By Mira Oberman (AFP) – 8 hours ago
CHICAGO — The US transportation chief's public rebukes of Toyota's handling of a massive safety recall have raised eyebrows, given the US government's major stake in rivals General Motors and Chrysler.
"The optics are terrible because -- and this is what happens when a government owns a company - the two companies that are going to gain the most out of this are General Motors and Chrysler," said Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland's business school.
"But their behavior is consistent with the general policy of the US government, whether it's dealing with coffeemakers or cars."
Safety officials understand that product design mistakes are inevitable and will work to help companies correct the problem and alert consumers. But they will not tolerate a slow or weak response, Morici told AFP.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sat down with reporters Wednesday to lay out a timeline of how US officials had "pushed Toyota to take corrective actions" on its pedal problems since 2007.
The meeting came a day after he issued a statement accusing the Japanese automaker of dragging its feet on recalling vehicles in danger of sudden, unintended acceleration due to pedals which could get trapped under floor mats or become "sticky."
He also caused a brief panic when he told a congressional panel that owners of 5.3 million Toyota vehicles affected by the recalls should "stop driving" them.