Always expect the Spanish Inquisition

By Cato the Elder

Not that anyone actually watches these things, but it’s been interesting to see the kabuki dance in King Henry’s kangaroo court over the past couple of days.

In case you missed it, various Toyota executives were “invited” to testify before the Gub’ment Motors Board of Directors House Energy and Commerce Committee this week about anecdotal reports surrounding unintended acceleration and other quality control issues.  Mark Tapscott at the Washington Examiner correctly points out:

There are 25 Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, 12 of whom have received campaign contributions of as much as $10,000 towards their 2010 re-election campaigns from the United Auto Workers union, which is a co-owner of General Motors, Toyota’s main rival for U.S. sales.

Among the dozen recipients of UAW money are: Representatives Elijah Cummings of Maryland ($1,000), John F. Tierney of Massachusetts ($1,000), William Clay, Jr. of Missouri ($1,000), Gerry Connolly of Virginia ($3,000), Michael Quigley of Illinois ($10,000), Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island ($1,000), Danny Davis of Illinois ($1,000), Chris Van Hollen of Maryland ($1,000), Paul Hodes of New Hampshire ($2,500), Chris Murphy of Connecticut ($5,000), Peter Welch of Vermont ($1,000), and Judy Chu of California ($500).

Not one of those Democrats recused themselves from the hearing, by the way. But wait, it gets better.  Karl over at HotAir notes that the phantom acceleration theory’s main proponent is a fellow by the name of Sean Kane.  To wit:

Two weeks ago, his firm released a 51-page report that alleged at least 2,262 Toyota and Lexus owners have reported sudden acceleration that resulted in 815 crashes, 341 injuries and 19 deaths since 1999. About half of the complaints involved vehicles not included in any current Toyota recalls, according to the report.

Toyota said it is unable to confirm Mr. Kane’s numbers and has hired its own study firm.

Mr. Kane said his latest report wasn’t produced as a direct result of funding from a particular lawsuit against Toyota. Yet lawyers often pay him a consulting fee to review individual crashes, listen to depositions, advise lawyers on questions and strategies, and produce analyses of crash trends using National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. He does not receive a bonus or a percentage of any settlement in such cases, he said.

In the report released last week, Mr. Kane thanked a group of lawyers who have pending cases against Toyota for sponsoring some of his research into unintended acceleration in Toyotas. Three of those lawyers—Terrence McCartney of New York; Donald Slavik of Milwaukee, Wis.; and R. Graham Esdale Jr. of Montgomery, Ala.—said Mr. Kane has helped on cases, including litigation against Toyota.

Got all that?  Ambulance chasers: check.  Career expert witnesses: check.  UAW goons: check.  Democrat Legislators bought and paid for with illegally diverted TARP money: check.  Give these guys some credit, they really know how to stack the deck.  (snark on) Still, I’m confident that Toyota will get a fair hearing and objective examination of the evidence because there are several things working in its favor, namely: 1.) Toyota doesn’t hire UAW workers 2.) Toyota’s US manufacturing base is concentrated in red states and 3.) Gub’ment Motors is a slush fund for the Democratic re-election campaigns. (snark off)

Pay no attention to the fact that the Chevy Cobalt has over ten times the number of consumer complaints than the Corolla does.  For some reason  I don’t think they’re going to be subject to the same level of scrutiny.

H/T Karl, Mark Tapscott


  • NoVA Scout says:

    Sudden unintended acceleration incidents have a checkered history. I’ve been a car buff since the early 1960s. Prior to this incident, virtually every unintended acceleration incident (UIA) turned out, on thorough investigation, to be driver error. Audi was nearly put out of business in the 1980s by a “60 Minutes” “expose” about Audi 500s lurching through walls and storefronts. It turned out to be totally unsupported by the evidence. We got the brake transmission interlocks to protect us from ourselves as a result. I mention these not to excuse Toyota, because something definitely is wrong in this instance, but rather to explain why the first reports were not given the attention they probably merited at either Toyota or NHTSA.

    Those of you who are trying to make this into a trade war issue, or an anti-foreign issue are barking up the wrong tree. Japanese and German siting of manufacturing plants in the United States has been an unaldulterated good thing for the American economy. Ther eis simply no down side to having that capacity here. Honda’s presence near my home town in the Midwest was a huge benefit to the economy of that area. If you made BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, disappear from the American industrial landscape overnight, it would be an economic catastrophe.

    I still don’t think we know (and I don’t think Toyota knows) exactly what the problem is. I am suspicious that it may be the fly-by-wire linkages, as opposed to a mechanical problem. A “sticky” pedal mechanism doesn’t explain the speed ramping up like what appeared to happen in the “possessed Lexus” incident in San Diego. If it is this progression to electronic, as opposed to mechanical linkages, virtually every modern vehicle has some potential problem.

    I’ve owned German, Swedish, Japanese, French, Korean and Detroit Iron over the years. Each had its strengths and weaknesses. Generally speaking, the overall quality and design of the foreign vehicles was superior to the American counterparts at particular price points and capability at the time I owned the foreign product. In recent years, that margin has diminished, and, in some cases, it has vanished. I now own a Japanese brand made in Ohio, a Japanese brand made in Canada, a German product made in Germany, a German product made in South Carolina, and a Korean product made in Korea. My neighbor owns an American brand made in Canada and an American brand made in Mexico (I think).

