Monday, February 22, 2010

Toyota Document Describes Democrats as "Not Industry Friendly"

Typically, I view Congressional hearings that force industry representatives or private individuals to testify as unnecessary moments of political grandstanding. The upcoming Toyota hearings will probably provide more of the same. The hearings, however, could take on an even more melodramatic tone if Democrats press Toyota regarding a document that labels the Obama administration as unfriendly to industry.

The document was included in a batch of materials subject to a Congressional subpoena. It appears to be a rather routine "slideshow" assessment of the new legal and business environment after shifts in power in Congress and the White House. Politico has a copy of the document and provides the following summary:
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.
On the surface, this document seems unrelated to the recall. Nevertheless, lawmakers could pay attention to it. Toyota's fear of regulation seems likely to invite questions -- given its need to recall 8 million cars across several different models. Stay tuned!

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