Toyota: Democrats 'Not Industry Friendly'
Internal Toyota documents derided the Obama administration and Democratic Congress as “activist” and “not industry friendly," a revelation that comes days before the giant automaker's top executives testify on Capitol Hill amid a giant recall. According to a presentation obtained under subpoena by the House Oversight and Government Relations committee, Toyota referred to the “changing political environment” as one of its main challenges and anticipated a "more challenging regulatory" environment under the Obama administration's purview. This document, in addition to piles of other records, will be front and center this week as the Japanese automaker girds to face lawmakers hungry for answers about a recall that has the company teetering. Upwards of 8 million cars have been recalled in the U.S. and worldwide, amid reports of Toyota's vehicles accelerating rapidly. The problems have turned political, as the company has shuttered some American factories, potentially resulting in layoffs. The oversight committee, which is led by Democrat Ed Towns of New York and Republican Darrell Issa of California, will seek to discover if Toyota was forthright in disclosing problems with rapid acceleration – and if the government was responsible and quick in investigating such complaints. Toyota has launched an image rehabilitation campaign on Capitol Hill, and its top lobbyist has sent emails to Congressional aides in an attempt to shape its image amid this crisis.
Committee aides say the presentation, which was obtained by POLITICO, gives the clearest view into the minds of Toyota executives. Aides believe the presentation was an explanatory slideshow prepared to explain the inner-workings of Toyota’s Washington lobbying operations. It includes a responsibility flow chart, in addition to resources the office calls upon, including The Brookings Institution and the Chamber of Commerce. The slideshow is titled “Toyota Washington, DC” and the cover sheet is labeled “Yoshi Inaba” – the president of Toyota North America, who is slated to testify. It is a peek into how Toyota executives view the American political environment. The “Activist Administration & Congress – increasing laws & regulations” is listed as one of “Toyota Challenges,” as is “Massive government support for Detroit automakers.” The July 2009 presentation also says the Department of Transportation and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration “under Obama administration” is “not industry friendly,” and anticipates a “more challenging regulatory and enforcement environment.” It says the NHTSA “new team has less understanding of engineering issues and are primarily focused on legal issues.” “While the administration may have changed, the bureaucracy itself has not and we must ensure that government regulators give every possible consumer concern its due diligence,” said Republican Oversight spokesman Kurt Bardella.