By on February 3, 2010

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

LaHood may struggle with some of the technical details (like, you know, how to actually stop unintended acceleration), but he’s got the politics down pat. The gameplan in these kinds of situations is simple: scare the public, shame the automaker, and say lots of things that make it sound like you’re taking charge. Like threatening Toyota with the maximum allowable $16.4m in civil penalty fines [per the Detroit News], potentially shattering the previous recall fine record of $1m set by GM in 2004 for its handling of a windshield wiper recall. The fact that all this makes the government’s “investments” in the auto industry look a little better is just the gravy on top. [UPDATE: Reuters reports that LaHood meant to say that "owners concerned about unintended acceleration should instead seek out dealers for advice and necessary repairs." You know, instead of implying that all Toyotas are fundamentally dangerous. "What I said in there was a misstatement," confessed LaHood. [Hat Tip: commenter Fonzy]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

67 Comments on “Transportation Secretary LaHood: “Stop Driving Your Toyota” [UPDATE:LaHood Now Claims He "Misspoke"]...”


  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    Complete and utter nonsense. In the name of saving lives, he should tell people to stop eating Big Macs. That would save a lot more lives.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      This is actually true. If we use actual objective data, we’d have:
      * The War Against High Fructose Corn Syrup
      * The War Against Trans-fatty Acids
      * The War Against Slipping, Falling and Cracking your Head
      * The War Against Office Jobs Where You Sit On Ass Eight Hours A Day
      * The War Against Male Drivers Under 25
      * The War On Being Poor

      Somewhere, way, way down this list, would be the War On Terror and the War On Drugs. Oh, and the War On Distracted Driving.

    • 0 avatar

      psarhjinian
      February 3rd, 2010 at 12:37 pm

      This is actually true. If we use actual objective data, we’d have:
      * The War Against High Fructose Corn Syrup

      Can you explain how the body treats fructose any differently than it metabolizes sucrose?

      All sugars, all carbohydrates for the matter, are turned into glucose, which is used for energy. Excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver or as fat.

      The body treats high fructose corn syrup no differently than sucrose made from cane or beets.

      That’s the objective data.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Time for a segue into “The Truth About Food”.

      It’s up for debate as to whether or not HFCS is appreciably worse than glucose or any other simple carb, but what it is is cheap and widely available. Cane and beet sugars cost more to make, while corn benefits from significant subsidies and a huge lobby.

      It’s also a cheap and easy way to make food appealing and gets added to damn-near everything, often into foods that had no business having any sugar in them in the first place (why does every breakfast cereal save Shredded Wheat use it? Why is it in pasta sauce? Why is it in just about any cured meat? Why is it in every bread on the shelf?). At this point, it’s practically routine, and it’s done terrible things to the palate (and pancreas, and liver) of most people.

      The solution—avoid packaged foods—is pretty hard, especially when packaged foods are so very cheap and a lot of people are pretty pressed for time. Whole Foods is a nice place to shop when you’re really well off and have the time to cook (or the money to pay someone else to).

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    I’m not saying that Toyota haven’t made mistakes, because they have. But the more I see this issue unfold, the more I think this is a witch hunt.

    But like you say, Ray LaHood and his superiors have a vested interest in making this a media spectacle. If the NTSHA tell GM to announce a recall on the 900,000 Chverolet Cobalts with failing steering, I hope Mr LaHood will tell the public to stop driving their Cobalts.

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    Reaching much? His advice for consumers of a recalled product is to return the product to the dealership for the specified repair. His exact quote is “stop driving it, take it to the Toyota dealer because they believe they have the fix for it,” in response to a query about whether there is any on-the-road actions a consumer should take.

    Please let’s not turn this place into the Drudge Report for cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Facebook User

      Bullsh*t. This is nothing more than political posturing, and with each statement LaHood makes on the topic it becomes more evident there is a political agenda behind it. Whatever credibility the initial statements on the recall had have since been lost in the administration’s awkward bombast.

      This is clearly a witch hunt, it clearly has a self-serving purpose (sell more Cobalts, regardless of whether or not the steering works!) and it needs to be outed as such.

      On a related note… how are Toyota owners supposed to “take it to the Toyota dealer” if they can’t drive the damn things?

