Thursday, February 4, 2010

• Toyota Under Political Siege

Toyota’s has overnight passed through a political tunnel that has severely tarnished its image as the greatest automaker on the planet. With U.S. Transport Secretary Ray LaHood leading the attack, and Unions piling on, the Administration’s denials of nationalist impulses are transparent. The White House apparently believes that it is now appropriate to extend corporate bashing to foreign controlled companies. Attacking banks went over well with the fawning MSM, now that same media is jumping on the train and fueling passions against a company which directly or indirectly provides hundreds of thousands of jobs to North American taxpayers.

It is peculiar that the Administration and Congress, along with friendly members of the MSM, are attacking a well-run and successful Japanese company so aggressively, while giving a comparative pass to any Chinese company transgressions with millions of faulty and dangerous products distributed across America.

The answer appears to rest in the undue power and influence which the United Auto Workers (UAW) currently enjoys with Washington, and very directly with President Obama.

Mr. LaHood can pretend otherwise, but his “stop driving” Toyota comment had the intended consequences of directly affecting the perception of Toyota in the marketplace. Democratic California Congressman Henry Waxman found easy fodder with his accusations of misleading statements from Toyota as to the causes of the more serious vehicle incidents. Waxman is playing to the home crowd along with the UAW, in his chastisement of Toyota - the underlying reason being Toyota’s closure of a unionized plant in California. How can Waxman possibly believe he is being helpful to his constituents?

Laws and government oversight are in place to deal with managerial malfeasance when it comes to auto companies knowingly misleading the public, or selling vehicles it knows are faulty. Carmakers have in the past been guilty of such practices. There is no evidence here that Toyota has for years sold cars into the market that it knew were faulty. Should facts in time prove to the contrary, the executives responsible will endure the consequences. Engineering and manufacturing mistakes occur, and all auto companies have had to endure the damage that such events present. Although Toyota may be mishandling it’s PR response to the faulty accelerator pedals, given the facts as currently available, the company appears to be responding responsibly to a recall that will cost its international shareholders billions of dollars.

Toyota will survive and will continue to manufacture some of the best vehicles on the road. Current Washington attitudes toward business and industry, and now toward foreign owned businesses, however, presents an attitude that may prove very harmful in the short, mid and long term, to long lines of unemployed now reaching 17% levels. This calculated, aggressive and belligerent continuation of impugned inclination toward a significant, and otherwise pristine employer, should give us pause. Leadership in Washington is flailing in an ill-perceived wind of populism.

This Administration should come out strongly and audibly reversing its course, and it should reign in the misguided thrashing of a major North American employer.

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