A lawsuit brought in California against Toyota led to the disclosure of allegedly damning documents that could cost Toyota another huge fine if the documents contain what the lawyers say. Unless lawyers (or the media) were asleep at the wheel. According to USA Today, these documents “point to possible delays involving an earlier safety issue, one that could result in loss of steering control.” USA Today says records that are part of the lawsuit show that Toyota was dealing with cracking and breaking steering relay rods in the U.S. for at least 11 years before it recalled 330,000 pickups and SUVs in Japan to replace the rods — and 12 years before its 2005 recall of nearly a million similar trucks in the U.S.
Sounds kind of familiar. I’m not suffering from Alzheimer yet, so let’s go on a fact-finding mission to the TTAC archives … (Read More…)
Thanks to the “optics” (if not the reality) of the latest Toyota sudden unintended acceleration scare, the story has new legs just as Toyota and Exponent were hoping to cut them off. But as much as dramatic, cop-calms-killer-Prius headlines keep the Great Toyota Panic alive, so to does the fact that the 89-odd class-action lawsuits filed against Toyota could be worth over $3b to plaintiffs and their counsel. And that’s not counting any of the incidents in which people were actually injured or killed (which are actually relatively rare). No, that $3b+ is going to the truly deserving… and their lawyers.
It’s been nearly a year since the automotive industry has been treated to a must-watch DC hearing. The last time around, when the executives of America’s automakers went begging to congress for multi-billion dollar bailouts, hearings were heated and combative. Though liberally sprinkled with irony and comedic ignorance, those hearings were, at their heart, a traditional partisan stand-off. But bailouts are also a relatively cut-and-dried topic: you either support them for solid political reasons, or you oppose them for equally solid, equally political reasons. But faced with a national bogeyman of legendary mystery, the lurking terror of unintended acceleration, congress’s task was more complicated than the bailout’s do-we-or-don’t-we dilemma. Tasked with uncovering the truth behind a complex technical problem, is it any wonder that yesterday’s hearings before the House Energy Committee took a turn for the strangely hilarious? [Editor's note: full prepared statements from all witnesses are available in PDF format here full video of all of yesterday's testimony is available at CSPAN]
Compared to the tens of billions of dollars in lost taxpayer investments in GM and Chrysler, the lawyer bills for the twin bankruptcies are relatively inexpensive. The Freep reports that legal and consulting fees have already exceeded $120m, with another $3m pending for September and October, and more to come. According to court records, Chrysler’s chief financial advisors during its bankruptcy, Capstone Advisory Group, has received $17m in taxpayer money, with some $10m going directly to the firm’s Executive Director Robert Manzo. Chrysler’s lead counsel, Day Jones, received $40m through last August, and estimates place the firm’s eventual tab to total somewhere around $115m. GM’s bankruptcy advisors AlixPartners and Evercore Partners received $26m and $13m respectively, while its head lawyers, Weil, Gotshal & Manges received nearly $72m. And with the liquidations of Old GM and Chrysler far from over, the legal bills will continue to mount, likely past 2010.