Monday

Toyota News Gets Worse by the Day

Seems like everyday is worse than the day before for Toyota. The company president, Toyoda, is not looking forward to showing up in front of Congressional investigator committees, no doubt.

AOL's Daily Finance is reporting the company apparently bargained with US federal safety investigators over the size of the accelerator recall and after getting what they wanted, in Fuly 2009 the company circulated an internal Toyota document titled "Wins for Toyota Safety Group" that bragged that they had saved $100 million by convincing NHTSA investigators to cut back on the size of the recall. Kind of reminds one of the Ford Pinto gas tank fiasco, with its internal Ford memo tieing money to recall savings back in the mid 1970's that the Center for Auto Safety wrote about here: http://www.autosafety.org/ford-pinto-fuel-fed-fires

Add to that the reports of more Toyota recalls in the offing (like the crashing Toyota Tacoma), a US grand jury subpoena for recall info, Toyota plants in the United Kingdom shutting down and Toyota's continued denials of any link between the suspect electronic throttle systems and the uncontrollable self-acceleration defect, and top it off with the morning news about the poor schmuck who was sent to prison for a Toyota self-acceleration-caused vehicular death which he got blamed for because no one had heard about any self-acceleration problem yet (he's doing hard time now but the prosecutor has announced he will reopen the case), and it seems like it just gets worse every day.

Some are saying the media should ease up on Toyota. Others aren't holding back their anger. Congress, never shy about grandstanding when there's blame to pass to someone else, is getting the fires ready for the Toyota hearing roast.

Blame is nice, and it should be laid out there. But meanwhile, there are thousands of consumers who still aren't sure what to do. The value of their Toyota is shot, thanks to the company that they relied on for safety and reliability, chiefly because Toyota spent decades carefully marketing their reputation for safety and reliability. Some still aren't fixed. Americans have died in accidents caused by Toyota's desire to make that extra profit (reports say it's upwards of 1,000 deaths).

People are angry. They have a right to be. If only a fraction of what is coming out is true, then Toyota richly deserves the public thrashing it is going to get. It deserves the lawsuits too.

Yes, there are lawyers who have filed class action lawsuits against Toyota over all this, and they are being unjustly chastized for it.

If your brother and his entire family were killed in a run-away Toyota-built vehicle like the off duty state trooper in California, wouldn't you be angry? If it was your father who was doing prison time because no one believed him when he said his Toyota just speeded up and he couldn't stop it before it crashed into another car killing its occupants, wouldn't you be angry? There are lots more examples.

The US court system does not hurt manufacturers, in spite of what some well-paid pundits say from outside the system where they get paid richly by corporate sponsors of their tv shows to cry wolf and foul at every opportunity. The court system actually helps because it levels the playing field for all manufacturers. If one company builds a dangerous product and someone gets hurt, the court system can hold them accountable for it. The company not only learns an economic lesson, but that then serves as an example to others in its industry to follow the law and do what's right so they don't suffer a similar economic loss.

It also serves to punish corporations that cut corners in order to compete unfairly in the marketplace. And that unfair competition drives other manufacturers out of business if it isn't curbed with the economic penalties of a lawsuit loss.

The court system is all about checks and balances. When it functions right, we all come out ahead. Products get built safer, competition is fairer, goods cost less for all of us.

The people hurt by what Toyota has done deserve the chance to take Toyota to court. No matter what happens, we all will win something from it. And, believe it or not, Toyota will learn something from it too.

Meanwhile, if you've got a recalled Toyota, don't drive it. Have it towed to your nearest dealer. While you're there, you might ask for your money back too.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.