What a punch in the gut.
When the top transportation official in the U.S. calls an auto company "a little safety deaf" it hurts.
When the comments are aimed at the one automaker that has hung its hat on safety, it stings.
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.
The comments are a clear sign of how far Toyota has fallen in the last four months and the level of concern in Washington over Toyota's pedal recalls. And it's only going to grow. The National Highway Transportation Safety Agency is investigating Toyota's unintended acceleration cases and a Congressional hearing is on tap for later this month.
But do we really need politicians to tell us Toyota has a major safety problem on its hands? No.
The anecdotal stories around the country have told us for some time something is seriously wrong. The fact Toyota has shut down its plants and stopped selling eight models tell us it's bad. The fact some Toyota customers no longer feel safe in their car or truck speaks volumes about how far the automaker has fallen.
"A little safety deaf." Four words that everyone can hear.
Update: Toyota has just issued to CNBC the following statement:
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety and reliability of the vehicles our customers drive. Secretary LaHood said to us that the soonest possible action would be in the best interests of our customers, and we took his advice very seriously and instituted a recall. We are very grateful for his advice and we feel that we have been given a chance to regain our customers’ trust. We will continue to cooperate fully with NHTSA on all vehicle safety issues.”
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