Toyoda’s coerced confession

It’s not exactly a novel observation that people under duress often make false confessions. They say what they think they’re supposed to say.

During congressional hearings yesterday, which some have likened to a witch hunt, Toyota President Akio Toyoda took words directly from the multitude of “analysts” when he said the firm’s growth “may have been too quick” and “priorities became confused” as the carmaker grew.

The thinking of those who coached him seems clear. This was a way of accepting responsibility in a fairly benign way, and definitely deflecting blows of evil intent. The problem is that it conflicts with reality.

According to Consumer Reports2010 Car Brand Perception Survey, Toyota was by far and away the winner with 196 points compared to second-best Ford at 141. (The lowest score was Hummer with an 11.) For the year before, Toyota again easily topped out at 193 with Honda second at 149 and last place held by Suzuki at seven.

As I noted in an earlier blog,, the premier online resource for automotive information, has obtained and reviewed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration complaint database.
A key finding: Toyota was the subject of 9.1 percent of the complaints from 2001 through 2010 (through February 3), including the sudden acceleration complaints, even while selling 13.5 percent of all new cars in the U.S. This puts it third in sales, but 17th in complaints.

So despite what the analysts say and what Toyoda seemed to support, there’s no objective evidence that Toyota has of late been making a comparatively inferior product. As is so often the case with media-anointed “experts,” the analysts are positing explanations for a non-existent phenomenon.