By on February 20, 2010

Akio Toyoda is getting a crash course in cross-cultural studies, while he is preparing for his appearance on The Hill this coming Wednesday. Toyota already uncovered the time-tested Washington axiom: “We will fight it tooth and nail, but if we can’t stop it, we might as well dress for it.”

Saturday morning’s Nikkei [sub] greets its readers with the message that “Akio Toyoda’s appearance before Congress on Wednesday could be a chance for the embattled automaker to win back consumer trust in the U.S.”

Hedging a risky bet, the Nikkei adds: “But a poor performance could further undermine its reputation.” To avoid the latter, Toyoda is preparing to counter a three-pronged attack.

Prong #1: What did Toyota know and when did they know it? According to a document submitted by Toyota to the NHTSA, Toyota followed up on customer complaints that accelerator pedals do not return to the idle position smoothly in 2007, but Toyota determined that it wasn’t a safety issue. Some committee members will likely challenge Toyota’s conclusion.

Prong #2: Did Toyota take vigorous and swift action? Or did they try to hide defects and sweep customer complaints under the (loose) carpet, as some contend? The Nikkei thinks Toyoda will repeat last Wednesday’s statement that Toyota “never covers things up or tries to escape from its responsibility.”

Prong #3: Was/is there a defect in the electronic control system that causes the sudden acceleration? Toyoda is expected to reiterate the conclusions of  a third-party investigation, which cleared the on-board computer of any problems.

Let’s hope Toyoda is preparing defenses against a panoply of other prongs, because they will be there.  maybe the leak is intentional, and the disclosure of their defenses is here to lure the attacker into belief that Toyota is ill prepared for other pincer movements that use the tactical high ground of Capitol Hill

The other hope for Toyoda is that the barbecue party will get tired of a grilling that is degraded to slow burn by an interpreter, and that Toyota-friendly esteemed members of the committee will turn on Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. They will also be at the hearing. What did the NHTSA know and when did they know it? What did they do? What about the supposed 34 dead, and where are they buried? LaHood is known to sometimes suffer from verbal diarrhea: Sound bites dog!

Speaking of bodily functions, La Hood could counter that he had to muck out an Augeas stable from the Bush administration, where massive amounts of dung had been produced. Strickland will nod furiously, and the partisan infighting will be on. This has historical precedent. Twice, a typhoon had saved Japan from an invasion by the Mongol hordes. Back to bodily functions, Toyoda will most likely stop by the next Shinto shrine before departure and pray for a lot of wind.

The gods already announced that they are inclined to listen to his prayer: “About 20 people aboard a U.S. passenger aircraft were injured Saturday after it ran into turbulence while it was traveling from Washington D.C. to Narita,” reports the Nikkei this evening.  The airliner had departed from Dulles International Airport at around 2:40 a.m. Saturday, Japan time.  ‘Many passengers were tossed from their seats, bumping into the ceiling.”

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27 Comments on “Recipes For The Toyota Grill Party On Capitol Hill...”

  • avatar

    I am not sure in the history of Congressional “roasts” there has been one company that has come out ahead. Let’s face it – Congressional committee meetings are for the members of Congress to score points. Engineering can’t be done in the media or in a Congressional meeting room.

    Members of Congress (and reporters) think that good engineering is done by genius folks who draw up a brilliant design which is built quantities of millions for the least cost and works perfectly.

  • avatar

    This sure takes some strange turns, Bertel. Was khat involved?

  • avatar
    crash sled

    “…Toyoda will most likely stop by the next Shinto shrine before departure and pray for a lot of wind.”


    Oh, the honorables will provide plenty of wind… and none of it divine.

    The 3-prong defense seems comprehensive. They’ll be attacked, and the only response better come directly out of what they’ve already put in place. If the congresscritters think of anything for them, then they are indeed in trouble. Doubtful, but there are always wild cards out there.

    You beat the Japs by taking advantage of their complex strategies and orders of battle. You let them fail, fall of their own weight, and then move in for the kill. And it always helps if you can read their email intercepts. Of course, this is a 60+ year old model, so we’ll see if it plays out today.

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Locock

      is going to take some nifty footwork to get around. It also puts the lie directly to ” that Toyota “never covers things up or tries to escape from its responsibility.””

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Skimming through that, it mirrors standard OEM negotiation with NHTSA, and historically all have engaged in this, even amidst multiple fatalities sitting on the table. I doubt Toyota will push that point, but somebody will.

  • avatar

    ‘Many passengers were tossed from their seats, bumping into the ceiling.”

    Let’s call them for what they are … knuckleheads … who were not wearing their seatbelts…

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      If they were operating their own plane, yes, that’d be a fair statement.

      Now, commercial transport, that’s a different case. But if you’ve ignored a commercial pilot’s instructions given before entering known turbulence, and are injured as a result, well then yes, you’re back in the domain of knucklehead-dom.

