It’s all over the news today: Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday the U.S. government has reached a $1.2 billion settlement with Toyota that ends a four-year criminal investigation into the automaker’s response to safety issues. But is the Japanese automaker really guilty of wrongdoing?
I ask that question after today’s headlines prompted me to take a trip back into the Bob McCarty Writes archives. There, I found several articles worth sharing again.
In a Feb. 5, 2010, piece, Obama Administration Sending Wrong Signals, I opened by stating that no one could blame Toyota Motor Company officials for feeling as if they’ve been on the “hot seat” for an inordinately-long period of time. Then I listed four noteworthy incidents to back up my opinion:
• On Sept. 29, the company issued a recall related to floor mats interfering with accelerator pedals of seven Toyota models;
• On Jan. 21, the company issued another recall, this time related to issues with the accelerator pedals of eight Toyota and Lexus models;
• On Feb. 4, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood offered inaccurate off-the-cuff advice to drivers of Toyota vehicles; and
• Today, Toyota President Akio Toyoda issued an apology on behalf of his company amidst news the company is reportedly considering a recall of its Toyota Prius model over issues related to its braking system.
I went on to cite an AFP article, Is US bullying Toyota on recall?, before asking and answering the question, “Why would the Obama Administration want to bully Toyota?”
I explained that two primary reasons existed for Obama’s actions:
• President Obama wants to hurt sales at Toyota and increase sales at General Motors and Chrysler, the companies in which the federal government has an ownership stake; and
• President Obama wants to help the United Auto Workers employees who work at GM and Chrysler plants, many of which have shuttered in recent years.
Also on Feb. 5, 2010, I asked the question, Is Toyota Paying Price for Not Supporting Obama?, before highlighting Federal Election Commission records that revealed only two of the 151 executives whose biographies appeared on the Toyota web site at the time made contributions to Obama’s presidential campaign between Jan. 1, 2007, and Feb. 4, 2010.
Three days later, I pointed out how federal government officials had failed to issue a recall for the GM-produced Chevy Cobalt despite the fact it had received more complaints per vehicle than Toyota. Going a step farther, I used one paragraph to ask and answer an important question:
So why hasn’t the federal government issued a recall on the Cobalt? Probably because Chevrolet is owned by General Motors (a.k.a. “Government Motors”), a taxpayer-owned company that stands to benefit greatly from having its foreign-owned competitors struggle with the public relations nightmares related to product recalls.
On Feb. 15, 2010, I offered a few thoughts as to why Japanese automakers should expect more recalls — namely, because executives at Honda, Nissan and Suzuki had, like their colleagues at Toyota, failed to contribute much to Obama’s campaign coffers.
On May 5, 2010, I shared news about Toyota passing the three-million recall remedies mark.
Nine months would pass before I shared news I thought might signal the end of the federal government’s harassment of the Japanese automaker. But I was wrong.
Despite the fact that NASA engineers found no electronic flaws in Toyota vehicles, Toyota will, according to Attorney General Holder, have to pay a $1.2 billion financial penalty under a “deferred prosecution agreement.
Translation: “Pay up or we continue our shakedown.”
Oh, what a feeling, Toyota!