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Snarp's avatar

Is transportation secretary Ray LaHood out to get Toyota?

Asked by Snarp (11176 points ) February 3rd, 2010

Safety problems in cars should prompt recalls and effective corrective actions to fix the problems, but doe it seem to anyone else like Ray LaHood is being more vocal than necessary regarding the recent problems Toyota is having? He recently publicly stated that he didn’t think Toyota was responsive enough to his requests. That’s not a good thing, but the recall is under way, and I would assume that the Department of Transportation has the power to force a recall rather than just request one, so why is LaHood publicly calling out Toyota unless it’s just to make political hay for attacking a foreign automaker after all the trouble that the Detroit automakers have been having? And to make the conservatives happy, does LaHood have a conflict of interest in dealing with Toyota since the U.S. government is part owner of G.M. and Chrysler?

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38 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

1. Seed contempt and mistrust for a foreign carmaker
2. People will buy less of them, but more from other manufacturers, including american ones
3. ???
4. PROFIT!

janbb's avatar

I really doubt that is the case since so many Toyotas are made in America and the recall definitely hurts our economy too.

Snarp's avatar

@janbb Sure it hurts our economy, and that is probably a very good argument against the conflict of interest notion, but what does it do politically? I think insulting foreign car makers is still popular with some folks, particularly folks that the administration usually fares badly with.

janbb's avatar

I haven’t been following it that closely, it’s certainly possible that he is trying to score political points.

Dog's avatar

I think the call to not drive defective cars is valid despite his connections. If it was a faulty tail light that might be different but this is a sticking accelerator which has already been linked to loss of life.

It is common sense to not drive a vehicle with a possibly life threatening flaw. If it was an inexperienced driver such a flaw could prove deadly once again.

Blackberry's avatar

Whatever he was trying to do worked probably, Toyota’s sells dropped 16%. I really don’t even know who he is, but sticking gas pedals are pretty serious and he said he had to persuade them to do the recall, but your notions seem totally rational, I wouldn’t put anything past these types of people.

Snarp's avatar

@Dog It’s not the recall itself that I take issue with, it’s comments like this one: “They should have taken it seriously from the very beginning when we first started discussing it with them. Maybe they were a little safety deaf.” from LaHood. I know it’s a bit of a stretch to say he’s out to get them, but if he needs to work on his relationship with Toyota and how he gets things done, I don’t see how making Toyota look bad by saying they didn’t listen to you helps.

Dog's avatar

@Snarp True- it does not help but how did Toyota react when the issue was brought to their attention?

Is LaHood voicing justified frustration? If Toyota did respond seriously then in fact LaHood IS out of line and smearing them.

But if Toyota’s reaction delayed in any way the correction of this issue then possibly more lives could be lost by the negligence of Toyota. This would make LaHood correct.

Should he have voiced this? If he was correct I see no reason why not.

Additionally I do not think American car companies will be the main benefactors as Honda sales have gone up six fold

Snarp's avatar

@Dog I don’t think it’s appropriate for him to make that comment, whether it is accurate or not. If Toyota didn’t break the law, then LaHood doesn’t need to be making public statements about this. Frankly, who knows if they should have listened more or acted faster? Seems to me that if you’re going to address that there needs to be an actual investigation and some amount of due process instead of just an administration official using his media access to call them out based on his personal opinion when, slow or fast, they are currently doing the right thing.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

It sounds like he’s trying to talk down Toyota in a vain attempt to encourage sales of US brands. It seems to have backfired, because Honda seems to be the beneficiary of this scare.

I’ll stick with my 37 and 47 year old M-B diesels, thank you. When the big automakers finally market a decent plug-in electric, like the EV-1, I may buy.

galileogirl's avatar

It may have something to do with the fact that Toyota has been stonewalling this issue for 7 years. In 2003 they found the problem in the Sierra and tried to fix it on cars coming off the line but did not recall and repair the cars already sold.

Also when they found it was a mechanical rather than an electronic problem on several makes over several years, they made no attempt to recall and repair. The part to fix the problem was minimal but the costs of informing owners, distributing and installing the parts were so high that Toyota has been willing to pay out 7 figure settlements rather than do the right thing. They have been all teenagery “I’m going to do it, don’t rush me” for months sinct the govt threatened to go public but the still haven’t distributed the parts or trained the personnel. When will they get to it without govt pressure?