    • 0 avatar

      You don’t seem to be on many long haul flights, crash sled. At the beginning, there usually is a recommendation to stay buckled up for the duration. I always keep my belt on, lightly fastened. I usually sleep the whole time. Nobody ever wakes me up before we hit a turbulence, and I sleep right though it. Some turbulences hit out of the blue, and I have seen people flying against the ceiling, overhead bins spilling luggage, and service carts careening through the plane. Always get a windows seat … safest from spilling luggage and careening carts.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Many hours in the air, Bertel, and many, many more at sea, on smaller working crafts. You’re smart to wear your belts, and equally smart to keep a handhold whenever moving about. Rogue waves, whether atmospheric or oceanic, are always a possibility.

    • 0 avatar

      What Bertel describes as “sudden turbulence out of the blue” is officially known as CAT (Clear-Air Turbulence) … good suggestion on the window-seat … “senator status” and I never came-across that one before (or thought of it myself – I’m disappointed in me!) but Bertel, I’ll see your “lightly-buckled” and raise you one “over the blanket”!

      p.s. Crash, how can you have sympathy for the “knuckleheads” and be so hard on the folks suffering the ill effects of Toyota’s poorly-designed floormats and accelerator pedals? Seems inconsistent.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Well first, you’ve here stating that Toyota has “poorly-designed” something, and absent supporting data, that would be speculation.

      How do you figure I’ve suddenly found sympathy for knuckleheads, whether driving-challenged or otherwise?

    • 0 avatar

      Supporting data, recent or historical? (I can’t quite tell if you are just trying to be quarrelsome, but I’ll try to answer your request.)

      1. ePedal internals: Recent = Shim, Historical = 2007 Material Change

      2. ePedal and floor-mat interface: Recent = Remedial truncation of pedal with saw, Historical = 2007 Mat Redesign

      3. Other: Track-bar fractures, Steering column welds, etc.

      Well, you posted in a different topic that going to the dealer for the mat recall was a waste of time, and implied that those doing so, or that anybody having suffered from these defects and unable to perform the necessary counter-measures were, somehow ignorant or stupid and, undeserving of your respect or understanding.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      No, you didn’t really answer my question. Neither of them, in fact.

      I can speculate several reasons why Toyota is shimming this accel pedal, or redesigning floor mats, in addition to your speculations of “bad design”. However, amidst your voluminous postings, you seem incapable of that comprehensive analysis, which is obviously a requisite part of forensic engineering and structural inspection. You seem to be offering a more targeted analysis… still unsupported by data, of course. I’m amused.

      As for my second question you’ve left unanswered, I’m still curious as to your reference that my posts were somehow “inconsistent” as regards “knuckleheads”. Speculation and immature, unformed thought will often lead one to premature conclusions such as these.

      Or in more common terms: It leads one to hysteria.

    • 0 avatar

      If I can’t convince you that the shim is a remedial action taken to overcome a non-robust design, then I am reminded of the old maxim ending with “… drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.”

      Please do your homework, read my postings … I have been careful to be balanced and professional in my analysis and fair in my opinions. When I have speculated I have tried to mark it as such. I have no agenda except a robust discussion aimed at a deeper knowledge of the situation.

      If anyone else thinks I have been unprofessional or unfair, I would be happy to hear it.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Well, still no answers, so we can assume none are forthcoming.

      One can’t be convincing unless one makes the attempt to convince. No need to review your other posts, as the above sufficiently demonstrate the void.

      Data would help fill that void of course, but again, despite repeated queries, none appears forthcoming. So, we’re left with a known-unknown, a void. A common enough occurrence, and one the responsible are comfortable identifying and working with, as opposed to the hysteric’s thirst for unsupported elucidation.

  • avatar

    I’m starting to think this is payback for when the Japanese banned US beef for being “Unsafe”.
    Congress is now bringing Japanese “beef” to Washington so they can roast it over it’s unsafe Toyota designed cars.

    Lets get this fire going…. I can’t wait :)

  • avatar

    Ooh.. V8 grill. …what exactly does the engine do in that particular application? Can you drive it to the butchers to get some beef?

    V8 blender here,

  • avatar

    And I saw my first “I’m a non-attorney spokesperson. If you or someone you know were injured or killed in a Toyota vehicle…” television ad from our good friends at the Law Offices of James Sokolove…

  • avatar
    Telegraph Road

    The congressional hearings, signifying nothing but certainly to be filled with sound and fury, are a tragic reminder of our broken political process. They are a fatal–figuratively, I hope–distraction from the investigations within NHTSA and Toyota to resolve the complex engineering issues.

  • avatar

    Waxman’s on the prowl, and he’s huntin’ for some sushi.

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