Eric Mayne's Blog

Dear Congress: Please excuse Mr. Toyoda today ...

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Note to Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda: Call in sick Wednesday.

Do NOT go to Washington. Says a witness to the last time OEM bosses were grilled on Capitol Hill: “They’re going to tear him apart.”

After first declaring he would not submit to questioning by politicians, Toyoda has since relented.

Now, I’m all for examining Toyota’s handling of its safety recalls, particularly in light of seemingly damning evidence the auto maker was driven more by concern for its bottom line than its customers.

(The Detroit News reported on the weekend an internal Toyota document celebrates $100 million in savings the auto maker achieved by negotiating a limited recall for sudden-acceleration problems. The memo was distributed one month before a California police officer and his family was killed when the accelerator stuck to the floor of a Lexus ES 350 he was driving.)

But make no mistake. Wednesday’s event will more closely resemble an execution than an examination.

Consider the performance of Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) when the CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler agreed to answer questions about their operations and why, as the economy teetered on the brink of collapse, their vital industry deserved government aid.

Said Sherman: "I'm going to ask the three executives here to raise their hand if they flew here commercial. Second, I'm going ask you to raise your hand if you're planning to sell your jet and fly back commercial."

Nobody moved.

"Let the record show no hands went up," Sherman said, before strutting out of the chamber into an ante room.

There, an insider tells Ward’s, he high-fived an aide like he’d scored a Super Bowl TD.

With tens of thousands of industry jobs hanging in the balance, I can think of no conduct more disingenuous.

What will happen to Toyoda? They’ll badger him, at best; berate him, at worst. And he will emerge as the face of evil.

Perhaps the criticism is warranted. But a kangaroo court is no place to make that determination.

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