Toyota vs. The Government

Toyota-LogoIn my discussion with Dave Schuler on the hearings about Toyota safety issues on last night’s episode of OTB Radio, I noted in passing my concern that Congress has a conflict of interest now that the federal government is effectively the owner of General Motors and Chrysler — direct competitors with Toyota.

PJM’s Tom Blumer (via Insty) seems to be taking this to conspiratorial levels, seeing an “orchestrated campaign against Toyota,” an “unsettling series of events,” and expressing “hope that the folks at Toyota fully appreciate the ugliness they’re up against.”   It’s not precisely clear, though, what he’s charging.

I don’t think Congress is trying to drive Toyota out of business nor do I get any sense that anything in particular untoward is going on under the circumstances.

I am, nonetheless, uncomfortable with the federal government being in a position of competing with a private firm and also publicly investigating said firm in a way that’s clearly driving down the value of its brand and, ultimately, its market share.   That was one of many reasons I opposed the bailout of GM and Chrysler and, in particular, the government taking effective ownership.

FILED UNDER: Congress, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    In transactional analysis there is a “game” called “Now I’ve Got You, You Sonofabitch”. Destructive as it is, unfortunately, it is a Washington favorite.

    I’m concerned that a combination of conflict of interests, antipathy to Toyota for its anti-union stance, and a predisposition to go after the durned furriners, riding what may be a cresting wave of protectionism, may have counter-productive consequences. Toyota isn’t just the largest automaker in the world, it’s one of the largest U. S. automakers. It just has foreign ownership.

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    The DOT began its investigation of Toyota well before the GM bailouts. That it’s coming to a head now doesn’t appear to be anything but the normal progression of this type of long-term investigation.

    Furthermore, while the United States Treasury does own a 60% stake in the current GM, it’s purely temporary and the last timeline I looked at had the Treasury’s share being completely sold off by the end of 2010.

    General Motors went through a chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the only reason it’s being staked by the U.S. and Canadian governments is because the banking collapse left no other available capital. It’s not as though GM has been nationalized, and, as this type of thing goes, it’s a relatively mild intervention.

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    The problem for Obama and the dems is 1) the appearance of impropriety is happening at a time when trust in government is at a low point and 2) the people being put in place seemed to have been deafened in their own echo chamber.
    BTW, you can add to the non-conspiracy events the DOJ running an anti-trust against denso.

  4. sam says:

    If I’m not mistaken, the root cause of the ugliness Toyota is up against is the Toyota safety problems, no?

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    This is classic piling on. All the while Toyota hasn’t been able to replicate the problem in tests. The most likely answer is still floor mats and driver error. Unfortunately they are being forced to apologize for something they don’t even know is their responsibility. Such is the way of the world these days.

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    There is nothing improper here. The idea that because we own a temporary piece of GM we’re going to trash Toyota ignores the fact that much of Congress has long since been in bed with the former Big 3. Nothing has changed. Congress doesn’t require ownership of a company to be in that company’s pocket. See: big pharma, health insurers, defense contractors etc…

    But in this case Toyota had a simple solution: recognize the problem earlier, fix it earlier. They screwed up, they got people killed in particularly dramatic fashion, and now they’re taking their beating.

  7. Boyd says:

    While I’m certainly no supporter of the US Government effectively owning GM and Chrysler, and I definitely believe their competitor/regulator role is unseemly, I don’t believe that any Congressional action up to now would have been done any differently, nor had any different effect, than if the US Government did what it was supposed to do instead of owning car manufacturers.

    Not the sentence cum paragraph I would have like to have written, but there it is, nonetheless.

  8. Ugh says:

    I am, nonetheless, uncomfortable with the federal government being in a position of competing with a private firm

    You must be uncomfortable all the time then.

  9. MIKE From SA says:

    Wait, wait, the government owns a company that can’t sell cars, and can’t afford it’s obligations to its’ UNIONS. The UNIONS have the Democrat party in their pocket because they brought out the vote and contributed LOTS of money from their pension funds. Now the one company that’s outselling GM and refuses to buckle to UNION demands has an unfortunate problem with their cars, so they have a recall, and our illustrious CONGRESS elects to have show trial hearings. AND YOU DON’T SEE A CONSPIRACY???? Some Poly Sci prof you must be!!!

  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    I think it’s time for me to step in and address a very serious issue raised by MIKE from SA: superfluous punctuation.

    In my professional life I often write sound effects. Tseeeew! Tseeeew! Or, AAAARGH! Or, Ka-BOOOM! Amazingly enough I earn a good living writing things like that.

    So I can speak to this topic with some authority. A question mark establishes that you’re asking a question. Three question marks does not make it more of a question. Same goes for exclamation points.

    The way to emphasize your incredulity is with italics, or all-caps, or my favorite a mix of lower case and caps. You can also mix upper case italics with lower case.

    You may not, however, use more than one question mark or exclamation point. Would you use multiple commas or periods or semi-colons? Of course not. The same rule applies. Thank you.

  11. Steve Plunk says:

    Knock, knock.

    Who’s there?

    Punctuation police.

  12. floyd says:

    Punctuation Police,,,,,,, WHO?????….AAAARGH!!!!

    BTW;;; Multiple periods has a name and a legitimate purpose…

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    That’s an ellipsis, not multiple periods, floyd.

    He thought he might . . .


    “I don’t know. I just . . . don’t know.”

    I use probably one elipsis every other page. That would make something like 10,000. Or 30,000 individual dots. I buy them in bulk. Costco.

  14. Raoul says:

    I think the Toyota debacle actually reinforces the American industry bailout as a counterweight. But let’s be clear that the Japanese automaker is at fault here. As to “potential conflicts” I guess the thought cross my mind but so far the government has been, if anything, too tentative, which augurs another problem, in that the government may lean for a soft approach to defuse any appearance issues. I have noted that the politics of the situation have broken among geographic lines, so I do not anticipate anyone getting away with anything. Truth be told, the government really cannot do much about the situation; this is Toyota’s dime and they will survive only if they handle the situation correctly, that until recently, to my surprise, they had not done. More shocking- we still do not know what causes random acceleration.

  15. floyd says:

    Shouldn’t that have been something like…
    “Punctuation polease writer better”
    Oh well,,, your’s was funny too!!!!

  16. tailgunner says:

    I understand and appreciate the writer’s unwillingness to impeach the present administration’s handling of the Toyota hearings.

    But Obama has been eager and willing to use the brute force of government in the attempt to:

    -silence conservative talk radio,

    -intimidate unwilling employees and employers into forced unionization,

    -nationalize one of America’s largest automakers, strip assets from their lawful owners and hand them over gratis to one of his largest campaign contributors,

    -bankrupt producers and consumers with ‘skyrocketing’ punitive taxes on all forms of energy, and

    -progressively bankrupt the private healthcare insurance industry with a combination of mandates, regulation and elimination of their policyholder base, leaving a dictatorial and inhuman statist government plan as the only remaining choice.

    It would be completely in character for Obama, who sees government as a weapon, to beat Toyota about the head and shoulders, knowing that Government Motors will benefit from Toyota’s negative publicity.

  17. An Interested Party says:

    re: tailgunner | February 26, 2010 | 11:33 pm

    So when should the impeachment proceedings begin…