Unemployment in the U.S. has surged, and there are so many new jobless claims that Congress is working to extend unemployment benefits. One of the hardest hit areas has been Michigan, ground zero for the decay of the U.S. auto market.
The federal government owns General Motors. GM and Chrysler have been through bankruptcy. Ford is struggling, but has been performing the best out of all the U.S. automakers.
The Japanese automakers, namely Honda and Toyota have been outperforming the Detroit Three at every turn. Americans have become enamored with their safety record and their quality assurance, which helped Toyota overtake GM as the world’s biggest automaker.
But Toyota’s charmed existence has come to an end with the recall of millions of vehicles after sudden acceleration and braking issues. Congress has announced that it will look into Toyota’s safety problems, but are the legislators behaving like kids in a candy store?
Sure, Toyota may have delayed the announcement of safety issues, and they may have been focused more on profits than safety, but that’s hardly a new problem for companies that are growing faster than they can handle.
Should we be letting the government, which has a vested interest in one of Toyota’s competitors, levy a criminal investigation against the automaker? How could that possibly be a fair case? After seeing Asia take American jobs and market share, how do we know that it would be about justice and not just payback?
Toyota was a perfect company, and the Titanic was a ship that couldn’t sink. Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves and it comes back to bite us. It has happened to American companies, and now it’s happening to Japanese companies.
Instead of demanding the heads of Toyota execs on sticks, perhaps we should give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Toyota is now in a public relations and legal nightmare. But do we give up on them entirely? Shouldn’t the measure of a company be in its ability to turn things around and right its wrongs?
Let’s not forget about Ford. Ford has gained a lot of supporters because it didn’t take a government bailout. But speaking as someone who has seen two Ford Explorers more or less fall apart, Ford hasn’t been the pinnacle of quality. Also, there was the Bridgestone tire disaster. Isn’t it convenient that we are willing to forget that to prove our point that Japanese automakers are evil?
I’m not saying Toyota is an angel. They messed up and will have to pay the price one way or another. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t be so devilishly happy that they are under siege. A domestic company could just as easily dominate the headlines tomorrow.
P.S. I own a Honda, but grew up in a Ford family.