Posted by MataHarley on 4 February, 2010 at 12:45 pm. 34 comments already!

There’s something inherently sleazy and suspicious about an WH administration mouthpiece that unequivocally states that Toyota owners should simply “stop driving” their cars until they’ve taken them to a dealership. In the wake of such an unprecedented fear mongering campaign, the mud slinging began, and within days, Transportation Sec’y Ray LaHood, was softening his harsh blow.

But “just words” matter, and one of the nation’s most popular vehicle manufacturers saw their shares fall as much as 8% on the heels of LaHood’s explosive remarks. Obama’s pet, Goldman Sachs, downgraded Toyota from a “buy” to “neutral”. If you use AutoBlog’s figures, it’s 16.7 % over the past five days.

But the Chicago thuggery style of this WH is abundantly clear when LaHood also revealed that the reason Toyota halted manufacturing and commenced the massive recall was at the insistence of the Obama administration.

Much seems to be overblown considering that the gas pedal sticking has occurred in fewer than 300 vehicles. Or, per an IBD op-ed, “Out of 1.8 million cars manufactured each year in the U.S., Toyota has 100 complaints, a handful of injuries, and in two cases deaths are alleged.”

In fact, the sudden acceleration events in both Toyota and Lexus models in the past decade resulted in 815 crashes since 1999… eleven years, averaged out at 74 annual events. Two resulted in fatalities. Of the 2000 complaints received in the same time, only five percent – or 100 of them – were attributed to gas pedals potentially sticking.

What’s more, NHTSA has conducted eight investigations into Toyota accelerator problems in the last seven years. None have been found to be a faulty sticking pedal as the cause.

“The way the sudden-acceleration problems are occurring in reported incidents doesn’t comport with how this sticky pedal is described,” said Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, a Rehoboth, Mass., auto safety consulting firm. “We know this recall is a red herring.”

And that “red herring”, forcefully imposed by a WH administration, has further economic repercussions. Economic Journal Policy blog states:

Toyota insiders tell me that the only solution at this time to correct the “problem” identified by the Transportation Department would cost $2,000 per car. There are 1.8 million vehicles that are subject to the recall.

MSNBC further reports that three car rental companies are pulling the Toyotas from their fleets. And in a time where car sales aren’t that hot anyway, Toyota needed a new push coming off their first year of showing losses in the US market.

The timing of the recall and production suspension could not be worse for Toyota. Two years ago, the company beat out General Motors Co. to become the world’s largest automaker. Now just weeks into 2010, it is stopping some sales in its biggest market, the U.S., at a time when it desperately needs to sell cars here after reporting its first-ever annual loss last year.

While a problem certainly exists, and does need to be addressed, it’s foolhardy to spend vast money on what may not actually be curing the ailment. Also discussed has possibly been software. It might also be prudent to remind drivers… apparently who’ve never driven stick shifts, that if your gas pedal sticks, you might want to consider shifting into neutral to slow the vehicle instead of pitting brakes against acceleration… as many of those with harrowing experiences attempted to do.

Nor is LaHood of the mind to back off of the manufacturer, stating he was going to …have a conversation with (President Akio) Toyoda very soon, to talk to him about how serious this is, and to make sure he understands. We’re not finished with Toyota.

There’s a distinct odor eminating in all this… as in just why this relatively low number of auto accidents and/or incidents over a problem that’s been occurring off and on for over a decade, warrants such a charge from the very halls of the White House. And I’m not alone in noticing this overt WOT against what is, in essence, a competitor for General Motors.

Indicative of this unholy connection is the MSNBC’s article, excerpted above. The immediate paragraphs following the “worst timing” comment above was all about GM, racing to save the day, and zero interest rates. In fact, the way it reads, GM should have been paying for advertising space.

General Motors is offering interest-free loans and other incentives to Toyota owners who may want to get rid of their cars due to fears about faulty gas pedals.

GM General Manager of Retail Sales Steve Hill said Wednesday the company is responding to thousands of inquiries from Toyota owners.

The Detroit automaker is offering offer zero percent financing for 60 months on most models. It also will offer $1,000 to Toyota owners toward a down payment on a GM vehicle and up to $1,000 to help to pay off current leases early. The offers run through the end of February.

Hummmm… what was that about letting no crisis go to waste? Or, perhaps better put, create the crisis needed to fit the bill.

The Autoblog also points out the suspicious timing.

To paraphrase L.A. Confidential’s Captain Dudley Smith, we wouldn’t trade places with Toyota right now for all the whiskey in Ireland. Still, we find the timing of Secretary LaHood’s comments a little odd. Here’s what we mean: the NHTSA official that flew to Japan to verbally beat on Toyota did so in December. And while Toyota seems to have behaved badly at first, the company has found an unobjectionable solution [Mata Musing: a throttle fix instead of gas pedal] (according to the safety agency) to its gas pedal problem. So, why whip on ’em today? Could it have something to do with next week’s Congressional inquiry scheduled to begin on February 10? We’d wager yes.

AutoBlog’s suspicions seem to indicate that it’s actually NHTSA, not Toyota, who’s going on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s hotseat. As mentioned above, there’s been ample investigations into sudden acceleration by the agency… none of which concluded sticky gas pedals. This precedes Henry Waxman’s witchhunt, scheduled Feb 25th, to investigate not only Toyota, but it’s suggested incestuous relationship with NHTSA via Christopher Santucci… a former NHTSA employee who bolted from the agency to Toyota about the same time the investigations were being conducted.

The overview presents a determined WH and Congress, out to destroy a Japanese successful manufacturer… one who, oddly enough, provides cars “built in America”, and by American employees. But then, this is a WH and Congress who reigned over decisions to become owners of car manufacturers.

It’s difficult enough to impose regulations impartially when you are actually a competitor. But this adminstration has taken a step beyond that… setting out to economically destroy a very popular and highly dependable line of vehicles, as well as the jobs they contribute to the American economy.

But at least the WOT acronym is back…. and the new war is on Toyota, with GM cast as the prevailing hero.

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