Toyota Motor Corporation’s ongoing dilemna

Chris Lastrella 911 Call Before Crashing sound bite

Let me preface this post by acknowledging that every one of our motor vehicles purchased over the past 15 years have all been Toyota’s. For the most part we have been extremely satisfied with their performance.

The problem. Toyota recalls:

Until this recent rash of recalls Toyota ‘s fleet was acknowledged to include some of the finest cars produced in the world. In 2008 they leveraged that customer satisfaction into becoming the top auto manufacturer in the world surpassing GM who produced 8.2 million vehicles while Toyota had produced 9.2 million.

They were on a roll.

Toyota was very clever. Around six months after departing the National Highway Safety Administration, NHTSA, they hired Christopher Santucci who, allegedly, used his former employment connections to deflect corrective action on owner complaints of accelerator problems on new vehicles. Were these former NHTSA employees hired purely for “damage control” to keep these reports off the front pages of the daily newspapers and network TV? See Solution remarks below.

In addition it has been reported that a former Toyota employee, corporate attorney Dimitrios Biller, has violated a non-disclosure agreement by dropping off four boxes of documents at a Texas Courthouse where he is said to have accused Toyota of destroying evidence in rollover cases. It will be interesting to find out what becomes of that alleged evidence.

This ongoing bad news has resulted in several Class Action law suits against Toyota being filed by ambulance chasing attorney’s looking to make a killing.  

From all that I have read the majority of the self appointed experts are blaming the “drive by wire” throttle system for the run away acceleration that has nothing to do with floor mats. I say that because there are cases in which the vehicle mats were not in use. One case in Dallas, Texas resulted in four occupants being killed in an Avalon where the mats were later found in the trunk. I heard of another owner who removed her mats yet she was killed by the same throttle problem.

The deeper you dig the further back we hear of older problems such as found in the 2002-03 Camry’s and Solaras and the 2002-03 Lexus ES 300.

There have been six inquiries relating to throttle control problems since 2003.

Off duty CHP officer Mark Saylor and three members of his family were killed while driving a high end Lexus on a highway in San Diego where the throttle stuck leading to a sudden acceleration crash at 120 mph.

We learn that Toyota had a recall of 8,500 cars in the UK with a brake problem yet never notified the US dealerships.

Today we are following stories of 400,000 2010 Prius hybrid’s being recalled that is surely not good news for Toyota.

Based on all their mechanical or electronic safety problems new buyers are reluctant to buy Toyota products. Resale value of exisiting Toyota models have been reported as dropping from two to five percent.

The Solution:

Perhaps we should extend the conflicit of interest laws so that for two years after leaving government service, former officials may not represent their new employer before their former agency on matters that were pending under their official responsiblilty in their final year of service.

18 U.S.C. & 207 and especially 5 C.F.R. parts 2637 and 2641 might be applicable in this proposal. We must delay the “revolving door’ between consultants and lobbyists and those in the government service with whom they interface in the best interest of all Americans.

Did former NHTSA employees Chris Tinto and his (former) subordinate Christopher Santucci use their internal NHTSA connections as Toyoto employees to limit, or stonewall completely, complaints from motorists which ultimately resulted in over a dozen deaths  that we know about?

While we surely will not be pointing fingers there remains the question as to whether inquiries into safety problems closed without significant action being taken might be tied to employee hires.

About Larry Gilbert