25 February 2010


Congressional demagogues hauled in the head of Toyota for a grilling over safety issues that Toyota found and is already addressing through a recall. It is not as though these interlocutors are objective, given that many of them receive contributions from the UAW, which shares ownership of GM with the government. The UAW has long chafed at the fact that it has been unable to organize Toyota plants in the U.S. and that seems to be the main “crime” here. There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that sudden accelerator syndrome consists of anything more than drivers stepping on the gas pedal instead of the brakes. Further the same complaints follow “American” cars. Floor mats are another issue, which Toyota is correcting, but all this does is subject Toyota to numerous product liability suits by the legal eagles, even though there is no evidence for such claims. It is just an excuse to bash Toyota.

Many years ago I used to laugh at “foreign” cars, but nowI drive a ten year old Lexus RX300 made by Toyota. It was the first “crossover” vehicle back when most cars on the road looked like either Jeeps or Tauruses. I have never once had to open the hood, although I do take it to Lexus for periodic service. I’ve never had a car this long, and one that still has a lot of life in it. Before this one I drove only American cars, (except for one European sports car I had all of two weeks before it crashed and burned on the West Side Highway in New York) which turned over every few years. Toyota’s cars are built with exceptional quality and that is what has enabled them to become the largest auto manufacturer in the world, entirely through internal growth.

This is not a knock on American cars. They are still saddled with the UAW but they have come a long way to near parity and I’d like to buy a Ford some time in the future. The truth is there aren’t many bad cars on the road these days. Years ago you used to see numerous cars on the side of the highway with various problems. That is a pretty rare site today. But that in large measure is due to the fact that competition from companies like Toyota made all the rest shape up. I think they are getting a bad rap here.

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