Does D.C. have it in for Toyota?
Washington stands accused of launching a self-serving witch hunt into Toyota’s spectacular fall from grace — thanks, in part, to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who warned Americans to stop driving all recalled Toyota vehicles before facts forced him to admit his advice was unwarranted. Indeed, with support from the governors of Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky and Mississippi, which all house Toyota plants, more than a few observers now wonder if public ownership of General Motors and Chrysler influenced the decision to hold congressional hearings into Toyota’s product woes.
Whatever the case, attitudes toward Toyota are clearly harsher in the States than Canada. (In this country, sales actually jumped 25% last month, despite federal rumblings about the need for a political probe.) “When people were dying from tampered Tylenol in the ’80s,” says American business professor Scott Testa, who teaches at Cabrini College in Philadelphia, “Johnson & Johnson pulled the product and gave everybody money back. And they stopped advertising. But I am still seeing ads for Toyota minivans. That’s insanity.”