Sentence First - Verdict Afterwards - Forget the Science

I have owned two Toyotas and would buy one again. That’s why I felt the witch hunt against Toyota was unfair. People claimed that their cars unexplainably lurched forward. They probably stepped on the gas instead of the brake, and a government study released today concluded that the reported incidents “reported to the DOT appeared to be caused by drivers hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake, not mechanical issues.” Unfortunately, the exaggerated accusations cost Toyota and Toyota owners billions of dollars.

IMO, the controversy about Toyota was provoked as much by xenophobia and covert racism as the usual political opportunism & dislike of business. If you look hard enough, you can always find something wrong (some people evidently got their shoes caught on the carpets), but no reasonable person would have thought that the reaction was appropriate. Toyota's Japanese leader was called before Congress where he had to apologize for things that weren't really wrong. It was a shameful episode.

It was a great conspiracy theory. Unfortunately, conspiracy theories don't go away, especially when aided and fueled by opportunist politicians, greedy lawyers and hapless "victims" who evidently cannot tell their left foot from their right foot.

This is the way it works. Some fool gets hurt by doing something stupid. Rather than blaming himself, he insists that whatever product he was using was to blame. If the product manufacturer has deep enough pockets, lawyer show up like vultures, at the same time or soon after in come the politicians claiming to defend the rights of consumers. In high profile situations, a few physically attractive celebrities will usually lend their special expertise. The company targeted in this way cannot win. Executives know that - innocent or not - they will have to pay off. They try to apologize and pay as fast as possible. They often know that they are not guilty by any reasonable standard, but they also know that this fact makes no difference to the politicians, lawyers and the anti-business journalists who are their attack dogs.

A year or two later, reports come up showing that the charges were largely unfounded. By then, nobody cares and "the public" has decided that the charges were true anyway. It is a form of legal piracy.

Of course, you cannot convince the true believers. Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of advocacy group Public Citizen says, "It has to be some vehicle-related malfunction. The failure to find that is a failure of analysis."

In other words, when the scientists cannot find a problem it must be because they are wrong, since the lawyers and advocates have already made their decisions. The Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland said it better when she demanded, "Sentence first - verdict afterwards."

The bottom line in this case is that if you are considering a car, Toyota is a good option. If you cannot figure out the difference between the brake and the gas, you are a good candidate for the Darwin Award, but you probably won't be able to bilk Toyota, since the lynch mob has moved on.
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Posted by Christine & John at February 9, 2011 4:44 PM
Comment #318385

I think it’s ironic that this issue was raised soon after the government bailed out the auto industry. It’s as ironic that the Iraq war was so soon after the 911 disaster. And now a crackdown on civility comes so soon after the shootings in AZ.

Do the ends outweigh the means?

Posted by: Weary Willie at February 9, 2011 4:55 PM
Comment #318386

Christine & John, what happened to all your posts in the red column?

Posted by: Weary Willie at February 9, 2011 5:00 PM
Comment #318393

I would say that the marketplace in general is unfair and this is no exception. Witch hunts like this are a cost of doing business in an open market, and a good business will deal with the situation or they won’t survive.

Toyota handled this poorly when it started because they couldn’t admit that they might even have a problem (that they didn’t have). Once they realized this wasn’t going away they did a good job of managing and instilling confidence back in to their products. Even though the news of vindication is a whisper compared to the headlines of defective cars, in the long run they’ve done just fine.

Posted by: George at February 9, 2011 6:00 PM
Comment #318433

We have been conditioned to be dependent on government.
Personal responsibility is a thing of the past.

Posted by: kctim at February 10, 2011 9:41 AM
Comment #318435

I can’t believe the topics posted on WatchBlog. There are a number of important issues taking place in the next few weeks, and this site is talking about football and automobiles:

1. Liberal Democrats calling for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from the healthcare case simply because his wife worked with a conservative group: typical liberal move, if you can’t win the case on merit, then attack the individual.

2. Congress is taking on spending cuts, which if not done will bankrupt our country.

3. Obama’s double talk of cutting spending and at the same time wanting to bail out broken states, pension funds, and unions.

4. The House’s move to defund obamacare.

5. The middle-east is falling into chaos.

Posted by: 1776 at February 10, 2011 10:46 AM
Comment #318442

There are two sides to every coin. The tobacco companies are still selling their poison. How many billions has that cost the citizens of this country?

Do you think Toyota’s management acted appropriately?

How much are you willing to bet that charges of defective or tainted products are unfounded more often than not?

I would bet that the charges are found to be true far more often than not.