It was very common in the former anti-regulatory administration to look the other way, especially with foreign companies. They claimed a lack of inspectors and put the responsibility at the feet of the foreign government. The Obama administration came in on a promise of no more business as usual. When the carry out that promise and hold Toyota responsible for safe products, they are accused of nefarious conspiracies. The problem is a lot of Americans, especially those under 30 have never seen a government that actually does its job. When they are exposed to it for the first time, the novelty makes them feel uneasy.and suspicious.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-secrecy23-2009dec23,0,5601716.story?track=rss

http://kansascity.injuryboard.com/automobile-accidents/sudden-acceleration-toyotas-history-of-covering-up-potential-safety-problems.aspx?googleid=276070

Cruiser's avatar

By all appearances LaHood’s reaction here is warranted…

From AP….“LaHood said there appeared to be a disconnect between Toyota’s North American offices and the company’s headquarters in Japan. Toyota officials in North America took the problem seriously, but the Japan operation needed to be prodded, he said. LaHood said it took a trip by a top transportation official to Japan “to wake them up to the idea that this is a serious issue.”
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100202/ap_on_bi_ge/us_toyota_recall_lahood

Snarp's avatar

@Cruiser Except that that’s entirely based on what LaHood himself has said.

josie's avatar

It is very possible

galileogirl's avatar

@Sharp What has anyone else said over the last 7 years that would prove otherwise? Evidently you are one of those people who is so unused to ethical public servants you don’t believe there could be any. LaHood is doing his job, not sitting on his hands in order to get a post-administrative career as an auto industry lobbyist.

Snarp's avatar

@galileogirl Not sure what you are saying about the last 7 years, but I don’t think it’s ethical to spout off on one’s personal (albeit expert) opinion on this sort of thing prior to any kind of due process taking place for the entity in question. The comment that Toyota didn’t respond fast enough is entirely about creating a negative perception of Toyota. Now that may turn out to be part of a plan to put pressure on Toyota to improve, but I don’t think it’s the best way to accomplish that. The other possibility is that it is pure political maneuvering, either as part of the wider Obama administration efforts of late to pander to apparent conservative populism (is that an oxymoron?), or as an effort by LaHood to improve his stature in the cabinet. No matter how generally ethical an administration is, they’re still politicians and these sorts of games are played all the time.

Fred931's avatar

I stopped for a double-take when I heard that the sticky gas pedals had to do with an American producer. Aren’t we Americans known for making cars, including parts, that are less reliable than Toyota?

galileogirl's avatar

See the prior posting and links. Your opinion is trumped by facts.

Snarp's avatar

@galileogirl I’m sorry, but what facts? There’s nothing out there on this other than what Ray LaHood has said. And my opinion is on the appropriateness of his statement regarding Toyota being slow to act, not on whether or not there were safety problems, not on whether or not there should be a recall, not even on how slow Toyota may or may not have been, just whether or not he should make a statement so damning of Toyota to the media. I can be wrong about lots of things, even about whether his statement was appropriate. But there is no objective fact on whether the statement was appropriate, it’s all opinion.

csimme01's avatar

How did Toyota react??
They had issues with accelerator pedals in europe in 2007. They called it a “Drivability problem” They fixed it if the customer complained. They then started having reports of problems in the US. Their reaction? It must be the aftermarket floor mats people are installing. Then the number of accidednts and deaths went through the roof. During the same time they also had a recall on brake boosters freezing in cold weather, leaving the vehicle with no brakes. They responded by recalling ONLY VEHICLES SOLD IN COLD STATES. After all, no one ever drives from warm states to cold ones..If you drive a toyota watch out if you drive it someplace cold.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

There was a story about this on NPR this morning, and they talked to our local Toyota dealer, who said Toyota was furnishing the parts for the accelerator problem, but was not reimbursing the dealership for the labor to install the part. Apparently there are a whole list of problems that the manufacturer is not fixing in a timely manner, and has not been correcting the design flaw in subsequent iterations.

catsfan33's avatar

this is a total lynch job by the government to try and catch up to the world’s #1 automaker in sells, revenue, volume, etc. This will backfire 10 fold when Gm and chrysler continue to make horrible cars in style, quality, fuel economy, and safety. look up all the recalls that gm and chrysler have issued. all makers issue recalls, most safety recalls cause an accident or deaths, they are all tragic. however, it is not the us gov. place to form opinions or issue reckless statements to sabotage sales of toyota, lexus, scion. toyota has become succesful without Unions as well, which also ticks off all the big gov. democrats. toyota has built entire community economies in small towns in america, further making detroit look like fallout of the u.s. auto apocolypse. bottom line is this is typical big government bull****. also look up the severed relationship between toyota and GM with NUMMI as further hatred aimed at toyota’s success. toyota beat them to the punch with the hybrids as well. CTS parts are to blame for the recalls in pedals, not the denso parts, which is 100% owned by toyota. No one died from floormats by the way! thankfully, which has also been spun in with the accelerator recall. you democrats should also look up the latest chevy recall on the amazing cobalt! how about losing control of your steering? arent hearing about that though are you. have you heard about chrysler’s brake recall, probably not. a divine intervention will not save gm or chrysler from screwing up again. wait and see. the gov. will do anything at this point to save their new precious investment.