    • 0 avatar
      criminalenterprise

      What’s the political agenda? I thought evil “libruls” were supposed to be Prius-driving, truck-hating ninnies. This whole event throws off that narrative, doesn’t it?

      Lest we forget, Toyota were the ones who arrogated an NHTSA response in their initial press release.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Take a ritalin. You seem more interested in being a Ray LaHood apologist than recognizing that this has become nothing more than a witch hunt and an opportunity for a tool like LaHood to grandstand.

      While I don’t like Toyotas, I care less for the dregs of society that dance on other’s problems and even less for those that defend the dregs.

    • 0 avatar
      criminalenterprise

      And if the NHTSA were letting Toyota skate it’d still be a conspiracy, only this one from the enviro wing of the evil administration. You just can’t lose if you stir cynical and speculative.

      As for the dregs who dance on others’ problems, you might want to note that TTAC was out in front reporting on the Toyota issues.

      And please have a little bit more decorum than to throw childish insults like “take a Ritalin”.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Nice strawman argument… The NHTSA is not letting anyone skate. It was gov’t pressure that got Toyota to step up and do their jobs (i.e. issue a recall).

      Also, TTAC reported facts. They didn’t engage in panic attack “turn off your car” suggestions or “don’t drive your car” freak outs. That’s but one difference between this website and a politician wanting the spotlight – a politician you are defending.

      Perhaps it’s more important for you to ‘feel’ right than actually being correct.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      TTAC also started calling this a witch hunt, which they really don’t have any facts for

      He said to stop driving and go get it fixed. It is actually pretty good advice. I think the job that is being done is just fine by LaHood. Maybe he could tone down the language a bit, but Toyota hasn’t exactly been the most forth coming either. A few thousand complaints about unexpected acceleration is a problem. They redesigned the pedal and didn’t recall it 2 years ago. The redesign also has problems. It took people dying for this, and for the floor mats. This isn’t a witch hunt. This is trying to find the truth.

    • 0 avatar
      Facebook User

      The prudent thing would have been for LaHood to acknowledge Toyota’s problems and the NHTSA recommendations — as well as the nigh-infinitesimal chance of a problem actually occuring.

      Then, issue the recall… while in the interim advising owners to drive their vehicles cautiously, and familiarize themselves with the correct emergency procedures to deal with runaway engines (what a concept, huh?) until the issue can be repaired.

      Instead, we get “DON’T DRIVE YOUR TOYOTA!!!!” and saber-rattling on Capitol Hill.

      Now, tell me with a straight face you don’t believe our government — owners of two of the three domestic-branded automakers, remember — doesn’t have an ulterior motive here.

    • 0 avatar
      Christy Garwood

      Thank you for using ‘arrogate’ – I like dictionaries. I discovered assize along the way.

    • 0 avatar
      Hank

      Official: U.S. had to force Toyota into safety recall

      http://www.freep.com/article/20100202/BUSINESS01/100202049/1318/Official-U.S.-had-to-force-Toyota-into-safety-recall

  • avatar
    tparkit

    One more good reason for the American public to shut down Government Motors as soon as possible. Total boycott.

  • avatar
    Philip Riegert

    Makes me want to turn my phone off at the dealer. Good thing I live in Canada – I think :P

  • avatar
    rnc

    “Oh what a feeling” (yeah unintended acceleration would qualify)

    Turns out that the Toyota lovers are no different then the GM ones, any mistake is defended, by any excuse imaginable (I knew it would only be a matter of time before the conspiracy theories started).

    Even diamonds have flaws and once they crack, they crack, you can glue it together and say it looks nice, but everyone knows better.

    • 0 avatar
      Facebook User

      well, I for one don’t “love” Toyota. I don’t own one either, and likely won’t for the time being — not because of irrational fears of runaway cars, simply because their offerings don’t really appeal to me.

      But I will defend a company being unfairly targeted by our government. Happens all the time.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Maybe he should tell everyone not to drive at all. That way, we save 100 lives on average every single day.

  • avatar
    YotaCarFan

    “The Hood” is really doing his best to stir up fear and harm Toyota. What’s scary is how clueless about automotive safety the Transportation Secretary is: In the video he recommended people shut off the engine, and the person to whom he was speaking had to remind him that doing so would kill power assist for brakes and steering. Since it’s lunch time, I think I’ll show my respect to him by hopping into my Toyota and driving to McD’s for a Big Mac.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    So they are to find a flatbed and have it trucked to the dealer and miss work for a week while the shims come in and eventully get installed?

