No sooner than Toyota tried to take credit for its “voluntary” decision to stop selling eight models earlier this week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood chimed in with the truth: “The reason Toyota decided to do the recall and to stop manufacturing is we asked them to,”
Payback time: Is Toyota being punished by Obama, Congress and Detroit?
Are the Obama administration and Rust Belt members of Congress taking political advantage of Toyota to bolster the fortunes of Detroit automakers?
Given how Toyota has had to stop selling eight models, including the mega-popular Camry and Corolla, the question is worth posing.
ON DRIVE ON’S FORUM: Is Toyota involved in a deadly coverup?
It was only a year ago that Toyota seemed impervious as Detroit automakers dangled on the ropes. General Motors and Chrysler received government loans, giving taxpayers a big stake in their recovery. The United Auto Workers union, which has long sought to organize Toyota’s U.S. plants, now has a bigger voice. A weak Toyota benefits all.
After the Detroit 3’s impossible year, archrival Toyota finds itself in a world of hurt. With Toyota unraveling over the issue of "unintended acceleration," it faces the kind of humiliation that the Detroit 3 went through last year:
- Yesterday, Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat from union autoworker-bastion Michigan, announced that top executives of Toyota have been summoned before the congressional subcommittee he chairs on Feb. 25 to explain the company’s back-to-back recalls over unintended acceleration.
- No sooner than Toyota tried to take credit for its "voluntary" decision to stop selling eight models earlier this week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood chimed in with the truth: "The reason Toyota decided to do the recall and to stop manufacturing is we asked them to," he said on WGM radio in Chicago. Reached for comment, Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says Toyota is only following the law.
The unprecedented move to keep Toyota from selling models under recall could ve viewed as economic punishment, rather than consumer protection. Neither LaHood nor Toyota think that owners of cars covered by the recall should stop driving them. The cars may be too potentially dangerous to be sold, but they are fine to drive as long as you’re aware of telltale warning signs that they may try to roar off on their own. Imagine a drug recall where the government stops sales in stores, but doesn’t tell people to throw away the bottles in their medicine cabinets.
Because it can’t sell much of its lineup, Toyota has stopped production at its key U.S. plants. And where might they be? Two of the three big plants that Toyota shut down when it stopped sales of the eight models are in solid red states — Texas and Kentucky. (The other is a swing state, Indiana.)
And Detroit? After years of being accused of shoddy workmanship and bad design while Toyota sailed along unscathed, Detroit automakers are finally exacting their revenge. General Motors lost no time in picking up on the beat. It announced earlier this week that it will offer a special discount to buyers who trade in a Toyota.