Oh What a Feeling! Toyota?

I’ve wanted to do a post on the slow motion car wreck that is the Toyota story, but I just haven’t had the time.   This is a subject that satisfies several of my interests, from automobiles to politics to organizational dynamics, and I’ve followed it closely.   So instead, here’s a collection of links ¦

Toyota’s zombie-themed Corolla ad may be too soon.

Some of the usual suspects are alleging that the Toyota debacle is a political ploy of the US government defending Government Motors (formerly known as GM). Unsurprisingly, the governors of four states which are home to Toyota manufacturing are displeased with the government’s interest.

For some reason, Toyota recalled floor mats in the UK ten years ago, but did not in the US.   ABC News reported that the unintended acceleration was not due to floor mats but due to an electronics flaw.   Toyota vigorously disputed the claim.   A researcher was able to duplicate the conditions without creating an error code in the vehicle’s computer system.   A large Toyota dealer group pulled its television advertising from ABC in protest.

Three Toyota suppliers – one Toyota-owned – in Detroit were raided as part of an anti-trust investigation.

Internal Toyota documents boasted that their lobbying resulted in successful blocking of Employee Free Choice, stopping labor moves, and garnering favorable outcomes with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), which may have been assisted by the revolving door between government and industry.   Congressional hearings have also revealed that NHTSA lacks the hardware and software engineers needed to investigate these kinds of problems.

Former Toyota USA executive Jim Press thinks that “financially-oriented pirates  have changed the family and consumer centric Toyota’s culture to one focused solely on profit, with the expected results, and that family namesake and patriarch Akio Toyoda is the only one who can save the company.   For the curious, here is the story of how Toyoda became Toyota.   Somewhat humorously and tellingly, the angle of Akio’s bow has increased as the crisis has become more severe.

Toyota is shipping hundred of diagnostic ‘black boxes’ to the United States to investigate concerns; there was previously only one for North America.

It appears Toyota has withheld documents from investigators (as well as Congress), according to a whistleblower.   They also have something known as the “Books of Knowledge , a collection of internal testing data that have never been shared during discovery in trial proceedings.   During hearings, many questions went unanswered, as the answers were seemingly available only in Japan.   Current Toyota USA CEO Jim Lentz careful chose his words during testimony.   This isn’t the first time Lentz has been evasive.

Some horrid research which Toyota commissioned from an alleged whitewashing firm to defend itself focused on vehicles unrelated to the inquiry, and which therefore are worthless. Toyota is planning to put brake override devices (where simultaneous us of the brake and gas pedal deactivates the engine).

Towards the end of the 2009 and beginning of 2010, the usual * of the Year awards were announced.   Toyota garnered praise from R.L. Polk and Company, Consumer Reports, Kelly Blue Book, was the 7th most trusted brand, as well as having the most recalled vehicles among all manufacturers.   It will be interesting to see results at the end of this year.   You can follow the recall news on both Jalopnik and Autoblog.

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