Toyota is not having a good fiscal year. In a time when the finances of the each consumer are the most stretched, a car company cannot afford to have its name dragged through the mud. More importantly a major car company cannot afford to be seen as being callous or unconcerned with the safety of its significant source of income, the American family.
Unfortunately this is exactly what Toyota has come to symbolize. An unconcerned, uncaring foreign automobile manufacturer that carelessly dumps inferior and unsafe vehicles on unsuspecting American families. Even worse, it now appears, that as these problems were coming to attention, Toyota chose to protect its own profits than protect the American family that supported and purchased the questionable vehicles.
These are just a few of the problems that now plague Toyota, and as the President and Chief Operating Officer for Toyota Motors U.S division, Jim Lentz, heads to Capitol Hill to meet with House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The day for Mr. Lentz started off with his prepared statement before opening up to questioning from the committee. It was not expected to go well for him, and the Congressmen took their turns bashing Mr. Lentz and his company.
Congressman Waxman hit the nail on the head for the American people when he started with showing an interview with CNBC’s Phil Lebeau where Lentz says that he believes they have a fix for the problem. The problem, as Congressman Waxman sees it, and echoed from Mr. Lebeau, is that they had heard in October that Toyota had a fix, and again in December that they had a fix, so what makes today any different?
Mr. Lentz went on to answer questions regarding as to when he or the company knew of the sticking pedal, but the answers provided did not sit well with many of the Congressman. Congressman Dingell, specifically, went on the attack from the start of his questioning, and stating “Add that to the record,” every time Mr. Lentz offered an answer that he did not like. One thing that came out, though, was that the company hired to conduct an investigation into the vehicle problems, Exponent, conducted a strange sort of investigation.
CBSnews.com obtained a copy of the Exponent report and analyzed the report to find some interesting information. First, only seven vehicles were tested for the purpose of looking at the acceleration system. Second, the testing itself was not conducted in the accepted scientific method process, and more to the point, only one of the seven vehicles tested was a model associated with the recall.
Another interesting fact that came out of the proceedings is the inner working of the company itself. Mr. Lentz, the president of the US branch of Toyota Motors, was only responsible for marketing and general operations within the United States. In order for the recall to take place, business leaders in Japan had to make that decision, an idea that did not appear to sit well with many of the Congressmen on the panel. On Feb. 24, the head of Toyota Motor Company, Akio Toyoda, will face the Congressional panel himself. While the consumers of the U.S. sit anxiously to see what will happen as a result of these proceedings. With the recent revelation to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee of an internal document reflecting a bullet-point highlighting the savings of “$100M+” by doing an equipment recall versus a vehicle recall, Mr. Toyoda’s experience on Capitol Hill is not likely to be a pleasant one. It would also appear that he has much to answer for.