    Just another in a long series of Obama-appointeees who have little to no experience in the private sector (his closest was being a teacher in a public school) and is clueless about how the little people actually live.

  • avatar
    NN

    How many deaths are tagged to these Toyotas vs. the Ford/Firestone recall 10 years ago? Does anyone know?

    Something smells rotten here

    • 0 avatar
      Geotpf

      As far as I know, there have been zero deaths or injuries, and very few real-world incidents, regarding the faulty CTS gas pedals, which is the reason Toyota was treating it as a low-level, non-safety problem until recently.

  • avatar
    tced2

    Practically, Toyota can’t fix 2 or 3 million cars in a week or two, a month or two. I would suspect there would be no organization on earth capable of fixing this in a short period of time.
    Learn how to operate that other important lever in the car: the transmission selector..as in neutral…if the problem occurs (and that is highly unlikely).

  • avatar
    Hank

    “The fact that all this makes the government’s “investments” in the auto industry look a little better is just the gravy on top.”

    Mmmhmm. So my question about conflict of interest in the other post is not looking so out of place after all, huh?

  • avatar

    Telling people not to drive their Toyota will probably save lives…unless they simply drive something else instead.

    We must have thousands of Toyota drivers here. Any first-hand accounts of the problem?

    A friend tells me that the Toyota drivers he talks to are worried…about the resale value of their cars.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      Ray LaHood is show boating.

      I’d be interested to know rate of unintended acceleration per number of vehicles. Is it 1 in 10,000? 1 in 25,000 or 1 in 50,000?

      I think that at some point this will be problem shared by other manufacturers. Just like computer software, it is only a matter of time before someone, somewhere experiences a bug.

    • 0 avatar
      PickupMan

      +1 on resale.

      Last night I bought a very lightly used Tacoma for ~2k under book. Recall issues certainly didn’t hurt my negotiations with the dealer.

      Will be interesting to see if more Camrys (etc) end up on used lots starting about 60 days from now

    • 0 avatar
      Telegraph Road

      From the NY Times, Jan 29:
      “ALG, a forecasting firm that sets resale values used in writing vehicle leases, on Friday warned that unless Toyota moved quickly to address safety issues, residual values of its vehicles could drop by 4 percentage points.”

      A resale value drop of 4 points would be modest, I think, given all the bad publicity about the recalls.

  • avatar
    Telegraph Road

    It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes so politicized that the anti-Obama tea-party crowd switches its champion from bootstrapping Ford to Toyota. Toyota is getting a lot of sympathy today over at free republic: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2443459/posts

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      If it becomes politicized, we’ll look back at LaHood’s comments today and mark the starting point of that game. The secretary could not have been less professional in his remarks.

  • avatar
    YotaCarFan

    Whew! The Honorable Secretary has given us permission to drive our cars again! He just said his previous safety-oriented guidance to “stop driving” was “obviously a misstatement”.

  • avatar
    Fonzy

    I just read an article saying that he misspoke on advice to Toyota owners.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Excellent!!!!!
    Great Quote from LaHood!
    Let em suffer.
    You wanna play here…PAY here!

  • avatar
    capdeblu

    Me thinks this bes a good time to but a Toyota at a discount.

  • avatar
    troonbop

    Welcome to obomaland. No, there’s no cinematic conspiracy with evildoers plotting in backrooms, and no need for one. All it takes is an interventionist government controlling more and more of the economy. They can do it openly and brag about it – while their autoworkers pals cheer them on.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    I just read something at Freerepublic (thanks Telegraph Road for the link) and someone raised a point, which on the face of it may seem far fetched, but I believe is a distinct possibility.

    If the Obama crew carry on with this witch hunt (and it is), then someone at Toyota may get onto the Japanese government and threaten to start dumping a few US treasuries if they don’t back off. Now this could go 2 ways:

    1. The Obama crew will back off.
    or
    2. This’ll spark a trade war.

    Thoughts?

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    Tin foil hats must come in elastic fit now because I think some people have been wearing theirs a little tight.

