Toyota's future as the world's top automaker could hinge on its executives' testimony before Congress this week. The executives, including CEO Akio Toyoda, will have to answer questions about why they didn't act sooner to address dangerous brake and acceleration problems, plus newly released documents showing that they apparently convinced U.S. regulators to back off, to pad their bottom line. Does Toyota care more about profit that its customers' lives, or is the U.S. — GM's top shareholder — just harassing a business competitor?
Toyota got busted putting money over safety: It was bad enough that Toyota knew about its deadly acceleration problem six years ago, says Chris Morran in The Consumerist. Now we catch the automaker "gloating about saving $100 million" by convincing U.S. regulators to ease up in 2007? That's like when the doomed James Bond villain "goes on and on about his elaborate plan and what a genius he is."
"Toyota bragged about saving $100 million with 2007 floormat recall"
Toyota isn't the only villain here: "Toyota drivers will surely welcome the sudden burst of aggressive oversight" by federal regulators, says USA Today in an editorial, but why did it take six years for the National Highway Traffic Safety Association to "get into overdrive" on this "deadly throttle problem"? Congress needs to grill "the watchdog that didn't bark" as well as Toyota.
"Why did NHTSA fail to nail Toyota’s problems?"
America's GM stake makes this a "witch hunt": With Congress taking on Toyota, "the words 'conflict of interest' come to mind," says Alborz Fallah in Car Advice. It can't be a coincidence that the U.S. government and media turned Toyota into a "punching bag" a few months after the U.S. became GM's largest shareholder. A fair hearing for Toyota? Fat chance.
"Toyota recall reactions: Fair or a witch hunt?"
Politically, Toyota's as American as GM: Toyota "won't be entirely in enemy territory" when it stands before Congress, says Zachary Roth in Talking Points Memo. Just as the Big Three have Michigan lawmakers, "Toyota has its own, more far-flung stable of heavy-hitting backers" from both parties, mostly in southern and midwest states. This week won't be about U.S.-owned GM versus Japan's Toyota; it's "GM America versus Toyota America."
"Toyota's deep American roots could help it weather storm"