By on January 29, 2010

Staff from the House Energy and Commerce Committee met with representatives from Toyota yesterday, reports Automotive News [sub], as Congress wades into the Toyota recall debacle. According to a letter from the Energy and Commerce Committee to NHTSA administrator David Strickland and Toyota North America Boss Yoshimi Inaba [letters available in PDF format here], the discussions with Toyota were characterized as “helpful,” but that “it left important questions unanswered, including when Toyota learned about this serious safety defect and what actions the company took to investigate and resolve the hazard.” Hearings have been scheduled for February 25, and the Committee’s letter to Inaba requests disclosure of all internal communication related to to the production shutdown, among other company documents.

Meanwhile, on the regulatory front, NHTSA spokesfolks tell BusinessWeek that “NHTSA’s been constantly monitoring the situation and investigating the issue of Toyotas and sudden acceleration, even back to 2007 when they had the other recall on floor mats.” Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood adds  that he has “no criticism of Toyota on this. They followed the law, and they did what they’re supposed to do.” “I don’t know of another time a car manufacturer has stepped up the way Toyota has,” LaHood reportedly told Bloomberg. “NHTSA did exactly what it should’ve done, meet with Toyota and discuss this.”

The disconnect between the response from regulators and the response from congress speaks volumes about the impact of this recall. Though it hardly indicates anything like criminal behavior on Toyota’s fault, the shock of the reigning quality champ taking one on the chin has been a catalyst for the downtrodden domestic automakers (and their congressional investors/allies) to get as much mileage out of the debacle as possible. After all, there’s no downside to hauling Toyota’s bosses in front of a committee: the congresscritters get populist “looking after the consumer” cred, while simultaneously boosting the relative value of the government’s GM investment. Let the spectacle begin!

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

18 Comments on “House Launches Toyota Investigation, Hearings Scheduled...”


  • avatar
    NickR

    “as Congress wades into the Toyota recall debacle”

    Oh great.

  • avatar
    Ernie

    No other pressing issues going on right now . . . no problems to fix or anything like that.

    What makes them think they’re going to get anything other than “no comment” and lawyering up of the White House Gate crashers?

    Honestly, it’s a good thing that Washington’s plate is empty right now :)

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Oh goodie! Our Washington instant experts at everything are going to do automotive failure analysis.

    What a steaming pile of diversionary BS.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    What the hell do the control freaks in gummint think they are going to prove with this little stunt? They simply can’t stand not to be in the limelight, can they? Imbeciles. The lot of them.

    They can’t leave anything alone, can they? It’s not like there aren’t multiple alphabet-soup government agencies being paid good taxpayer money to do all that is necessary re: the recalls of all cars (or virtually anything else, for that matter).

    So when will the Congress critters start calling out GM on the Corvair, the broken motor mount recall of the 1960′s, the Vega, the Caddy V8-6-4, the Caddy 4100 engine, the X-cars, the piston slap truck engines of the 1990′s and zeroes…. Ford’s Exploders with Firestone tires, Chrysler’s multiple recalls over the years….

    Why not rehash all of it? It’s only our taxpayer money they’re wasting! Why, they can simply print more up, that’s what they’ve been doing for four years now, isn’t it? (sarcasm alert)

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Mr.C: “So when will the Congress critters start calling out GM on the Corvair, the broken motor mount recall of the 1960’s, the Vega, the Caddy V8-6-4, the Caddy 4100 engine, the X-cars, the piston slap truck engines of the 1990’s and zeroes…. Ford’s Exploders with Firestone tires, Chrysler’s multiple recalls over the years….”

      I think you have not been paying close attention…

      Because of these things we have: DOT/NHTSA/FMVSS/NCAP/TREAD and probably some that don’t come to mind just now … and because of this, we have safer cars, fewer deaths, fewer serious and permanent debilitating injuries, (theoretically) lower insurance rates … this is part of the learning process and that, messy as it seems, it is progress.

