News that the FBI had raided three Japanese supplier companies in the Detroit area came in the middle of yesterday’s epic Toyota hearings, adding to the day’s chaos and misinformation. The FBI said clearly at the time that Denso, Tokai Riko and Yazaki were raided as part of an antitrust investigation, which we now know [via Reuters] involves alleged cartel activities in the wiring harness supply market, and involves European firms like France’s Leoni as well. Despite the fact that Denso and Yazaki are cooperating with investigators, and that the US raids appear to be in support of an EU investigation, Rep Mark Souder (R-IN) took the opportunity to connect the Denso raid with the Toyota recall hearings in shameless style. And all to help clear the name of the US-based supplier CTS, which has been blamed for the sticky pedal recall, which just so happens to be in Rep. Souder’s district. Full, mind-blowing quote after the jump.
Addressing Toyoda and Inaba, Souder went on the following ramble:
My goal is to sell GM and Ford products, but also I have suppliers to you, one of which is CTS, right at the edge of my district. These two pedals have distinctly different problems. The longer [CTS-supplied] one was having a slightly slow release, which means when you take your foot off, it comes up just a fraction of seconds too slow. Also, because it was longer, it was sticking to floormats. But nobody was killed from that, it was a standard recall problem, where you say “OK, we’re going to fix the part.” This one, however, whether it’s electronic, ah, or, the one from… what is it… Denso… had acceleration. In other words, when you let go it went up, but it was actually causing the car to go faster. And all of the death cases came from the Denso model, not the CTS, because when you go through the models… this is important for several things… as American congressmen, one of the things that’s important to us is that you treat teh American market like the rest of the world… we’re very concerned about memos that suggest you were addressing the problem in Europe and Japan before the United States. The other thing is the parts supplier… what’s amazing in this story is that the American parts supplier was actually delivering the safer model, and that your subsidiary, and I don’t know if you are aware of this, but a little after three o’clock, the FBI raided Toyota suppliers, and it is this one that made the pedal that’s causing it…
Souder’s quote can only be characterized as misinformation mixed with venal self-interest, all wrapped in a veil of incoherence. Which is a fairly good way to broadly characterize most of yesterday’s hearings.
The European and Japanese suppliers currently under investigation could face EU fines of up to ten percent of annual revenue, if convicted of operating a cartel.