Toyota: About to Re-Learn the Lesson of the Pinto?


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Even automotive history repeats itself.  Let’s compare Toyota’s sudden acceleration…

A top Toyota official claimed that a negotiated agreement with U.S. government auto-safety regulators prevented a widespread vehicle recall and saved the Japanese auto giant more than $100 million, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post after it was turned over to congressional investigators.

To the Ford Pinto…

Cost-Benefit Analysis
One of the tools that Ford used to argue for the delay was a “cost-benefit analysis” of altering the fuel tanks. According to Ford’s estimates, the unsafe tanks would cause 180 burn deaths, 180 serious burn injuries, and 2,100 burned vehicles each year. It calculated that it would have to pay $200,000 per death, $67,000 per injury, and $700 per vehicle, for a total of $49.5 million. However, the cost of saving lives and injuries ran even higher: alterations would cost $11 per car or truck, which added up to $137 million per year. Essentially, Ford argued before the government that it would be cheaper just to let their customers burn!

Lesson?  If you build something that is dangerous, and try to cover it up, don’t expect a group hug when it becomes public.  The “Big Three” had these problems in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.  Poor safety, deaths, poor quality, cars that rusted on the showroom floor, and poor assembly contributed much to the decline of Detroit.  The causes?  Poor management, poor engineering, union interference and outright sabotage, all caused too many Americans to lose faith in the US auto industry.   The market took its vengeance on them, and only in the last few years have they begun to regain the trust of the public (Well, at least until two of the big three became part of gubbermint motors).  It’ll be interesting to see where the current situation leaves Toyota.

  • Don

    I dunno Matt. I still think the Pinto is a better looking car…

    • Sorry dude, I really hated Fords of the 70’s. They just looked weird. I’ve always been a GM guy, but that’s out the window now. I am trying to get used to being a Ford guy.

      • Don

        My first car was a ’71 Ford LTD with a massive 400 cubic inch Cleveland (essentially a 351 Cleveland Mustang motor stroked out by the factory, hence the 351M designation). It was an awesomely powerful car and surprisingly my ’03 Dodge Dakota with a V6 gets worse mileage than it did.

        I agree, post ’72 was bad for Detroit design. Not only Ford, but Dodge and Chevy….anyone remember the Vega? lol

        I do like some of the new cars coming out of Detroit now, especially the retro look cars, Mustang, Camaro, Challenger and Charger. But the Fusion by Ford is pretty cool and the new Taurus.

        • I reference the Vega, but not by name. Cars that rusted on the showroom floor and all.

          I did have a 78 Thunderbird with a 351 M. It was pretty doggy.

          • Don

            For it to have had more get up and go, it would have had to be Pre-’72.

          • True, they did start tuning the engines for unleaded gas. Lower compression…yuk! A lot of the thing with 72 is statistical. I know Gm went from gross HP to net HP. It caused the quoted HP to go down from 10-20%. Not that they were all that honest with HP back then anyway.

  • Good comparison. All I know is Ford gets my money forever now.

    • I agree. As much as it pains me. They are good cars, and are NOT owned by the gubbermint.

  • After Tammy’s recent accident that totaled out our 2003 Chevrolet Venture van, we have purchased a 2008 Ford Edge. Very nice vehicle and on a road trip this weekend, about 190 miles round trip in the hills and curves, it averaged 19.5 MPG. I didn’t think that was bad at all.