      The other thing that historically helps to keep the companies from demonstrating bad behaviour is the fear of personal-injury (esp w/punitive damage multipliers) and class-action lawsuits. Because of so much competition in the marketplace, the costs related to these punishments can’t be passed-on to the customer.)

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    “After all, there’s no downside to hauling Toyota’s bosses in front of a committee: the congresscritters get populist “looking after the consumer” cred, while simultaneously boosting the relative value of the government’s GM investment. Let the spectacle begin!”

    And when US employees of Toyota get layed off due to declining sales, those same populists will want to point fingers rather than accept the fact that they brow beat Toyota into insovlency.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    Nice little stunt from the Land of the Witch Hunt. Awful, especially when much of Toyota’s competition lives in corporate welfare,stiffed suppliers out of billions, walked away from contractual obligations….

    But we have been there before. Remember all the Japan bashing in the 1980′s? It was sooooo successful at stemming the Yellow Peril.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Let the spectacle stop. Let the NHTSA do its job.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Whether NHTSA did its job, or relied too much on the statements and assurances of the OEM (who has a vested interest in avoiding a mandatory recall) and closed the case without digging in deeper will no doubt (should) be an aspect of of the congressional investigation.

      Again, not cynically said, this is part of the learning and continuous impovement process…

  • avatar
    VerbalKint

    If recent gov’t investigations are any indication any reports from WA DC will doubtless omit any mention of gas pedals or Toyota so as not to offend the easily offended.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Yes this is what my “elected” representative should be focusing on – something that can be resolved in the market. Of course off on these worthless tangents instead of giving power to the reasonable minded (not yet corrupted and overly biased) to create bills that both parties (sans the idiotic extremes) could agree on. What will happen is the market will have long resolved this before the hot air bags can make any determination on anything besides how much they love hearing their own voices.

    If consumers really care they will stop buying Toyotas. They won’t b/c Toyota is the best neutered automotive appliances on the market. The push is to hit Toyota while there’s a chink in their armor.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m an interventionist at heart, and even I’d prefer to either leave this to the regulators, or call the regulators on the carpet if you don’t think they’re doing a good enough job.

    Congress and, and possibly should, look into whether or not the NHTSA is properly handling SUA claims and not brushing them off.** Not industry, unless said industry is owned or seeking financial backing.

    ** You can sub in the FCC, FDA, FEMA, SEC and whom-have-you for the issue at hand.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Nobody forced Toyota to sell cars here….
    This is all part of being a manufacturer in the U.S.
    I have no more sympathy for them than any other company that operates here!
    They fucked up..and now they pay!
    Not the first or last…
    and because they are a foreign manufacturer…god help em in a country that had to put its major car companies on life support.
    Its the decision that was made to market here.

  • avatar
    thirty-three

    For a country that is so anti-socialist and anti-communist, your government really likes to stick its nose into everything! Toyota gas pedals, bank CEO/management bonuses, steroid use in baseball.

    These are all important issues, but does Congress really need to hold hearings? We have public inquiries in Canada, but they’re nothing like the US Congress’ witch hunts.

    File this story under WTF!

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    I don’t mind a little tuneup of the NHTSA from time to time.

    It helps keep legislators from getting bored and chasing hobbies that are not within their purview.

    thirty-three: auto safety is regulated by government, the financial industry as a whole was bailed out with combined Fed/Treasury intervention of somewhere around 1/5 of our entire GDP last year and MLB is unique among sports as it enjoys exemption from federal antitrust law.

    There are over 500 individuals in Congress and thousands of staffers.

    Be careful when asking, “don’t they have something better to be doing?” Such a question may not carry as much rhetorical punch as you’d intend.

  • avatar
    Telegraph Road

    Having watched the Ford/Firestone hearings 10 years ago from a TV set in the Glass House, I remember them too well. The hearings didn’t resolve anything but only served as a grandstanding platform for committee members. Many resources within NHTSA, Ford, and Firestone had to be diverted to preparing testimony. Since those resources could have been better used on the separate internal investigations within NHTSA, Ford, and Firestone, it was clear the congressional hearings only obstructed a quick resolution of the problem.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States