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Any company that can ignore customer complaints about serious safety issues for as long as Toyota has been denying that its vehicles experience deadly Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) must have friends in high government offices, and those friends must be willing to use their power to protect the company. That’s the only possible explanation for a problem that has been causing personal injuries and wrongful deaths since 1999.

Pharmaceutical companies have their friends at the FDA, and Toyota has friends throughout many levels of government, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), members of Congress, and governors across the nation.

Recent news accounts have exposed just how strong Toyota’s ties with government officials are, and those bonds raise the strong possibility that Toyota has been receiving favored treatment in dealing with the SUA incidents that have caused at least 19 wrongful deaths.

The Los Angeles Times reported on February 7, 2010 that he House Energy and Commerce Committee will meet to consider Toyota’s responses to its product liability issues. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), the committee chairman, said that his committee will “examine whether Toyota’s public statements about the causes of sudden acceleration explain the problems that have been plaguing consumers.”

Mr. Waxman also said that his committee would look closely at the actions of the NHTSA. Although the first reports of Toyota SUA date back to 1999, and the agency has conducted eight investigations of SUA since 2003, the deadly problem has not gone away. Mr. Waxman said that the focus of the investigation would be “when the company and NHTSA first learned of the problems and whether they responded appropriately.”

But, just as Mr. Waxman is promising to hold Toyota fully accountable, some of Toyota’s friends are trying to run interference for the company. The governors of four states where Toyota has manufacturing plants sent a letter to Congress asking that the automaker get “a responsible and fair response from the federal government.”

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, and Alabama Governor Bob Riley were the writers, and their letter chooses to ignore the obvious fact that Toyota has already received very lenient treatment in dealing with the SUA problem. It’s the victims of Toyota SUA who have not received fair treatment from the company, which also has powerful friends in Congress.

A February 8 story from Newsmax said that West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that will be investigating Toyota, has strong ties to the corporation. He was instrumental in bringing a Toyota plant to West Virginia, and he actually walked through cornfields with Toyota representatives who were looking for a site for their plant.

An Associated Press story on February 9 said that Representative Jane Harman of California’s 36th District, which is home to Toyota’s U.S. headquarters, held $115,000 in Toyota stock as of her most recent financial disclosure report.

In 2008, she showed her feelings for Toyota when she made this statement in a press release that explained her reluctant support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that helped American automakers: “Detroit should take notice of the successful business models of Toyota and Honda, whose North American headquarters are in my congressional district and with whom I have spoken about this issue.”

Fortunately for American drivers, some lawmakers are not overly friendly with Toyota. Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan said that he expects the Congressional hearings to be quite contentious, largely because Toyota appears to have dodged crucial questions for years. “There are serious questions that go back six years.”

Toyota has friends in high government offices, but even they can’t shield the company from the fact that its SUA incidents are responsible for many personal injuries and wrongful deaths. Everyone who has suffered because of Toyota’s dodging and denials deserves compensation. If you or a loved one is a Toyota victim, contact us.  We are defective product specialists.

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Richard Alexander