Klobuchar blasts Toyota, feds: “Nothing was resolved and people died”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar opened fire today on Toyota executives and federal Transportation officials, blasting the auto company for not recalling their cars quickly enough after drivers reported problems with stuck accelerators and questioning why federal regulators didn’t force them to.

She charged that complaints over safety got batted back and forth between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Toyota, without the problem getting resolved, like a puck in a nightmare hockey game. Two cases she cited involved Minnesotans whose vehicles accelerated on their own to 80 miles per hour, but who thankfully were able to stop their cars using emergency maneuvers. A resulting federal investigation into one of the incidents found no fault with Toyota.

“Drivers would file complaints by the dozens, federal regulators would open official reviews, Toyota would promise to answer, the regulators would complain about not receiving the information they needed and in the end the puck never got in the net, nothing was resolved and people died,” Klobuchar said.

Today’s Commerce Committee hearing was the latest in a series of Congressional hearings on Toyota recalls. Last Thursday, the president of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, apologized before a House committee for his company’s safety failings.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, whose department includes the agency responsible for investigating those consumer complaints, promised that the NHTSA would conduct a thorough investigation this time. Toyota, for its part, is continuing with a wide-ranging recall of its vehicles and again promised lawmakers that these safety lapses would never be repeated.

Asked after the hearing if she was satisfied with what she heard, Klobuchar replied, “It was a beginning.”

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 03/03/2010 - 08:44 am.

    Klobuchar should open up fire on herself. 400,000 in Minnesota do not have health insurance and many more will die from inadequate care than from Toyota’s manufacturing defects. Klobuchar has said “there is no rush” on health care reform. Then she supported a health bill that will impoverish the middle class and provide a windfall for health insurance and drug companies. And still, many will die as a result of having no insurance. This cruel senator is just making a lot of noise about Toyota because she doesn’t want folks to notice how cruel she is.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/03/2010 - 10:45 am.

    Let us never forget that, as was the case with all Bush era appointments, those who ran NHTSA were auto industry people. Their approach as was the case with all their compatriots in all agencies, was to work with, but NEVER, EVER take action against business and industry.

    Toyota didn’t react to consumer complaints or worry about recalls because they knew they didn’t have to. They could get away with snowballing the agency and no action would be taken. When their own in-house investigations showed no problems, or blamed the problems on driver error, NHTSA took their word for it.

    No harm, no foul.

    Just as the Catholic church’s official policy for decades (from the Vatican) was to never admit that certain members of the clergy were routinely abusing children except when a case, here or there, became too public to keep quiet, so it was government policy under Bush and the Republicans to keep all business-related negligence and malfeasance quiet and blame the victims whenever a scapegoat was needed, while, at the same time, trying, through “tort reform” to limit the ability of people to seek damages for harm done to them by defective products.

    It would seem that, with a few more successful elections we would likely have reached the point where business and industry could have produced any kind of toxic, damaging, dangerous or defective crap they wanted to, consumers would have had NO recourse if they were harmed, and those who harshly criticized the quality of consumer products would likely have been prosecuted for interfering with companies’ ability to produce profit for their executives and shareholders.

    As more and more companies are now forced under newly-invigorated regulatory agencies to own up to the problems they’ve been allowed to ignore without liability for the past decade or so, we’re likely to see many more of these cases where business and safety regulations were previously ignored and will now be enforced.

    No coubt the Reb’s. calls for “tort reform” will soon turn to hysterical shrieking, not because they believe businesses are not causing harm, but because they don’t believe anything, even consumers in need of protection, should stand in the way of making maximum profit for shareholders and paying maximum salaries to CEOs.

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