Here we go again, but there is some important news, including Akio’s latest press conference in which he promised new quality control and safety measures. He also declined to appear before the Congressional hearings scheduled for later this month, but will come to the U.S. to “rally workers, dealers and suppliers.”
Instead, Mr. Toyoda’s head of U.S. operations, Yoshimi Inaba, will testify. Once again, the company has made a totally bad PR move. It sends the signal that corporate operations are more important than responding to government scrutiny. Not that the people on the oversight committee are qualified to do much more than grandstand the issues.
Then there’s the company’s recent zombie ad campaign: What are they thinking??
Akio did say that Toyota is going to improve its onboard data recorders for all models (a sore point that has often been overlooked) and install brake-override systems worldwide on all future models. The NHTSA said it was demanding documents from the company to decide whether it had acted quickly enough in the sudden-acceleration recalls.
In other bad news, the company plans to idle two assembly plants in Kentucky and Texas for a few days, since sales fell 16 percent last month. There are also reports that shutdown of a UK factory in Derby is under consideration “because of collapsing sales” and the recall crisis. And there will be a voluntary recall of 8,000 2010 Tacoma 4WD trucks to inspect a front drive shaft. Reports of cracks may indicate replacement is necessary.
The worst could be yet to come. “At least 60 consumer class-action lawsuits have been filed in at least thirty-two states so far over the precipitous drop in resale values of Toyotas.” So says Autosavant, adding that personal injury suits are mushrooming. The resulting litigation could turn into the biggest product liability case in automotive history, beating Ford’s 2008 Explorer-tire recall and a class-action suit by 800,000 very pissed-off customers. Oh boy.
Akio says Mr. Inaba knows more than he does about the issues the House committees will investigate next week. Should he have agreed to come anyway? Should both attend? Is the investigation going to be a farce? What’s your opinion?