  • avatar
    Aardvark

    LaHood is Exhibit 6,295 for why Obama is such a crappy manager. He is surrounded and advised by inept, stupid, and corrupt people at virtually every level. I don’t see Toyota’s running off down the road out of control on any kind of regular basis. Other than the recall of all first gen Nissan vans about 20 years ago, I can’t think of a single recall that went to such extremes. This is corrective action by the government, it is hystria and misinformation. We deserve better for out tax dollars.

  • avatar
    JohnAZ

    If you are struggling with trying to understand what is going on in Washington with regard to Toyota, consider this.

    “You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste; it’s an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid.”
    — Rahm Emanuel

    You can bet the progressives will use Toyota’s mess to keep ‘moving forward’ with their agenda to ruin America.

    • 0 avatar
      criminalenterprise

      Like how after a terrorist attack strikes your nation you use it to go to war against an unrelated country that did nothing to provoke such an invasion, say? That kind of crisis?

      I’m sick of the politicking. Most posts on this site w/regard to this issue have been very informative and highlighted the impressive technical background of many of the readers. Up until now, it seems.

      There are places on the internet where you can partake in Red Dawn fantasies all day long.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It’s not just a “Progressive” thing.

      John Snobelen (then minister of education in Ontario’s Conservative government) was quoted as wanting to create a “useful crisis” as part of a way to justify cutting millions from education and ramming through all sorts of changes.

      Politicians on both sides of the spectrum both love and hate crises: they hate them because they force them to take action (which in turn implies taking responsibility, which introduces the possibility of blame) but they love them for how they make it oh-so-easy to get otherwise-unpopular or problematic things done. Witness what happens to civil liberties whenever politicians get to play the “terror” card.

      That’s what’s happening here: LaHood was very nearly pilloried for being completely wrong about distracted driving, and this provides a useful sideshow to distract from that failure. It has the bonus of making him look proactive at a time when government is taking it on the chin for being reactive far too often.

      I don’t think this is some kind of Government Motors conspiracy; it’s really just LaHood trying to look good.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      criminalenterprise:

      If you’re so sick of the politicking, why are you engaging in it?

      BTW, the Toyota recalls were issued after an apparent storm of pressure from the NHTSA that first dealt with the floor mat issue and now deal with what TTAC has been reporting.

      Moreover, You can say Toyota voluntarily issued the recall, but that’s like saying that you voluntarily decided not to have a jog on the 405 freeway.

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    Japan’s transport ministry is investigating Prius brake failure. Clearly they are in league with the communist conspirators in the Obama administration.

    Aardvark: Toyota is recalling the cars, not the government. I never saw an Explorer blow a tire and flip over either, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a real problem.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Fact 1: Americans will do a lot of things for election/re-election into the White House. (Watergate anyone?)

    Fact 2: GM’s performance is important to Obama’s re-election.

    Fact 3: Presidential power has spilled into every corner of the administration and media. Look at the bailout process.

    Fact 4: Toyota is being blamed by media and mandated to stop production by the government for faults that didn’t cause many deaths. (10% of Ford Exploder, or the self burning domestics)

    All stars just aligned.

    • 0 avatar
      criminalenterprise

      Toyota was not mandated to stop production or to recall its vehicles. Both actions were voluntary, especially the production shutdown.

    • 0 avatar
      210delray

      criminal enterprise is right. DOT can’t order a recall or production line shutdown by fiat. There is a legal procedure for doing so, which can take months or even years, but the courts have the final say.

      Toyota could have said “make me” to the government, but wisely chose not to do so.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    I’m always amused by accusations of sophisticated gov’t conspiracy (pick your administration, past or present) by the same folks who claim that the gov’t is inept and incompetent. Make up your mind, are they diabolical evil-doers or bumbling nincompoops? Because they can’t really be both.

    • 0 avatar
      Facebook User

      There are ulterior motives at work here, and — as you’d expect from this administration — they’re going about it very, very clumsily. And without much success.

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      While I’m not one of the conspiracy theorists, I will suggest that it doesn’t require a great deal of intelligence to conspire.

    • 0 avatar
      Aardvark

      Clutch, those are “false choices.” You forgot to mention diabolical nincompoops and bumbling evil-doers. Perhaps Ray LaHood is just Snidely Whiplash

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      So, after all, is Watergate a sophisticated gov’t conspiracy that never happened?

      To me, Mr. Obama is not any more trustworthy than Mr. Nixon (before he is exposed).

