By on October 17, 2010

Toyota has been taken to task quite a few times over the past few months. But now it’s time for Ralph Nader to take his pot shot at them. Why so late?

Ralph Nader is no stranger to calling car companies out on their safety. He took GM to task over the safety of the Corvair. Claims which the NHTSA and Texas A&M University studied and dismissed, but were backed up by John DeLorean. But now Mr Nader has Toyota in his crosshairs. Not their safety. Their advertising.

USA Today reports that Mr Nader is asking Toyota to justify the claim that they spend “a million dollars an hour” on safety research. He questions this because, according to Mr Nader, for this claim to be true, Toyota would have to spending over $8.7 billion a year (24 hours x 365 days x 1,000,000 dollars). Mr Nader wrote a letter to Jim Lentz of Toyota (please note the following extract came from the USA Today article:)

Your frequently printed advertisement these days states that “We’re investing a million dollars an hour to enhance our technology and your safety… That’s why we’re spending a million dollars an hour on research and development.”

“Research and Development” has a specific meaning and does not include production engineering expenditures. At one million dollars an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the total comes to 8,760,000,000 dollars! That is an astonishing amount, compared to your industry peers, to be spent on safety R&D.

Can you breakdown that sum into its constituent categories so that the motoring public and other interested parties can understand where these sums are being applied—such as basic research, prototype models, crashworthiness spending and the like?

Thank you for your responsiveness regarding the above.

Sincerely yours,
Ralph Nader

Whether he will receive a response or not remains to be seen. But Mr Nader, if you’re reading this, you need to read TTAC a bit more.

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24 Comments on “Ralph Nader Vs Toyota...”

  • avatar

    When I saw TMC claiming this, I laughed out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of it.

    Would be more intereting to know how much Toyota spends per hour on actions (otherwise unnecessary but) related to their own incompetence, lead-footedness and pr-clumsiness due to subsequent product improvement programs (secret recall), voluntary recall, mandatory recall, customer goodwill, legal defense, out of court settlements, in-court settlements, court-imposed fines and penalties, government-imposed fines and penalties, re-engineering, re-testing and re-tooling of defective designs or processes, government-lobbying and heavy get-out the message that “we are all about safety” damage control advertising…

    Everybody makes mistakes, but the way in which TMC has handled things over the last few years reminds of The Great Mitsubishi Quality Cover-Up Scandal and takes the shine off a sterling reputation for quality and a steam-roller of feel-good advertising with a real feel of authenticity.

    If TMC don’t admit that they did not only live up to their standards, but their actions failed to justify their customer’s faith in them, then the new campaign will lack the authenticity to repair the damage and risks re-opening the wound ((as evidenced here by Nader’s late to the party inquiry.)))

    p.s. Dear Toyota, it would also be in your best interest to keep the message simple and to skip the (Dr. Evil bwaah ha ha) hyperbole…

    • 0 avatar

      I remembered the Mitsubishi scandal too. In fact, at the time I guess if the other japanese manufacturers also fell in that fiasco are haven’t been uncovered yet.
      Toyota demonstrated that it’s just another car maker, imperfect as GM, Ford, VW, etc… That’s good and healthy for all of us, except of course for Toyota

    • 0 avatar

      Me thinks TMC has again walked out onto a hot beach barefoot.

    • 0 avatar

      Robert Walter,

      To answer your first wordy paragraph, they probably still haven’t spent as much as other companies on the things you mentioned over the past 10 years.  Interesting that they weren’t as lead footed as originally thought, since we’re now seeing that most of this was floormat and driver error.  Looks to me like Toyota was getting facts, instead of jumping to conclusions.  Too bad everyone didn’t react the same way.

      Is it really hard to believe that a company with a Gross of a couple hundred billion a year, might spend 8 billion on technology and safety R&D?  I don’t think so either.

    • 0 avatar

      Your near ad-hominem statement does nothing to discredit mine.

      I wasn’t speaking relativistically of other companies, I was speaking of their absolute waste of own resources – one of which was their gold-standard reputation – due to incompetence.

      You are ignoring and co-mingling facts. 

      From personal professional experience I can tell you they did a poor job from many aspects. 

      Using such hyperbole in pursuit of their goal discredits their effort.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not overly concerned with your professional experience, as I have my own.  Which facts am I ignoring?  I just keep hearing alot of guessing on what “might be”.

      I find it ironic that you would ask Toyota to keep their message simple!!

  • avatar

    The has-been struggles to remain relevant, loses all remaining credibility.

  • avatar

    Im sure they are spending a million dollars an hour…to figure out how to save the next 13 cents
    per unit…

  • avatar

    This almost makes me want to go out and buy another Toyota.
    So will Toyota retain a top-tier business school to refute Mr. Nader’s claims?

  • avatar

    If Toyota is still making this claim, despite NYT’s earlier debunking of it, then good for Nader for keeping the heat on them.  If not, then, yeah, way to  pile on Ralph.  If only there were a journalist in the house to let us know which is the case!
    As for Nader’s “dismissed” claims regarding the Corvair’s handling, read paragraphs four and five here and decide for yourself:

    • 0 avatar

      Exonorated?  Tell that to Ernie Kovacs!  btw, JZD said Nader’s claims were true (but then again, JZD might have been considered a disgruntled employee.)

    • 0 avatar

      The simple fact is that the federal government cleared the Corvair in the early 1970s. The car’s handling wasn’t out of line with other compacts of the time, not to mention the imported small cars.

