Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

With Sharks Circling, Toyota's Hope for Quick Solution Fades

The Toyota logo is displayed on the grill of brand new Toyota RAV4s on the sales lot at City Toyota in Daly City, California.
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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. As a friend of mine in the auto industry said last week, "It's their turn in the barrel, and who knows how long it will last."

* The Congressional hearings over the next two weeks will be painful for the company and its executives. Already, the House Oversight committee has obtained documents showing Toyota saved $100 Million avoiding a costly recall involving complaints Camry and Lexus ES 350 models with accelerator pedals that could become stuck. If more documents like this come out Toyota executives will have to answer the question, "did you put profits before safety?"

* Grand jury inquiries are just starting. They are asking for documents, and it may not be long until we see a case or cases brought against Toyota. If that happens, look for a very public condemnation of Toyota for disregarding its obligation to build and sell us safe vehicles.

* NHTSA defect investigations. After having to fly to Japan and force Toyota executives to recall vehicles to address unintended acceleration problems, NHTSA has its sight set on Toyota. This includes updating the number of unintended acceleration crashes, deaths, and injuries.

The hope at Toyota has been to get this controversy behind it as quickly as possible. That will be easier said than done with Washington leaders lining up to grill company executives.


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