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Reports from Japan indicate that media and consumers over there think the U.S. Congress is engaging in “Toyota bashing” because of the U.S. government’s investment in GM, and over nationalistic issues. I’ve heard some Americans speculate on the same thing. I don’t think it is true, or relevant in fact, but it is a common perception nonetheless. While some Congressmen might find it appealing to constituents to be a little over-enthusiastic in going after Toyota, others may have the opposite incentive, as Toyota has significant manufacturing facilities in some of their states and a strong national American dealer network. Of course, it’s not surprising that U.S. auto companies may see Toyota’s safety issues as a selling opportunity for themselves. When one looks at the current financing pages for GM cars, one finds a box titled “Toyota and Lexus Owner Assistance” that connects to special discounts and financing deals for Toyota trade-ins. But news reports have Akio Toyoda now headed to China to hold a news conference related to reports of accelerator problems there, and today reports out of Japan indicate some 38 reported incidents there of accelerator problems with Toyotas. So, if Toyota has any nationalistic prejudicial perception issues, their current issue is a very real one — quality control/safety problems that appear to be blind to national borders.

February 2010

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