“The bottom line in this case (IN THIS CASE) is that if you are considering a car, Toyota is a good option.”

As I see it, the situation is that consumers don’t care for and do not support the concept of caveat emptor.

Posted by: jlw at February 10, 2011 4:30 PM
Comment #318444


I think that is the most stark contrast between your viewpoint and my own…

I would bet that the charges are found to be true far more often than not.

Whereas, I would bet, more often than not, the charges are not only not true, but a complete lie-only a means for someone to justify a lawsuit and walk away with tons of money.

The tobacco companies are still selling their poison. How many billions has that cost the citizens of this country?

They cost this country only what it (and its citizens) are willing to buy. Companies can make and sell anything, but without a customer base, it means nothing. The people that buy the cigarettes don’t have to be blind sheep, they could and should be held responsible for their own decisions.

Posted by: adam at February 10, 2011 4:48 PM
Comment #318448

And the right slips further and further into the abyss of ignorance.

Posted by: Jeff at February 10, 2011 6:43 PM
Comment #318458

“Whereas, I would bet, more often than not, the charges are not only not true, but a complete lie-only a means for someone to justify a lawsuit and walk away with tons of money.”

Toyota is not going to roll over in the lawsuits. Nobody is going to “walk away with tons of money” for simply filing a lawsuit. The burden is on the plaintiff to prove his/her charges against Toyota before a jury. Toyota has vigorously defended itself thus far in all the lawsuits filed. They will have a fair chance to defend themselves.

I might add, that Toyota has been somewhat its own worse enemy during the early flurry of allegations by failing to produce computer readouts from its on board computer that could answer many of the factual questions in the various car incidents. The problem was that the computer software was proprietary and unique to Toyota and that there were only a very few devices in the US that could read the stored computer data.

Posted by: Rich at February 10, 2011 9:23 PM
Comment #318461

“We have been conditioned to be dependent on government.
Personal responsibility is a thing of the past.”
Posted by: kctim at February 10, 2011 09:41 AM

Speak for yourself kctim, I haven’t been conditioned to be dependent on anyone. These fears you have of people conditioning you to do their bidding seem to be epidemic amongst those on the extremes of the political spectrum.

Seems to me the feds did their job just fine. The witch hunt framing is absurd on it’s face to anyone that is aware of the time frame of the Toyota problem. Toyota chose to stonewall the DOT and got much less than it deserved, after all GM solved its problem without a big to do about it.

“A GM recall on the Pontiac Vibe, which is a rebodied Toyota Matrix, identifies condensation in the pedal’s electronic sensor as the culprit.”

Read more:

Posted by: j2t2 at February 10, 2011 10:07 PM
Comment #318466

The following link summarizes the problem that Toyota created for itself by refusing to provide to accident victims and investigators data available from its event data recorders (EDRs) that would have provided information highly relevant to the nature and causes of accidents involving Toyotas, i.e, speed, break pedal activation, accelerator status, other operating conditions, etc.

In a misguided effort to maintain control over its proprietary event data recording devices and software, Toyota encouraged speculation that it had something to hide about the nature of certain accidents involving Toyotas. It also encouraged the filing of lawsuits in order to obtain court orders requiring Toyota to divulge information that was available regarding many of the accidents.

Posted by: Rich at February 11, 2011 6:27 AM
Comment #318470

Hey you right wingers next time you chow down on a burger or are in a plane at 30000 feet think to yourselves about company responsibity.You`ll thank the Gov for those programs that protect the people.
As far as Toyota is concerned they got caught their just as bad as the Pinto gas tank.As for myself I BUY AMERICAN.

Posted by: Rhode at February 11, 2011 1:25 PM
Comment #318653

I have to agree with the others about the position Toyota was in. Really, it’s a matter of managing a psychological relationship with your customers. Cooperating with the authorities and addressing the problem promptly, rather than letting the questions build, is the best way to do things.

You want to lead the response, take the initiative on discovering the problem, and be candid with others. You want to be ahead of the curve with customers, not behind it.

Oh, and welcome back.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 13, 2011 9:04 PM
Comment #318662

I find the tactics appalling. It spreads beyond Toyota. The Media and government combine in attempts to control the consumer market. Like other mind games of the idiots who let others think for them. We are born and set our feet on the road to die. There are things we can do to give ourselves a statistical chance to live longer, but will they? Unfortunately we cannot predict the time of individual death or its cause. We cannot predict the weather. We cannot predict productivity or success. Anyone who says otherwise is a flimflam.

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Comment #330352

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