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Sentence first, verdict afterwards

Posted by Richard on July 16, 2010

Earlier in the week, anonymous sources in the Dept. of Transportation leaked the data recorder findings from "sudden acceleration" Toyotas. Just as many of us predicted, and just as in the 1989 Audi 5000 "sudden acceleration" brouhaha, it turns out that the cause of the acceleration was … stepping on the accelerator!

In all of the dozens of cases, the throttle was wide open and the brakes were never applied. No surprise there — Car & Driver demonstrated last December that if you mash both the accelerator and the brakes, the brakes win. Every time. Even in a 540-hp Roush Stage 3 Mustang.

Thursday evening, Rick Manning of Americans for Limited Government raised the question of the government's motives in punishing Toyota before the evidence was in: 

Just six months ago, the Obama Administration’s public relations machine was in full gear deriding Toyota for putting consumers at risk, fining them more than $16 million, and declaring Toyota guilty for everyone in the world to hear. Lawsuits were filed, Congressional hearings were held, and most importantly Toyotas went unsold, while GM sales increased.

Now, it looks like this sudden acceleration problem was caused by, get this, drivers hitting the accelerator pedal rather than the brake, and Toyota owners not being smart enough to keep their floor mats from underneath the accelerator, causing it to stick in the fully-engaged position.

I guess that the government’s next step will be to require a safety yellow sticker on every dashboard that says, “Warning: Pressing down on the accelerator will result on sudden acceleration.”

The real issue here is that the very motives of the government are in question in publicly convicting Toyota before any real evidence had been collected.

Was the rush to judgment based upon the Obama Administration’s general dislike for every business, or was it based upon the need to jumpstart the sales of General Motors vehicles?

We will never actually know the truth.

The government is supposed to be the impartial referee, and it's betting on the outcome of the game. How can there not be at least the appearance of impropriety?  

Now that their products have been exonerated, I wonder if the folks at Toyota will get their $16 million back. In any case, they have a right to echo Reagan's Labor Secretary, Ray Donovan. After being acquitted of the charges against him, Donovan famously asked "How do I get my reputation back?"

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