      After GM’s insurance company settled on one early Corvair case against the company’s wishes, GM took over the defense and subsequently won the biggest Corvair case (involving a fatal accident with a 16-year-old boy in California). After that, Corvair litigation basically faded away.

      What killed the Corvair were the Falcon, the Mustang and GM’s beancounters. The Falcon whipped the Corvair in sales in 1960, but GM saved the car with the sporty Monza variants.

      Then Ford saw how well the Monza versions of the Corvair sold, and this gave Lee Iacocca the ammunition he needed to get the Mustang approved. The new Mustang subsequently slaughtered the lovely, redesigned 1965 Corvair in the sales race.

      GM then decided to kill the Corvair, and put its energy into developing the new Camaro, which shared key components (including the engines) with the upcoming 1968 Chevy II Nova. The beancounters never liked the Corvair anyway, as it was relatively expensive to build and shared little, if anything, with other GM compacts.

      GM had made the decision to kill the Corvair BEFORE Nader’s book appeared. If anything, Nader prolonged the Corvair’s life, because GM didn’t want it to look as though it had killed the car in reaction to his book.

  • avatar

    The way I read Toyota’s claim, they’re saying they are spending $8.7B per year on all R&D, some of it is for safety-related R&D, some of it is for other areas.

  • avatar

    I was always curious why Ralph never went after the VW “Bug”. It had road handling characteristics similar to the early Corvairs. Maybe worse.

  • avatar

    Nader is a stupid twat.  He’s a lawyer that knows about nothing technical.  He’s personally responsible for killing the developing domestic small-car movement in the 60’s.  Oh, yeah, he also got George Bush elected in 2000, with his 5% take of the vote.

    • 0 avatar

      Not that I’m not annoyed about his enabling of the Bush presidency, but GM, Chrysler and Ford** did more to harm the domestic small car market than Nader could ever have done.
      ** Actually, Ford managed to make a very good car in the Falcon.  Chrysler did the same with the Valiant.  Both sold very well.  The Corvair had all sorts of problems largely because GM couldn’t lower itself to making something as mundane as a Falcon, but couldn’t spend the money to make it’s less-mundane offering reliable.  Again, not exactly Nader’s fault.

    • 0 avatar

      Now now, if Nader split the liberal vote and got Bush elected in ’00 then Perot split the conservative vote and got Clinton elected in ’92.  I suppose Buchanan split the functionally illiterate/short attention span vote in ’00…
      I’ll with you that he comes up short on technical knowledge and applied science, starting in Chapter 1 of his book.  Early Corvair swing axle “tuck under” myth = QED = good example of why we need more engineers and less lawyers.  But at the time people ate it up.  To think that we put a man on the moon that same decade.

    • 0 avatar
      The Walking Eye

      Now, now, let’s have our facts straight first.  Nader got less than 3% of the popular vote and Gore still won that.  I’m no fan of President Bush, but Gore couldn’t carry his home state of TN, that’s what did him in more than anything.  Also, Perot got as much as 18% of the vote in his multiple runs, which hurt the Republicans far more than Nader ever did.
      I agree on the lawyer know-nothing part.

  • avatar

    Good to see he’s still milking on his fifteenth minute for all its worth…

    Not that I approve of Toyota’s often Goebbelsesque propoganda spin, but what’s Ralphie even DOING nowadays?

  • avatar

    BTW, I must heartily recommend reading Mr. Nader’s book pictured above. As the proud purchaser of a 1963 Corvair Spyder Turbo in about 1980, everybody warned me about his findings. So I sourced a dog-eared copy from a used book store. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the fated intersection where the Corvair accident occurred that opens Nader’s story was the very intersection I drove my Corvair through almost daily.
    And, yes, it was very light in the front and unstable at high speeds. Like the other Corvair fans I knew, we remedied this by storing about 50 pounds of ballast in the front in the form of cinder blocks, bags of Portland cement, or whatever.
    Decent car, truly, except for that pesky and common fan bearing failure.

    • 0 avatar

      “we remedied this by storing about 50 pounds of ballast in the front in the form of cinder blocks, bags of Portland cement, or whatever.”
      Sorry, but I can’t stop laughing. That sounds like a well designed car.
      Have you ever checked how the mileage changed?

  • avatar

    I had a ’64 Monza, and that ’60 – ’63  rear suspension setup did suck pretty hard as near as I could tell, had a friend with a ’62 that rolled it and ruptured his spleen.  Ah, to be that young and carefree again.  The second gen (’65 up) was much much better, but I got into watercooled after that single experience in Corvair-land.

  • avatar

    I don’t see why this is a problem for Nader to bring up.  GM got raked over the coals for its pay back ads, which it well deserved.  They were technically accurate, but terribly misleading.  The same goes for this Toyota ad.
    The difference we see is that the Toyota ad had an article here, and one in the NYT.  I don’t remember it making the 6pm news for a few days straight.  If Nader wants to call BS so that more people can hear about how the ad is terribly misleading, then he should do so.

  • avatar

    I don’t know how true this is: a friend says he once saw Mr. Nader in a DC suburbs Wal-Mart, berating a poor sales clerk about the lack of selection for an advertised special on men’s slacks.
    When Ralph started making a scene and demanded to speak with management, a hunched-over guy in his sixties walked up and told Mr. Consumer Advocate to calm down. He then asked Nader, “why don’t you go off and learn a trade?”
    He got applause, and Nader slunk off.
    Again, not sure I believe it but it sounds good.

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