Hysteria and Recall

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Toyota is in the midst of a huge recall, aimed at correcting an accelerator pedal defect. So far, there has been a total of 2,000 complaints of accelerator pedals sticking out of 20 million Toyotas on the road. Now, I don’t want to trivialize the problem; four people died in an accident apparently caused by the defective pedal. And Toyota is a large Japanese company, meaning that it is the quintessence of hierarchical bureaucracy. So it took a while for it to come to grips with the problem.

But the reaction among American politicians has been nothing short of hysterical. For instance, Ray LaHood, Obama’s Transportation Secretary, testified before a congressional committee that Toyota owners should stop driving their vehicles at once. And members of Congress started bay- ing for legislative hearings to commence.

This hysteria is as unwarranted as it is predictable.

It is unwarranted, first, because Toyota has had a long and distinguished history of producing vehicles that are ever- higher in quality. Compared with the large number of recalls faced by GM and Chrysler in particular, Toyota’s record is quite strong. Second, Toyota owned up to the problem (with the CEO Akiyo Toyoda offering his apologies on TV), found a fix, stopped selling new cars until they were retrofitted, and is busily retrofitting the cars already on the road. Finally, Toyota has gone out of its way to be respectful to the United States, its major customer center. For example, the company has built plants here, including, it would seem, the one that made the defective part.

But the hysteria is perfectly predictable. Two of Toyota’s main competitors, GM and Chrysler, are owned by the federal government and the United Auto Workers (UAW). And the UAW clearly owns the federal government.

The federal government will likely use this opportunity to try to destroy a competitor to its own socialist industry. All the competitors to GM and Chrysler – Honda, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Porsche, and so on – face a nasty situation: the entity that is supposed to be their regulator is also now their biggest competitor.

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