Wheel Genius: Four governors back Toyota, bash feds, over recall

Governors in four states with Toyota manufacturing operations are criticizing the federal government’s dealings with the automaker as the company grapples with recalls of millions of vehicles in the United States and abroad.

In a letter to Congressional leaders, the governors — of Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi and Alabama — cite several shortcomings of the federal response while also praising Toyota for its “exemplary citizenship” and as a “valuable friend.”

“Despite the federal government’s obvious conflict of interest because of its huge financial stake in some of Toyota’s competitors (indeed the federal government is a shareholder in many of Toyota’s competitors), it has spoken out against Toyota, including statements U.S. government officials have later been forced to retract,” the governors said, alluding both to the federal government’s bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler, and to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s comments that people should stop driving Toyotas, comments he quickly backed away from.

“These disturbing statements and hasty actions stand in marked contrast to their reaction to the astonishing 16.4 million recalls in the auto industry in 2009 … — many as serious as or more serious than the concerns Toyota is currently addressing,” the governors said.

The governors also said Toyota had “fallen victim to aggressive and questionable news coverage” of the recalls, “when the real story is how quickly Toyota identified the problems, found solutions, and delivered those solutions to its dealers worldwide.”

The governors ask lawmakers to consider Toyota’s “long history as a steward of safety and quality, as a valued employer across our nation, and of the need for a responsible and fair response from the federal government” when addressing the Toyota recalls during committee meetings.