Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Problem Solved Where There Was Not, In Fact, A Problem

The most predictable political denoument of the Obama Administration came to pass yesterday, as a combined DOT-NHTSA-NASA study group has announced that, no, Toyotas do not contain electronic gremlins that cause them to suddenly - without any warning at all! - accelerate out of control. Such a deal. The government fans hysteria over "run away" cars, including Sec. of Transportation announcing that Americans should not drive Toyotas. Now that same government has taken it upon itself the mantle of Voice of Authority on what caused the problem, as if the work of rational people like Michael Fumento and Popular Mechanics were nothing. Hey, at least they got it right the first time:

Toyota Motor Corp., which built its reputation in the U.S. on safety and reliability, has been cleared by the government of electronic problems in its vehicles. Now it needs to convince consumers that it has put its safety recalls in the rear view mirror.

The Transportation Department said Tuesday that electronic flaws were not to blame for reports of sudden, unintended acceleration. Since 2009, Toyota has recalled more than 12 million vehicles globally over safety problems. The government's new findings bolstered Toyota's contention that the company had directly dealt with the problems through its recalls and is making safety paramount in its lineup.

Analysts said it would take more than a government report to repair Toyota's once pristine image for producing quality vehicles. Toyota was the only major automaker to see a U.S. sales decline last year at 0.4 percent and saw its U.S. market share fall nearly 2 percentage points to 15.2 percent. The decline came even though total U.S. sales rose 11 percent for the year.

Of course, this has been known for months among conservatives, engineers and other inhabitants of the land we quaintly call "Reality." Here's what I had to say about this last summer:

Toyota is the most egregious example of (a) government imposed "PR problem." Anyone who read PJ O'Rourke's Parliament of Whores knows that sudden-acceleration incidents in cars are a figment of the imaginations of lawyers, consumer advocates, and boat-footed drivers. But, journalists and Democrats have not read Parliament of Whores, so when sketchy reports surface of cars suddenly accelerating out of control, hustling liberals jump on them with both feet. Never mind that reputable engineers have never been able to replicate SAI's in the lab. Never mind that the most spectacular SAI - the runaway Prius in San Diego - was a hoax. (incredibly, the debunking did not receive the same level of media attention as the "runaway"). And also, never mind that Toyota earnestly tried to diagnose the problem and even established as official corporate policy that it would not blame the drivers, even though Toyota had to have suspected the drivers were at fault. No, it was much more important for Democratic congressmen to drag Toyota executives to DC for a show trial to showcase their corporate sins. Added bonus: Toyota is a competitor to Government Motors, and its executives were Japanese, i.e. Dread Furriners. This from the Party of Tolerance and Science.

The government isn't letting Toyota completely off the hook. DOT is still muttering darkly about "sticky" floormats, which were blamed for the deaths of four people in Southern California and were the subject of a recall. I don't know. On the Death By Stupidity Continuum, I'd say "Death by Floormat" is almost as dumb as "Death By Stepping on the Accelerator Instead of the Brake." Toyota, just as a matter of PR, followed the policy of determinedly refusing to blame their customers for their deaths. But Toyota execs had to have been thinking in the back of their minds, "What is wrong with Americans?!"

Many are asking the Donovan Question: where does Toyota go to get its reputation back? I'm wondering where we go to get our public discourse back. You would think most adults would know that sudden acceleration incidents are an urban myth, propagated a generation ago by some of the same journalists, bureaucrats and congressmen who fanned the flames of the Toyota SAI "scandal." Ray LaHood, Henry Waxman, and every TV station that showed footage of that bogus run-away Prius literally fanned the flames of hysteria, yet they are the same people who laugh up their sleeves over the stupidity of Tea Partiers.

What's worse is knowing that the people hyping SAI were not doing it out of some cynical ploy to help Government Motors at the expense of Toyota. Their philosophy, not to mention low IQ's, practically guarantee such a result. Democrats literally believe that a massive multi-national corporation is little more than a collection of greedy plutocrats sitting around trying to find ways to kill its customers, and legislate accordingly. That's a bigger threat to public safety than cars accelerating out of control.

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