New Toyota outrage! Company considered defending self!

May 15, 2010  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

Is there any depth below which Godzilla Motors, formerly know as Toyota Motor Corp., will not go?

The Washington Post has revealed "Toyota officials sought to develop a public relations campaign to attack the credibility of key witnesses who have testified before Congress about acceleration problems with the company's cars.He's no longer the stuff of science fiction.

It further says, "Congressional investigators have demanded to know from company officials whether a campaign to debunk or discredit their witnesses was put into action."

Had Toyota proceeded, it would have made use of a number of surveys an outside company conducted for it.

The two witnesses in question are Safety Strategies and Strategies, Inc. President Sean Kane and Southern Illinois University Professor David Gilbert. Until questioned at that hearing, Kane had passed himself off as a "independent safety expert." He was forced to admit he was working for five law firms. And Gilbert? He was working for Kane.

Friday, Toyota said Gilbert and Kane had made "assertions" that had "created unwarranted consumer concern." Which is exactly what they did.

For example, Kane produced a February 5 report titled "Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration," and has an appendix listing "Unintended Acceleration Incidents" from 1999 to 2010 that says, "We have reviewed all of the complaints in the database," about a tenth of the listings refer to slowness or hesitancy in acceleration. So either his people didn't review the complaints or they did and Kane intentionally left the non-applicable ones in to pump up the numbers. With apologies to Monty Hall, you can't choose what's behind a non-existent Curtain Number Three.

Kane said he considered the automaker's attempts to discredit him as validation. "If we weren't finding something that was meaningful, they wouldn't be spending this kind of time and money," he told the Post. "But what we're seeing is that they're willing to go to great lengths to discredit anyone who asks questions about their products."

Really? What if I were widely cited as an authority on microwaves and repeatedly insisted I had evidence that long-term use of microwave ovens turned people into man-eating gerbils. And then a microwave manufacturers association said I was wrong. Presumably that would validate my work.

Yet Toyota hasn't gone to great lengths to discredit Kane. So his one little short assertion fails both factually and logically.

The implicit message in all this is that Toyota no right to defend itself. Whether accused rightly or wrongly, it must simply take its lashes. For all the talk about "The Toyota Way," specifically whether the company has strayed from it, is this The American Way?