Transportation Secretary LaHood: "Stop Driving Your Toyota" [UPDATE:LaHood Now Claims He "Misspoke"]

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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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]

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  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Feb 03, 2010

    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. 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.

  • Hank Hank on Feb 03, 2010

    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.

  • Akear Akear on Feb 03, 2010

    Why can't Toyotas be as reliable as Buicks.

  • AnthonyG AnthonyG on Feb 04, 2010

    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!

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    • Geeber Geeber on Feb 04, 2010

      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.