By on May 10, 2010

U.S. Transport Secretary Ray LaHood is in Japan today. He’s looking at trainsets. Japan is bidding on the U.S.A.’s (long in the) future high speed rail network. So is everybody else in the world, including the Chinese. Good luck to both of them. While in Japan, LaHood personally inspected Toyota’s safety facilities in Toyota City to see whether they are up to snuff. You think Mr. “Feet to the Fire” LaHood gave Toyota a clean bill of health? Think again.

According to LaHood, “time will tell.”

“I believe that they have put in place some measures that will enable us at the Department of Transportation to have a better handle and a better form of information if they’re carried out,” LaHood told a news conference in Toyota. “And what I told Mr. Toyoda today, these measures are important measures but I use the American colloquialism: the proof is in the pudding.”

If that sounds a bit ambivalent, or downright dismissive to you, then you are not alone. Quite possibly, the frightened Japanese already convened a conference of their pastry chefs.

Last month, Toyota agreed to pay a record $16.4 million federal fine as penance for delaying a safety recall over defective accelerator pedals. Currently, U.S. regulators are sifting through 500,000 documents to see whether they can assess a second fine, based on the theory that there were two separate defects in the pedals.

LaHood says the research is still ongoing, and that it “will be a while.” The government needs the money. One fine barely pays for a mile of high speed rail.

Honda and Nissan will be next on LaHood’s visiting schedule, says Reuters.

Mr. Secretary: The trains are built by Hitachi and Kawasaki Heavy.

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11 Comments on “LaHood Inspects Toyota, Remains Skeptic...”

  • avatar

    I think Ray DaHood believes American high-speed rail and LRT lines should be built/assembled/value-added by UAW members, in Government Motors plants, and at prices sufficient to support a new golden era of pensions and benefits.

    Government Motors will however need foreign partners for that, and DaHood can surely count on Japanese fear to work in his favor at the negotiating table; in a bone-stupid concession guaranteed to produce yet more shakedowns, Toyota has already agreed to pony up $250 million to featherbed the UAW employees at the NUMMI plant:

    On a brighter note, spring is here and I’ve got Kawasaki Light’s two-wheeled high-speed transport waiting out in the garage…

  • avatar

    Sceptic? Is this intended as a play on words? (septic? skeptic?) Not a flame, just confused.

  • avatar

    Like most who work at this level of government, LaHood is useless. There is no good reason for him to travel to Japan on a taxpayer paid for trip, with his minions of advisors to ‘look’ at something that will simply not happen in the US at anytime in the 10-20 years, if at all.

    What exactly is he gleaning from being there vs. conference calls?

    Heck of an example he’s setting regarding being green. I guess that global warming business is a problem for the unwashed masses to worry themselves about.

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    Mr. Lahood should visit China if he is really interested in High Speed Rail built there by Canadian Company Bombardier, this Company really shines on building High speed rail, is he really interested or is he only wanting to have a Holiday at Taxpayers expense?

    • 0 avatar

      want true hi-speed rail, go to china and see the shanghai connector from airport to down-town … it’s a mag-lev hi-speed unit designed and built by ThyssenKrupp … fastest production rail unit in the world.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually. there is technology from Bombardier (Shenzhen), a modified Shinkansen (Jinan), trains by Siemens (Beijing-Tianjin), and Siemens/Kawasaki (Wuhan–Guangzhou). In the meantime, China has learned enough and exports the trains. China has begun construction of high-speed rail in Turkey, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

      The Chinese government has signed preliminary agreements to cooperate with California and GE to finance and build high-speed rail lines in CA. Technology-wise, GE would become a licensee of China.

  • avatar

    Something very strange has happened to skepticism in the last decade or two.

    It’s gone from being an intellectual position to being a populist one. Take vaccination or evolution**: it’s common for opponents of either to be “skeptical”, and for those who would benefit from skepticism to push that said skepticism simply exists, rather than deal with the issues at hand. The “Teaching the controversy” strategy has taken a sledgehammer to informed skepticism.

    It’s treating science and engineering like law. And not good law, either, but the worst of courtroom drama.

    LaHood is doing the same thing, here. There’s been precious little conclusive proof of mechanical pedal issues, and exactly no proof of electronic problems. There’s a lot of credence to the idea of ergonomic trouble (floor mat obstruction, pedal placement), but rather than address the actual problem, LaHood remains “skeptical”.

    I swear, this is what happens when we, as a people, expect our government to make us “feel good” rather than do a good job.

    ** or Climate Change***, but I swore I wouldn’t mention that.
    *** Ooops!

  • avatar

    I would love to see the training, schooling and experience that qualifies this 2nd rate midwestern policy wonk as a safety expert.

  • avatar

    There seems to be some confusion here. LaHood isn’t an engineer or safety expert and he doesn’t need to be. Look at his comments “…enable us at the Department of Transportation to have a better handle and a better form of information.” Toyota was fined for not handing over information about potential safety issues, not for an engineering mistake or using faulty equipment. Toyota’s problems lie with their management and administrative bureaucracy and in that regard Mr. Lahood is, unfortunately, an expert.

  • avatar

    Can’t this country produce anything anymore? We are basically without a viable autoindustry, now we have to go globetrotting to find somebody to build a rail system for us.

    I thought the administration was looking into using US railcar’s DMU units for high speed routes. With upgrades they are now capable of cruising at 110 – 125 mph. Vermont has been using them for the last five years.

    High speed version

  • avatar

    >>I would love to see the training, schooling and experience that qualifies this 2nd rate midwestern policy wonk as a safety expert.<<

    There isn't any. He was a high school teacher who got into politics…

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