Could the Government Make Toyota's Problems Worse?

A consumer revolt might beat a government crackdown

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After Toyota president Akio Toyoda's grilling by Congress today, transportation secretary Ray LaHood vowed to protect U.S. consumers: "We are going to work until every Toyota is safe to drive." LaHood's remark was an early sign that the Obama administration (and Congress) may impose stricter oversight over the company. But that's not sitting well with some free-market thinkers. They argue that Toyota has suffered enough and any further punishment should come from turned-off consumers:

  • Let the Market Decide, writes Nick Loris at The Heritage Foundation: "Toyota's reputation has taken a hit and it has every incentive to fix the problem efficiently. Toyota estimated the recall will cost $2 billion by the end of March but that number could rise ... It's easy to understand why a government that now owns a major stake in General Motors would want to put continuous bad press on a rival automaker, but given Toyota's integral stake in the U.S. economy, it would not be prudent to come down extra hard on Toyota."
  • It All Comes Down to Trust, writes K. Daniel Glover at Hot Air: "Toyota's handling of the recall has been miserable. Weeks after I first learned that my car is subject to one of the recalls, I still haven't been notified directly by the company, and so far as I know, there is no fix yet for the potentially faulty gas pedal in my 2009 Corolla. I'm not happy about that ... That leaves Toyota owners like me in the predicament of choosing the bad guy in this scenario. Toyota may not be the good guy, but given the choice between incompetent government and a private company with a solid track record, I pick the government as the one to wear the black hat."
  • LaHood Is Losing Trust, writes Megan McArdle at The Atlantic. Listening to the transportation secretary at the Toyota hearings, McArdle points out his flawed reasoning on speed limits and concludes: "It's clear to me that there have been some real problems with Toyota cars. But it also seems like the hysteria and the hype are rapidly becoming unmoored from any actual danger."
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