      And the Toyota Gate is way easier to conduct with minimal consequence to the administration if exposed.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Facebook User-
      If this is a gov’t conspiracy, how would you say it didn’t have much success? They have recalled how many millions of cars? It has cost something like 21 Billion dollars in Toyota stock. Sales in January were bad for Toyota (Malibu outsold Camry). But, this isn’t a gov’t conspiracy. Toyota really does have a problem and they are trying to fix it. I am happy Toyota is fixing it, but I also would say that I think Toyota took too long to address these issue.

      wsn-
      I think will all know watergate happened. What is sophisticated… no. How sophisticated is it for a few guys to break into an office and steal stuff?

  • avatar
    late_apex

    Regardless of the potentially jaded and tainted comments by the overlords of government motors let’s not forget that Toyota indeed has some fault here.

    LaHood may think he can string this issue along and use it to deflect heat from the on-going descent of Government Motors and Cerberus Co in the mid-term elections. The dumber consumers will believe it, but the informed folks will vote accordingly.

    Toyota needs to over communicate the resolution on this issue, fight off the lawyers, and get back to production. Chit happens, admit it, fix it, and go on.

  • avatar
    70 Chevelle SS454

    So, here’s a little question for the law-talking types among you:

    If a government official disparages the products of a company that is competing directly with a government-owned firm, can that official (and perhaps the United States Government) be held liable for product disparagement? (Ignore sovereign immunity, for a second, and just assume they consent.)

    As a follow up, if that government official discussed his proposed testimony with a member of organized labor from GM or Chrysler plants, or with someone at the White House who had discussed the issue with said organized labor representatives, can that government official be said to be engaging in a conspiracy in restraint of trade by using his office to make announcements that a “competitor’s” products are unsafe, if such statements are not supported by substantial evidence?

    Sounds silly, right? Guess what, some junior associate at a white shoe firm will be up all night, tonight, answering those very questions. In the end, Toyota will never pull the trigger, of course, but this isn’t purely academic.

  • avatar

    Look folks, it’s always better to presume stupidity before malice. LaHood beclowned himself at the NAIAS with his comments about Chrysler’s “new” “cutting edge” products.
    http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/pelosi-hoyer-lahood-beclown-north-american-auto-show/

    He already had to retract the “stop driving” remarks. Frankly, the Obama administration has so little private sector experience that I doubt they’d even think to use LaHood to hammer Toyota to benefit GM and Chrysler.

    I’m no fan of Pres. Obama or his policies, but I’m allergic to conspiracy theories and I don’t think that LaHood’s remarks are part of some kind of grand strategy to help the two nationalized car companies.

    Besides, it looks like Ford (and Hyundai and Subaru) is the primary beneficiary of Toyota’s missteps, not the two partly government owned domestic automakers. Also, the auto bailouts are being administered by Treasury, not DOT. It was Steve Rattner strolling the NAIAS with Sergio Marchione, not Ray LaHood.

  • avatar
    Hank

    LaHood’s “misspeaking” reminds me of the lawyerly trick of making a statement or asking a question or leading the witness to make a statement that he/she knows will be objected to and struck from the record…knowing that the seed of thought is in the minds of the jury whether it’s been stricken or not. That, or he’s a bumbling idiot. Or both. I’m leaning just toward idiot, however.

  • avatar

    Why can’t Toyotas be as reliable as Buicks.

  • avatar
    AnthonyG

    Can someone explain to me , as a Brit, why some Americans want GM to close down and the right thing to do for a patriotic American is to buy a Toyota, which after all, is a Japanese car assembled in America?

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand the difference re Republicans and Democrats, and can even understand why healthcare is such a divisive issue, but truly don’t understand why there is such hatred for GM. Would there be such horror if the US govt bailed out Boeing for example?

    Speaking as somebody who lives in a country where there is very little domestic owned manufacturing left (that isn’t part of the defence industry), I’ll just add – be careful what you wish for!

    • 0 avatar
      Telegraph Road

      In bitter economic times, spite trumps reason. Dostoyevsky understands us.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Too many people have been burned by unreliable GM products in the past. Not too many individuals buy Boeing airplanes.

      If Boeing airplanes were being grounded regularly because of sloppy assembly or subpar components, most people would oppose a government bailout for that company, too.


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

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India