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Roy Exum / March 1, 2011

Toyota and Witches

There was little surprise when the powerful and almighty United States government announced that a lengthy, multi-million dollar inquiry has revealed there were no electric flaws – none according to top NASA engineers –that would cause sudden acceleration in a Toyota car or truck. Those of us better acquainted with Toyotas and Lexus cars have known that since the start.

But in the same edition of the Washington Post, there appeared a story that was headed, “Romania may get tougher on witches,” and to read first one, and then the other, left a delightful parallel that was best tied in a knot by Stelian Tanase, a well-known Romania political commentator.

“The government doesn’t have real solutions, so it invents problems,” said Tanase. “This is the government that this country deserves.”

Just like Romania’s witch hunt, the government’s bashing of Toyota has just been proven to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood, in a prepared statement, said, “Today, we can say clearly and affirmatively that NHTSA, America’s traffic safety organization, was right all along.

"Our conclusion – that Toyota’s problems were mechanical, not electrical – comes after one of the most exhaustive, thorough, and intensive research efforts ever undertaken,” our transportation secretary said but there is just one problem there. Toyota can’t find any mechanical flaws, either, so don’t let me delay any further suspense. The real culprit: human error.

I love it when government officials call their studies “exhaustive,” because the car people know better than anyone exhausts emit hot air. The best example was a year ago when the same LaHood blurted, “We need to fix the problem so people don’t have to worry about disengaging the engine or slamming the brakes on or put it in neutral. … If anybody owns [one] of these vehicles, stop driving it and take it to a Toyota dealer.”

LaHood quickly apologized for his “misstatement” yet today in Romania, the fortune tellers and seers are saying much the same thing. “They can’t condemn witches, they should condemn the cards,” Queen Witch Bratara Buzea told The Associated Press.

The rub in Romania is that a besieged government is in dire financial straits and now, in the superstitious land that once gave us Dracula, the politicians now want to tax the fortune tellers and send them to jail if their predictions end up to be false.

In America, nobody is going to jail for the grossly-unwarranted Toyota bashing but perhaps they should. There is wide spread belief that the Toyota smear was union based. Much of General Motors and Chrysler’s problems can be traced to the United Auto Workers Union while Toyota is union free.

How else can you explain the wrath of Congressman John Mica (R-FL) who, when screaming at Toyota leaders last year, spewed, “This is appalling, sir. I am embarrassed for you, sir!”

Others feel the buyout of America’s auto industry, which laughingly changed GM’s designation to “Government Motors,” was the stimulus behind government’s attack on Toyota, which is today the largest automotive manufacturer in the world.

What our government did to Toyota was awful. Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) was very clear about it. “Let’s recall. Let’s fix it. … If a fine is in order, then fine, but they have gone so far beyond that. It’s very, very suspicious in view of the government conflict of interest.”

Daniels added, “These Congressmen running this committee have their own agenda and it is a discriminating agenda in this case. They didn’t do this the last several hundred recalls,” he said last year and the study recently released reflects terribly on the political intent, whatever stirred it.

Yes, Toyota is still having massive recalls. These are done at no expense to the customer and any Toyota dealer nationwide will tell you the Toyota commitment to consumer safety – unequalled in the industry – means you check a part that could be faulty but the huge percentage of what’s in question arrives with no need to repair whatsoever.

Just last week Ford Motor Company recalled 365,000 F-150 pickup trucks. A F-150 is the best-selling pickup truck in the world. Very little problems will eventually be found but there were no congressional hearings, rants by poorly-informed politicos, or a heavy sludge of media mirth. No one can explain a marked lack of America’s greatest attribute – fairness.

If you’ll recall (pun intended), Toyota sales rebounded back to No. 1 in the country within three months because the public was not deceived by the vicious attacks. Over 250,000 Americans are Toyota workers. They were fervent in their loyalty and their belief the Toyotas manufactured in the United States are the best and most reliable vehicles on the market.

Another exhaustive study confirmed that a full 80 percent of Toyotas built 20 years ago are still being driven regularly today. That’s a fact. A Toyota “master mechanic” told me personally, “If you just change the oil every 5,000 miles, our engines will easily stand up for over a half-million miles.”

But in Romania, where the witches are now all a-brew, political pundit Tanase just said it best. “Maybe (the witches) should put a spell on (Prime Minister Emil) Boc and (President Traian) Basescu, so they can find the solutions.”

Oh, if that would only work. Don’t you wish we still had a coven or two in Salem?

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