galileogirl's avatar

@Snarp actually open and read the links, Toyota has been avoiding recalls for the braking problem for YEARS. Now that the Prius seems to have a problem, the CEO’s response is “I’m sorry and we will look into it” which is Japanese business-speak fot “Shut up and get lost” If not LaHood, whose responsibility is it to hold Toyota accountable?

Cruiser's avatar

@Snarp It’s your call on how you need to feel about this…the way I see it is LaHood is simply doing the job he is being paid to do. Toyota dragged their feet and LaHood forced the issue just like he has done with Ford and the other automakers who screw up and put American drivers at risk.

janbb's avatar

Learning more about it, it appears that Toyota has been dragging their feet for a while on problems they know existed. I haven’t followed all the ins and outs, but it seems like government regulation is doing what it should be doing. I still maintain that having Toyota sustain a big loss is not in anyone’s best interest since we are all so globally tied together so I don’t think LaHood is trying to score for the American car manufacturers.

Snarp's avatar

@galileogirl I am insulted at your insinuation that I didn’t read the links. Where do you think I got LaHood’s quote in the first place? I read them before I asked the question.

I’ll say it again, I’m not defending Toyota, I just think LaHood’s approach of going to the media to say that Toyota was being too slow was largely political and not particularly necessary. There’s an investigation going on, and when that is done, then the media can be told what was right or wrong about Toyota’s behavior, I just don’t like coming to a conclusion before going through due process.

galileogirl's avatar

@Snarp Sorry you are so sensitive but as @Cruiser and @janbb and I said the man was doing his job. If you came to maturity during the last administration I can understand why you don’t recognize how a public servant can actually serve the public. Those of us with more life experience remember when members of both parties served their constituents rather than serving corporations.

Snarp's avatar

@galileogirl Again with the assumptions. There’s no one here old enough to remember politicians serving constituents instead of corporations.

But honestly, I don’t really care enough about this to argue about it any more, all I wanted to do was spark a discussion.

galileogirl's avatar

I remember Eisenhower who warned against being co-opted by corporate interests. I remember the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter who. for all their foibles believed in public service over personal or political gain. I remember the problems with the Corvair contributing to the unanimous passage of the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Yes @Snarp, there was a time when Congress actually passed laws to protect Americans.

Now, sonny, get thee to a library and study 20th century political history.

Snarp's avatar

@galileogirl You are an optimist. The fact that politicians sometimes do good things, protect citizens, and even prosecute the occasional corporation doesn’t make them any less political or even indicate that they are really servants of average citizens rather than corporations.

galileogirl's avatar

You asked, I answered. By constantly changing the subject you are indicating you have no real support for your original thesis. Like I said Jr, Y’all got a lot of book larnin’ to do.

Snarp's avatar

@galileogirl Why are you becoming ever more insulting? Have I said something to insult you? Frankly I was not sensitive, or particularly emotional until that last line. “Jr., T’all got a lot of book larnin’ to do”. Is that meant to be anything other than a profound insult based entirely on your own inaccurate assumptions about me? I have not once changed the subject, I’ve only responded to things in your comments.

galileogirl's avatar

Boing! Off on another tangent. (If I can move this discussion to accusations of insults, then I don’t have to address why Lahood doing his job is a bad thing and my stereotype of public service is juvenile delusion) C’mon @Snarp deal with reality instead of biases with no basis.

Snarp's avatar

@galileogirl The reality is that any cabinet level appointee who makes statements to the press and has not designed those statements based on their political impacts is incompetent.

plethora's avatar

@Snarp Right. Seems to be a habit with the Obama crew though…with the one exception of a person I never dreamed i would be defending and that is Hillary Clinton. I think she is the most competent person in the whole Obama administration at this point.

galileogirl's avatar

Another week goes by and nothing is happening. You betcha, we’ve got Toyota on the run. Maybe tomorrow Mr T will make an apology as this morass widens and deepens. Maybe a discount for buyers dumb enough to trust Toyota but if you own one now, take off the doors so if it speeds out of control you can drag your foot to make it slow down.

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