Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Friday, February 26, 2010 :::

Consumer Reports once again has ranked Toyota in the Top Three for quality (with Honda and Subaru) and J. D. Power found Lexus "highest in customer satisfaction with dealer service among luxury brands." The company has been a perennial presence atop the quality ratings for the last decade — the very decade the tort mob claims Toyota sacrificed safety.
People overweigh recent and salient information, and the recent and salient information is that Toyota recently made several models of cars with problems sufficiently severe that they resulted in recalls; and, when Toyota employees learned that these cars had problems, they did not respond with Johnson and Johnson-like vigilance (to use an example which is salient but not recent). It is less salient that — I don't know the numbers, but I'm comfortable asserting this — the vast majority of car accidents involving Toyotas in the last few years have not been Toyota's fault. It is less recent that other car companies have had to conduct their own recalls.

A Congressman is quoted saying that Toyota "put profits ahead of customer safety". Well, recalling cars won't help their bottom line, nor will the payments they will inevitably make to victims and their families. More expensive than either of those will be the long-term damage to their reputation, which ought to be substantial, and will probably be even greater than it should be. Surely nobody at Toyota literally thought that making unsafe cars would be profitable, especially at car company with a reputation for quality. They may have underestimated the probability of a defect going out; cultural issues were probably involved in the corporate response to the problems.

On the other hand, I think the theory, which I've seen several places, that the feds are going after Toyota more than they otherwise would because they (we) own large chunks of two of Toyota's competitors is overdone. Maybe some people in the administration are thinking this way, but the most important reason Congressmen are grandstanding is that they are Congressmen — corporate culture at Toyota isn't nearly as broken as corporate culture on Capitol Hill, and it's a bit rich that members of the Obama administration and the current Congress are chastising anybody for lacking openness and/or probity. Somewhere below that in importance is the fact that Toyota really did earn some public humiliation. If federal ownership of carmakers is on the list, it's a lot further down.

::: posted by Steven at 11:05 AM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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