One of the main topics at the Toyota hearings held in recent weeks is the automaker’s practice of hiring former NHTSA officials to its lobbying team. At the time, we were inclined to believe that Toyota was hardly the only firm engaging in this practice, and thanks to some Washington Post reporting, our suspicions have been confirmed. Early controversy centered around Christopher Santucci and Chris Tinto, two NHTSA Office of Defect Investigation officials who now work for Toyota. In addition to these two, the WaPo has identified former NHTSA lawyers Kenneth Weinstein and Erika Jones as former NHTSA officials who also now work for Toyota. And then there are the former regulators who work for other automakers: Jacqueline Glassman, a former NHTSA chief counsel and then deputy administrator now works for a law firm that represents Nissan and Mercedes. And that’s not all:
Former agency compliance engineer Amanda Prescott now works for Ford. Former agency director of the Office of Crashworthiness Research, Ralph J. Hitchcock, now works for American Honda Motor Co. And past agency administrator Diane Steed is a partner at Strat@Comm, a Washington public relations and lobbying firm that represents General Motors Corp.
And once again, Toyota wriggles out of some of the most damning accusations against it, not by confirming that it actually holds itself to especially high quality and safety standards, but by proving that it’s just like every other automaker. As we noted some weeks ago, this loss of exceptionalism is the ultimate price that Toyota will pay for this scandal (not counting lawyer fees).