That’s true, but as reported earlier, those complaints were hard to evaluate. SAIs are frequently caused by careless or drunk drivers who misplace their feet – who are anything but eager to admit wrongdoing. Stupak also didn’t mention the fact that 84 SAIs had been registered with Toyota, while the Chevy Cobalt was subject to a whopping 1,157 SAI complaints – without any action taken.
Yet Democratic lawmakers are raising the roof over what Toyota knew and when they knew it, an complicated by not only the ambiguousness of SAI complaints, but also cultural issues, said a former senior official at NHSTA. Because Japan maintains ultimate authority over Toyota decisions, all NHSTA compliance negotiations must go through formal international meeting procedures. American carmakers often negotiate compliances through ongoing, cooperative relationships with the NHSTA.
But the fact that Japan maintains tight control is also the reason automaker have become one of the most profitable manufacturers in the industry, supplying the U.S. with thousands of jobs.
“Toyota employs over 35,000 workers in the U.S.,” said Johnson. “The reason they’re able to do this is because they’re a highly efficient, non-unionized company” – who’s main business plan is worker independence.
Whether those jobs are the right kind for Democratic Congressional interrogators is yet another heated issue in this boiling debate. Stupak, who is heading the Congressional inquiry, represents Michigan – the one state that stands to benefit most from the downfall of a foreign car company. Sen. John Dingle (D-Mich.), is also standing in for some questioning, along with Sen. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), an outspoken bailout advocate and Obama ally.
“Waxman and Dingle are totally dragging Toyota through the mud on this. There’s a clear violation of the government’s own non-compete clause,” said Johnson, alluding to the recent $25 billion bailout of Detroit.
Johnson pointed out that Mr. Toyoda had three reasons to blame for SAI incidents: the driver, sticky pedals, and floor mats. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood – the man primarily responsible for the safety of American drivers – blamed sticky pedals and floor mats. Yet Waxman called again and again for an investigation into the electrical issues with Toyota’s acceleration systems.
If such electrical issues existed, it would be in the best interest of both Toyoda and LaHood to recognize it. The PR fallout associated with highly-publicized, questionable business practices are worst possible scenario for a manufacturer of any kind. The only way to avoid that is to play by the rules, and keep consumers safe.
Playing by the rules is Toyota’s forte, and except for thirty-four fatalities – out of 37,000 fatalities on American roads last year – Toyota has kept consumers safe. But during a screamy show trial, those kinds of facts tend to get lost.