    If there is an element of “patriotism” involved in this (and I don’t really believe there is), the patriotic obligation of the informed consumer is to purchase the best quality product at a competitive price, because that encourages others to improve their product. The complete and utter crap that Detroit was producing in the early 1970s would never have gotten better without stiff foreign competition.

    To return (finally) to Cato’s original post, if this had been a GM product, one probably would have still seen Members of Congress trying to get some face time on the tube with an oversight hearing, but the tone and content would have been different. Let’s get to the bottom of what’s causing this problem, approach the matter as an industrial design/manufacturing problem in a global industry, and then maybe decide whether Mr. Toyoda needs to come to Washington to talk about it.

  • P.Greer says:

    Well said Nova and Cato.

  • Loudoun Lady says:

    I concur.

  • Steve Vaughan says:

    Greer:”Globalization is a reality and you can’t put it back in the box. We cannot compete in the Global markets on cost. As a result American companies need to make products that emphasize value that is not related to cost – like high quality or the ability to do highly skilled labor or extra services. We have to be flexible and adapt. Isolating ourselves is akin to sticking our heads in the sand.”

    Well, that’s certainly the spin that’s been used — and it was bipartisan spin by the way, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich were equally idiotic in talking about the “information economy” replacing actually making things that people want as a basis for prosperity — to justify the elimination of our domestic manufacturing capability. But, in fact, it was a choice on the part of our political leaders, without actually taking the issue to the voters for their approval or disapproval, to not only allow but to encourage the movement of American plants and American jobs to the Third World.

  • P.Greer says:

    Steve – It isn’t a spin. It is a reality. And whining about it doesn’t solve or change anything.

  • Gretchen Laskas says:

    It’s absolutely reality. (My husband’s title includes the words “Global Trade” in it, so we live this day in and day out.) But this doesn’t mean as individuals and by using the market itself, there aren’t things we can do to make the American part of the global equation stronger.

  • AFF says:

    For some reasons unknown to me, it’s cheaper for international food companies to grow broccoli in China, freeze it, ship it across oceans in climate controlled containers, then ship it in climate controlled trucks across continents to get it to the consumer in the United States, rather than growing the broccoli here in the USA.
    Someone/everyone is getting screwed over in this process. The true cost is being subsidized, postponed, or both. The equation wouldn’t work otherwise

  • Gretchen Laskas says:

    It’s been some years since I looked into it, but at least at one time there was a lot of talk in the auto world that the government of Japan was subsidizing Toyota’s electronic technology. They insisted it wasn’t true, and some in Detroit insisted that it was. (This was before the GM collapse.) And of course, the government-corporate divide in Japan is already very different from the models we use here in the United States.

    But as I read through the reports, I couldn’t help but wonder if part of the concern Toyota, and by extension, Japan, may be worrying about is if the government subsidized electronics aren’t part of the problem, assuming, of course, the government subsidized it at all.

    Anyway, it’s been interesting watching it all unfold. And I have no doubt that the biggest winners after all of this will be ordinary people who are driving safer, and more reliable, cars.

  • P.Greer says:

    California, Arizona, Oregon, Virgina, Washington and Maryland supply the US with brocoli. Santa Maria, CA is the unoffical broccoli capital of the US. The US is the 3rd largest supplier of broccoli in the world.

  • AFF says:


    All I know is what the bag says.
    BTW- My frozen green beans come from France.
    Perhaps you’d like to try and explain how Radio Shack can sell a cheap transistor radio at a “profit” for $4.95 without screwing someone?

  • P.Greer says:

    China is the number one producer of broccoli. They have alot of people in their country. The produce more than we do, as they have more farmable land and a greater demand. If you want to find broccoli from the US, try the produce isle.

    I don’t know what you mean about “screwing someone”. The asians have always dominated the electronic component manufacturing market. The jobs outsourced to assemble and kit components is small in comparison to other industries. We didn’t really have them to begin with. Besides, the design and development of those radios was probably done here in the US by US engineers. I don’t know what components are in those radios, but it they have any type of circuit protection, the those were design by US engineers too.

  • Steve Vaughan says:

    The asians have always dominated the electronic component manufacturing market.

    No, they haven’t. Perhaps, in your lifetime, but not always.

  • NoVA Scout says:

    My guess is that more than 50% of the computers people are using to comment here were made in China. I’m pretty sure mine was.

  • pgreer says:

    Steve – Ya in the 50 and 60s we had a market here for transistors, gas tubes and old skool semiconductors. Back when Dinosaurs watched TV. 😛

  • AFF says:

    You’re not looking at the entire picture. If broccoli can ship frozen from China and be offered to the American consumer at a comparable price to frozen broccoli grown in the US the real cost isn’t being reflected by the retail price. Think of all the parts of the importation process that American taxpayers subsidize.
    Let me simplify with a closer to home example. Most of our veggies are grown in California. Especially broccoli. The only reason veggies can ship from California and be competitive with locally grown food is because we subsidize almost every part of the process.
    We subsidize the water projects so large scale farmers (some are certainly food corporations) can grow food in places where food wouldn’t otherwise grow. We subsidize the energy required to grow this food. We subsidize the transportation systems required to distribute the food (everyone knows, or should know that trucking companies don’t even begin to pay their share of wear and tear on the highways- we do in higher taxes) I’m only scratching the surface…. I wonder what sort of labor pool picks the veggies and who picks up the cost of said people?
    The true cost of a package of frozen broccoli sold in Virginia, be it grown in California or China isn’t reflected at the grocery store….. with that said, if I can’t buy local I’d rather dine on California’s subsidized food than China’s offerings.

Leave Comment