Planet Gore

The Toyota Inquisition Continues

On Day Two in the Toyota show trials, the tort industry’s representatives — er, people’s representatives — wasted no time in trying to bloody the Japanese car company for making what Rep. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.) Tuesday called “killing machines.”
The day’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing was headlined by Akio Toyoda, Toyota chairman and grandson of the company’s founder. Sticking to script, Toyoda drily repeated what has become the company line throughout this crisis: “I fear the pace at which we have grown may have been too quick. We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and our organization.” But he did not concede that buggy electronics caused alleged vehicle “sudden acceleration.”
That tack has enraged congressmen like committee chair Ed Towns (D., N.Y.), who was in full hysteria this morning before Toyoda was led out from the Colosseum’s tunnels. “There is striking evidence that the company was at times more concerned with profit than with customer safety,” Towns roared as he and his colleagues cited a 2009 Lexus crash as evidence of unsafe vehicles and a luxury brand that ignores its customers’ concerns.
But Towns’s accusations were blunted by this morning’s twin headlines that Consumer Reports once again has ranked Toyota in the Top Three for quality (with Honda and Subaru) and J. D. Power found Lexus “highest in customer satisfaction with dealer service among luxury brands.” The company has been a perennial presence atop the quality ratings for the last decade — the very decade the tort mob claims Toyota sacrificed safety.
So Toyota was sacrificing quality even as it led the industry in quality? How do Toyota’s adversaries square this circle?

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