Japan from the inside out

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.


6 Responses to “The Toyota witch hunt”

  1. nancy408 said

    Toyota should have came forward with a full disclosure. Instead of waiting for a huge media blitz and tons of public pressure. I never seen so many car companies having recalls all at the same time. I had no idea my car was affected until I searched on and found I had a bad Anti Lock control unit on my 2008 Pontiac G8 , So be careful

  2. XXXXX said


    WRONG. Did you not read what was written above? It was purely a timing issue. The recall was already happening. A couple of people supposedly died or were seriously hurt. The media loves death and destruction, and with the pessimistic attitude prevalent in the media and the world’s economy today, this was just another one to add to the mix. Don’t you remember what happened with Bridgestone/Firestone and their supposed tire problem on Ford Explorers? People thought it was the tires. Nope. It was crappy engineering by Ford. This time, Toyota has done the recall correctly, they have apologized, and are “Moving Forward.” It’s idiots like you and the media who prefer to wallow and let the world wallow in crap that SEEMS to make this whole thing worse. The stuff will get fixed, Toyota will be fine, and the world will move on. Like it always does.
    No ad hominem directed at other posters, please.

    – A.

  3. therealmusashi said

    Right, no hubris on the part of Japanese at all.

    “37 fatalities in 29 incidents” isn’t just a ‘couple’ of people.

    The safety recall thing is something that several auto manufacturers have faced over the years in the US – Toyota is not being singled out unfairly. Get a clue with your ‘witch hunt’ label. Sheesh.

    Get a clue with your ‘witch hunt’ label

    Your? Do you mean Mine?

    Try the headline of the Business Week article.

    – A.

  4. therealmusashi said

    D’oh! While I meant to type “the” witch hunt label and show disdain for that phrase, it came out directed at Ampontan.

    I stand corrected – Business Week headline.


  5. Rick_In_Texas said

    I found out that Ed Wallace actually had two other articles on the subject..

    Part 1
    Part 2

    I really wish this would get resolved so Ed can go back to writing about Oil commodity speculation and the follies of Ethanol.. (^_^)

  6. […] might run into some of the same problems the Japanese are experiencing in the US market… and it’s not necessarily the Korean side that worries me. Easy AdSense by Unreal VN:F [1.8.3_1051]Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: […]

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