Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Yo Toyota Fans, It's Time to Smell the Coffee


This week once again showed me how some people can't see the forest from the trees.

And yes, I'm talking about many of you Toyota supporters.

Toyota headquarters
Getty Images

This week the Feds slapped a $16.375 million dollar fine on Toyota for dragging its feet recalling faulty gas pedals and two days later some folks in D.C. leaked an e-mail from a former Toyota exec suggesting to colleagues they should "come clean" about the defect.

The e-mail was sent 5 days before the company recalled 2.3 million vehicle at risk of having sticky gas pedals.

To say it was not a good week for the automaker would be an understatement.

Still, I got a slew of e-mails from people, presumably Toyota fans, saying the feds and the media are unfairly picking on their favorite car company.

One person e-mailed me and said, "why is the media picking on Toyota when the fed have announce they are investigating potential defect with 6.2 million GM trucks that may have brake lines that rust and fail?" The unwritten implication: the media is ignoring problems at other automakers to focus on Toyota.

Memo to Toyota fans: Clue in.

There is not a vast media conspiracy to bring down your company.

Here's a little reality check, Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide and is accused of knowingly hiding the problem. That's a big deal. And yet, I have people stop me on the street and say, "I think people are making too big of a deal out of what's going on."

This "head in the sand" attitude reminds me a lot of when I reported on the Ford Explorer/Firestone recall ten years ago. People, especially in Detroit, would ask why everyone was making a big deal out of a handful of accidents. Just as I did then, I scratch my head now and wonder what planet these people are living on.

Do I think this recall controversy will kill Toyota?


In fact, I think the worst has likely passed for them as they deal with the crisis.

Do I think Toyota is unfairly being picked on?


It is what it is.

When it's your company's turn in the tank, you try to slog through it. When it ends is too hard to predict.

But if you're a Toyota fan, don't be blind to reality. That doesn't mean you should trade in your car or truck or stop buying them. It does mean you see the situation as it is.


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