Pundits wiping “sneer” off Toyota’s face

Noteworthy is a tsk, tsk on page A1 of today’s Washington Post, “‘Toyota Way’ was lost on road to phenomenal worldwide growth.”

More noteworthy is a Financial Times column , “How Toyota Engineered its own Downfall.” Writer David Pilling sniggers, “Rather than admitting the problem early, Toyota tried to lay the blame on anything or anyone – floormats, suppliers, even drivers.”

[The inset is a Dr. Seuss characterization used during WWII to sell war bonds. The title: “Wipe that sneer off his face.”]

Even drivers? It never occurred to Pilling that some of the alleged incidents of sudden acceleration might be driver error, when in fact driver error was behind the entire Audi 5000 hysteria in the mid-1980s?

As to floormats, in the single most horrific accident related to sudden Toyota acceleration, it appears a floormat was indeed to blame.

The bottom line appears to be that Toyota doesn’t know what the problem is because there are no patterns. As I note in a forthcoming article, a Consumer Reports analysis of sudden acceleration complaints regarding Toyota-built vehicles state “Drivers reported that sometimes their car lurched from a standstill, fighting the brakes. Other times it took off while cruising the highway, or while parking, or even while going in reverse.”

This lack of consistency does indeed indicate at least some incidence of driver error and certainly would befuddle anybody trying to fix “the problem.” Just what exactly is “the problem” anyway? All Toyota can do is to replace a lot of things.

But a better “fix” might be moving its worldwide headquarters to the U.S., notwithstanding that directly and indirectly it already employs about 200,000 Americans and Cars.com has rated the Camry, built in Kentucky and Indiana, the most “American” car sold.

Indeed, one auto analyst told Pilling that “The venom in the rhetoric [against Toyota] is quite stunning. I rather fancy the fact that they surpassed GM in 2008 and are seen to be hurting a proper American company is part of the issue.” This, he added, “is an opportunity to give Toyota a bit of a kicking.”

Presumably it could be worse. It could have happened to Mitsubishi. After all, they’re the ones who manufactured the famous (or infamous) “Zero” that proved so devastating at Pearl Harbor.

Postscript: As further evidence that satire is indeed dead, it turns out there is a bumper sticker that reads “Toyota: From the same folks who brought you Pearl Harbor.”