Toyoda's Tap Dance
Toyota (Stock Quote: TM) has had trouble with unwanted acceleration in some of its models. U.S. Congress had no such trouble with CEO Akio Toyoda committing to an appearance before a committee investigating the Japanese automaker's massive recalls.
Toyoda, the grandson of the 77-year-old automaker's founder, on late Thursday said he would testify at a Feb. 24 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, after Rep. Edolphus Towns (D., N.Y.) sent a formal invitation, according to Bloomberg.
"I look forward to speaking directly with Congress and the American people," Toyoda said in an e-mailed statement.
Just a day earlier, however, Toyoda appeared to be willing to throw North America chief Yoshimi Inaba under the proverbial Toyota Tacoma. Toyoda said on Wednesday he had no plans to appear before U.S. investigators on the recalls.
"I have full confidence in the management of Toyota Motor North America, led by Mr. Inaba, and I believe he is the best placed to testify," Toyoda told reporters.
You have got to be kidding us. Your name is basically on the car. It's not a defective Inaba Prius we're talking about. It's a defective Toyota Prius (and a defective Toyota Corolla, etc.) And that means you better set things straight here, especially after your U.S. sales dropped 16% in January to the lowest level in more than a decade.
Regardless of whether the committee sent a formal invitation to Toyoda, he should have jumped at the chance — and not simply to clear his once-good name.
Both GM and Chrysler CEOs went to Washington at the height of the financial crisis and received billions of taxpayer dollars. (Most of which we will never get back.) Same thing happened when the CEOs of financial companies including Citigroup, AIG, CIT and Bank of America visited our nation's capital.
So go to D.C. and ask for money, Mr. Toyoda. Why not give it a shot? Your company only wrecked a few cars. Those bankers crashed a whole economy and still walked away with billions.
Dumb-o-meter score: 95 -- Toyoda would be a great Democratic Senator. Like Sens. Evan Bayh and Chris Dodd, he appears to want to stay as far from D.C. as possible.