The Toyota witch hunt
Posted by ampontan on Sunday, February 28, 2010
NO, THAT TITLE didn’t come from my hyperactive Nipponophile imagination–it’s the actual headline from a Business Week article written by Ed Wallace, an expert on automobiles and the auto industry who runs this aggregator website.
Mr. Wallace begins his article with this consumer complaint about Toyota.
“Several times I have noticed that the acceleration will drop off the second I take my foot off the pedal. Please advise ASAP!!!!!!!!!”—NHTSA Toyota Complaint #10302477
The article is worth reading because the author dismisses the sensationalism and seeks a grounding in the facts.
At the Gulf States Toyota mid-winter meeting, attended by more than 150 dealers, an official asked for a show of hands of any dealers who’d ever had such a complaint in their service department prior to this story breaking nationally. And in this closed meeting, according to three dealers who were present, not one dealer raised a hand.
Furthermore, why didn’t Congress simply ask Toyota to provide a complete list of all warranty claims on this complaint made before the media made their serious allegations? That would have taken this issue out of the realm of speculation into one of hard facts.
If only to resolve the rabid focus on Toyota’s problems, it’s past time to turn this over to the engineers. Innuendo, emotion, and speculation are not how one resolves an issue such as this. Even in the hearings in Congress, it appeared that most witnesses were tied to safety advocates, litigation attorneys, and traumatized victims; that’s like trying a case in court with no defense attorneys. The outcome is almost preordained.
Maybe that’s the point.
Another aspect to this story isn’t receiving much attention, but is in some ways as interesting as the original story itself. In the past, this alliance of interest-group hustlers, lawyers, politicians, and the old media would have easily carried the day. Those with objections to their claims, either in part or in toto, would have been ignored, dismissed, or demonized.
Those days are over.
Perhaps people have been aroused by the addition to the alliance of the new GM ownership team that consists of an unpopular and untrusted government and its labor union supporters. Perhaps it’s because the new technology-enabled environment in which issues are examined has achieved a firm foothold, now that the old media’s credibility is in tatters. It’s more likely the combination of those two factors, but regardless of the reasons, it’s clear that many people are throwing this scenario back into the face of the alliance that’s pushing it.
That environment seems to be more fully formed in the Anglosphere than in Japan, perhaps due to the successes achieved in the former. In the United States, the new media swiftly took the scalp of CBS newsman Dan Rather during the 2004 election, and last year it exposed the warped and thuggish political action group ACORN. They’ve also provided the platform for the exposure of the fraudulent global warming claims.
All the Japanese new media needs to join them is a scalp or two of its own. The stage seems to have been set, the lighting has been turned on, and the players are in the wings. Instead of Godot, they’re waiting for the catalyst.
Thanks to Rick in Texas for the links.
Come to think of it, there might be another reason for the pushback: A lot of Americans like their Toyotas.
And, come to think of it, the Japanese new media might have one scalp after all–the Mainichi Shimbun in the WaiWai affair, when Japanese netizens brought the newspaper to its knees for the brain-dead material presented in that English-language feature from the usual spitballing, anti-Nipponist perspective. Both the print and broadcast sectors of the Japanese mess media kept strangely mum.