Is Toyota being judged by a competitor instead of the US Government?

Today’s Business Thought Leaders segment with author and industry expert Bill Michels was incredible.  Of the several noteworthy observations Michels provided, his revelation that the current Congressional hearings regarding the Toyota recall has the Japanese manufacturer actually giving testimony before a competitor raises a number of red flags.

The moment that the U.S. Government became a majority owner of General Motors through its $30 billion “investment,” hearings such as the one involving Toyota are no longer arms length.  In short, if a conflict arose in a judicial hearing where the judge and the defendant had a similar-type relationship to the one between the U.S. Government and Toyota, the judge would have to step down in the interests of justice.

Besides raising the question as to whether Toyota can receive a fair hearing from a government which owns a majority stake in one of the company’s competitors, several questions of even greater significance center on whether the government forfeited its right to convene such a hearing and, if they have, what legislative body could legitimately assume the mantle of representing the public interest in a forum that would be above reproach?

Looking down the road, and again referencing the judicial system, if Toyota feels that they did not receive a fair hearing, should they not be afforded the same rights as an accused who would have a solid basis for having a judgment overturned based on a similar conflict of interest.

The fact is that over the years Toyota has had an overall impeccable reputation for quality, that is now being scrutinized by a competitor.  While there are certainly issues that have to be addressed by the company internally, ones in which Bill touched on during the course of the show including the emergence and effective utilization of advanced analysis tools, however unintended one cannot help but wonder if the U.S. Government has fallen down on its own platform of fair dealings and objective decision-making.

As always, I welcome your feedback and direct you to the On-Demand Player below to access my interview with Bill Michels in its entirety at your convenience.

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2 Responses to “Is Toyota being judged by a competitor instead of the US Government?”
  1. The frightening part of this revelation is the government, knowing full well what folks are saying in blogs and in the new media, have no shame when it comes to what they’re doing.
    We can stand up all day and scream about conflicts of interest, but who’s going to hold the politicians accountable? How do we enforce this accountability?
    If they can call Toyota, who is a foreign competitor in the automobile industry, they can certainly call Ford, which refused to take bailout money and just recently reported significant profits over the previous year. In fact, it was the only American auto maker to report a profit.
    You ask what Toyota can do to right this wrong? It’s a bit tough when those committing malfeasance are the very regulators who make the rules for Toyota and other companies who import products into the United States.
    One way we hold the government accountable is to refuse to purchase a GM or Chrysler product and instead choose a Ford product (I do not own stock in Ford).
    The only other way, short of armed rebellion, to hold government accountable is to fire every incumbent at the next election and give politicians one term in office each — we don’t need a constitutional amendment to do this, we simply do it by electing new people each time that seat is up for election.
    We’re certainly in uncharted territories here with what Congress is doing and the solutions are certainly going to be messy.

  2. Jeff Lindsay says:

    This is an example of how government can crush business and ultimately innovation as an unintended consequence of “helping.” Rescuing one group is done at the expense f others, and cascading events can occur that discourage all because of the unlevel and unpredictable playing field.

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