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As two days of Congressional hearings begin today, there is one question above all others that will be front and center: are the electronics in Toyota gas pedals flawed?
Toyota's stay in the penalty box won't be a quick one. If the last week has shown us anything it's the fact hearings, lawsuits, and a steady stream of stories about Toyota being slow to recall millions of potentially dangerous will keep flowing for some time.
While the initial thought is Toyoda's appearance will finally be the chance for us to get to the bottom of the safety questions surrounding millions of Toyota cars and trucks, I think you'd be better served to dial back your expectations.
The initial headlines out of Japan this morning are sure to ruffle feathers on Capitol Hill. Toyota President Akio Toyoda told reporters that he is not planning to appear at congressional hearings in Washington, D.C.
As Toyota lays plans for a major incentive and marketing campaign designed to win back buyers, I was intrigued by the headlines coming from Toyota dealers at the National Auto Dealers Association meeting this weekend.
The big question is how much will Toyota wind up paying in legal claims for the lawsuits it faces and will face as a result of its unintended acceleration problems?
For years, if you wanted to buy a Toyota you knew that you weren't going to get much of a deal. It was a given. Some people grumbled about it, but most looked at it as the price you paid for peace of mind. After all, when you bought a new Camry or Corolla you knew the car wasn't going to break down or be part of a major recall like many of its American rivals.
From Washington to Detroit to California there is one question being asked time and again: Why didn't NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) move quicker on Toyota?
One implies screwing up one too many times. The other suggests you finally get it right. The question for much of America is which one suits the current situation Toyota finds itself in right now?
Ever since Toyota's gas pedal problems came out roughly four months ago, I've often asked executives with the Big 3 why they aren't more aggressive going after Toyota. The executives often told me, "We're getting the message out there." It was as if the folks in Detroit were afraid to take a shot at Toyota.
Two weeks after announcing the recall of 2.3 million cars and trucks that may have sticking gas pedals, and just days after admitting there may be a problem with the brakes on 2010 Prius models, the namesake and top guy at Toyota finally addressed the controversy.
Now even Toyota's golden child is tarnished. Early this morning in Japan, Toyota announced that there was a design flaw in the anti-lock brakes of third generation Prius models made up until January of last year.
Automakers, both big and small, will launch a variety of models as soon as this year to ride the consumer shift to smaller, greener vehicles.
Ever since Toyota first addressed complaints about unintended acceleration last October, there have been a steady number of complaints from Prius owners. I've heard them from time to time and they basically amount to Prius owners saying their car suddenly sped up or the brakes didn't work properly.
Today in Washington, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood publicly blasted Toyota for being slow to react to concerns about its accelerators and unintended acceleration. LaHood said federal safety officials had to "wake them (Toyota) up" to the seriousness of the pedal issue.
Automakers around the world have found some stabilization after trying to stabilize in 2009 in which the industry saw big players die, merge and shrink. But Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is optimistic, believing the sector will see gradual growth in the new year in every market except Europe.
The statement was straightforward with an appropriate amount of contrition. When I talked with Jim Lentz, the head of Toyota USA he was direct in admitting his company is embarrassed by the on-going controversy over sticking gas pedals.
The booming economies of China, India and Brazil are in the spotlight, while those of Europe, Japan and the U.S. look dull and weak.
When I talked with Ford CEO Alan Mulally 10 minutes after his company filed fourth quarter earnings, there was a tone of satisfaction in his voice.
Think you may own one of the 2.3 million Toyota models being recalled because of a potentially dangerous accelerator? It's easy to find out for sure.