Have legitimate safety concerns surrounding Toyota begun to be exploited for political purposes? Well, Washington never lets a crisis go to waste. Writes Kim Strassel in the Wall Street Journal:
There's no question that in the first, heady days of recall, at least some in the Obama administration and Congress saw advantage in undermining Toyota. The majority owner of Government Motors felt it couldn't hurt to fan the image of a "foreign" auto maker disregarding the safety of American drivers. Shoppers might just buy a Chevy instead, propping up government investment and bolstering United Auto Worker union jobs. And of course the trial bar would be thrilled by a fat new class-action target.
Vehicle recalls (there were 16.9 million in 2009 alone) are usually handled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- but the Toyota case was commandeered by Obama Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. He skewered the firm for being "a little safety deaf," complained it hadn't been responsive, and bragged it was the government that forced a recall.
As Brian Johnson points out, the new majority owners of GM -- the federal government -- have a bit of a conflict of interest here even if there are real safety issues that need to be addressed.
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