Yesterday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had a reassuring message for Toyota owners: “My advice is, if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it.” He said it in front of cameras at a House of Representatives hearing, cameras rolling (or whatever cameras do these days.)
“LaHood’s explosive comment,” writes Reuters, “sent shares of battered Toyota Motor Corp plunging.”
After LaHood’s remarks, Toyota shares dropped to 6.14 percent at the close. Loose lips sink ships, but LaHood’s oral diarrhea did cost Toyota shareholders a round $7b in a matter of minutes. Afterwards, LaHood said it was an obvious misstatement. But the damage was already done. Stealing from the phrasebook of personal injury lawyers, widows and orphans living off the 401Ks of their dearly departed, suffered severe mental trauma just from looking at their diminished stock holdings.
LaHood should have consulted his (government provided) physician, who would have prescribed a healthy dose of Imodium, to be kept in the mouth.
He did not. If you consult the front page of the NHTSA, you will find a fresh hoodish comment: “NHTSA will continue to hold Toyota’s feet to the fire to make sure that they are doing everything they have promised to make their vehicles safe.”
That was not an off-the-cuff remark. It is an official, supposedly carefully vetted statement. In light of certain government departments’ recent fondness of “enhanced coercive interrogation techniques,” that colloquialism may be misread. Especially when translated into Japanese.