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Posts Tagged ‘Toyota Congressional Hearings’

Toxic Testimony Toasts Toyota Today – Or Not?

Gilbert made Toyota look bad, but what are his credentials?

by on Feb.23, 2010

Just what was Gilbert pedaling?

For us old war dogs of the car safety wars, there were few surprises in the opening round of Congressional hearings today about alleged Toyota safety problems.

Certainly, the predictable appearance of a “surprise” adversarial witness, Professor David W. Gilbert of Southern Illinois University, should have come as no political  game upset, especially since it was telegraphed the night before by his appearance on ratings-driven ABC Television.

Gilbert, who is listed on the SIU website as an associate professor in the Department of Automotive Technology, College of Applied Science and Arts of the Carbondale campus, excoriated Toyota’s design of its electronic throttle mechanism. He claimed to have tricked the system into demonstrating the possibility of runaway acceleration from a simple short circuit.

Toyota denied his claim. No surprise in the denial—what other response could they make?

I think Gilbert is taking on a big load, challenging the expertise of veteran Toyota engineers – and perhaps that of suppliers as well.

He may be right – but if he is wrong – it could be a maliciously staged bit of mischief by ABC-TV or – who knows what?

It would not be the first time that a network TV news department has participated in tests or interviews intended to embarrass and otherwise harm an auto company. Anybody remember the rigged fuel tank fire in a GM pickup truck a few years ago that cost the head of NBC news his job?   (more…)

Toyota Congressional Hearings: What to Expect

Here comes political posturing, pointing and posterior protection with your tax dollars at work, or is it non-work?

by on Jan.31, 2010

As all of the House is up for re-election this year. Need we say more?

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, is embroiled in two controversial U.S. recalls for unintended acceleration involving ~5.3 million vehicles so far, and sluggish-to-sticking accelerator pedals, at least 2.3 million vehicles.

In addition, this week Toyota is halting production at five North American assembly plants that make the affected vehicles to free up revised pedal assemblies for repairs. The company apparently knew of the problem and has been working on a fix for quite a while. This is shaping up as a classic coverup, according to the many critics of the company.

Millions of  heretofore mostly satisfied Toyota owners are potentially affected, and until root causes are established and fixes put in place, the anxiety of the unknown continues in the growing and increasingly skeptical media coverage.

As all of the House is up for re-election later this year, amid a growing voter revolt against incumbents for their partisanship, “pay for play” politics and lack of action on unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression, among other things, this sets the stage for the classic, three-ring, political circus.

The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a February 10th hearing titled, “Toyota Gas Pedals: Is the Public at Risk?” Lest you have forgotten, this same committee held the well-publicized Firestone tire recall hearings back in 2000. I know, I was there.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee also said that it would hold a hearing on February 25th to look at unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Bart Stupak, Democrat Michigan, and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said, “Staff has met with Administration officials and Toyota officials as part of our investigation. Members of Congress and consumers need to know exactly what the problem is, how to fix the problem and what must be done to protect drivers of Toyota vehicles,” he said.

Translation: Private meetings will not get me or any other congressman the press and TV footage I need to convey to voters that I should be re-elected and keep my lucrative job and medical insurance plan. (Alternate translations for this and all of the following are of course welcome in our comment section. Civil language please. )

Comedy or Tragedy?

Expect: Statements that allow Stupak and other congressmen to express to the cameras their deep concern, while questioning the effectiveness of regulatory agencies. I do not expect he will explain why we need an expensive public hearing when the committee has already been meeting privately with Toyota and NHTSA on this matter. Moreover, both need to solve the problem or problems – and they will – without Congressional “help.”

Also expect: Leaked documents in the days ahead of the hearings with apparently damaging excerpts from Toyota’s required written responses by politicians to favored Washington Post and New York Times, and other political media. Toyota’s fuller explanations will not be leaked. (more…)