would go to the length of buying government connections to help cover their tracks. Well, during the Bush Era, per Bloomberg...
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.
So Toyota Hates Obama. Guess They're Republican.
Kidding aside, what really stinks about the Bloomberg and Politico stories put together is it sounds like Toyota can't do what it wants to anymore. And it's bothering them that they have to fix their flaws. That the two NHTSA former agency staffers they hired can't help run interference anymore.
It suggests the worst kind of corporate tone is the Toyota way. I can't believe I'm seeing some of this in print. My relatives own several. I almost bought one (remember, the mechanic suggested not doing so.) Again, when I wrote that earlier piece, Toyota didn't seem the kind of company that would pull these kinds of tricks. But as Joan Claybrook, former (democratic era) NHTSA staffer noted...
"Toyota bamboozled NHTSA or NHTSA was bamboozled by itself," said Joan Claybrook, an auto safety advocate and former NHTSA administrator in the Jimmy Carter administration. "I think there is going to be a lot of heat on NHTSA over this."
So I hope when Congress questions Akio Toyoda, they keep that Bush era connection to the current recall in mind.
Since Obama's people are actually making a company with a defective product accountable for fixing it.
Specifically, they call Obama's administration "Activist." Toyota hates the lawyers at NHTSA whom Toyota feels has 'less understanding of engineering' issues. And they ain't too happy with that support Obama has been giving Detroit.
For Toyota, the timing of the Politico article is bad, because we're dealing with the SCOTUS ruling on corporate donations, and the Bill Moyers piece on how judges were basically bought in three states. The possibilities of corporate money influencing American politics - especially from foreign sources - is being tossed around. And Toyota will likely be used as a 'what if.' Not saying they've done anything wrong to be clear. But I don't know how they'll deal with conclusions people may draw on their own.
Here's a difference between then and now. Memos versus recalls.
For example, in 2002, the company issued a service bulletin to dealers warning that some Camrys "exhibit a surging" at speeds between 38 and 42 mph.
And then in 2007, an investigation by federal regulators found that magnetic interference could cause an increase in engine speed in a Toyota Lexus ES 350.
Toyota’s leading U.S. executive boasted to the automaker’s Washington staff last summer that they had saved the company more than $100 million by limited any regulatory action on sudden acceleration to a recall of equipment such as floor mats, according to documents turned over to a key U.S. House committee holding hearings on the issue...
There is a gadget in a CD player called a D/A converter. If un- or poorly shielded, it can 'leak interference' which can affect a nearby electronic device. Not quite like a magnet next to a glass-tube television or monitor, but some earlier players do affect television and cable box tuner performance. If certain electronic components in one device were improperly shielded, there could be issues with other nearby electronic devices. Cellphones and GPS devices could 'leak' as well.
I can't imagine a car company wouldn't think to shield the computers or other electronics. But if Toyota told owners in a manual that a two-way radio can create an issue, all bets are off on that one.
Consumer Reports, the magazine which practically turned the American auto industry over to imports, has two interesting items to peruse.
First, best American car deals for Toyota owners. Hmmm....
Second, Ford has also had the sudden acceleration issue as well. But GM? Not so much.
If you own a Ford Fusion or Mercury Milan hybrid and don't know about the software upgrade regarding the brakes, well...ask your dealer.
DEARBORN, Mich., Feb. 4, 2010 – Today, we are announcing a customer satisfaction program to update the software of the regenerative brake system of some 2010-model Ford Fusion Hybrids and Mercury Milan Hybrids.
Don'tcha love how the Detroit Free Press says "offers" ? Isn't that cute.
Popular Mechanics appears to be rather wrong now about just how overblown any of this is. Or reliant on the ad money they get. Can't tell. Don't wanna know.
Other major car companies, notes Bloomberg, do not have former National Highway Safety agents on payroll. Including Korean makes, they claim.
So Akio Toyoda is coming to Washington this Wednesday.
Any bets he just made his interrogation a whole lot uglier?
I'm guessing those smart, educated upscale people who bought Toyotas for their alleged quality are going to look elsewhere.
And for disclosure, I own a Ford.