Toyota May be Entering Death Spiral

As Akio Toyoda gives in to pressure to testify before the House Oversight Committee, it appears that Toyota is entering a death spiral.

Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s embattled chief executive, agreed to appear before a US House Oversight Committee which is investigating his company's recall over over 8 million cars.  Having previously turned down the committee's formal request, Toyoda said “I look forward to speaking directly with Congress and the American people".

Toyoda's change of heart came as the  as the House oversight committee issued a subpoena for documents that are being held by Dimitrios Biller, Toyota’s managing counsel from 2003 to 2007.  Biller has accused Toyota in court of hiding evidence of car defects from safety officials and consumers, and had been previously barred by injunction from publicly disclosing confidential documents in his possession.  The House subpoena supersedes Toyota's injunction.

This is quickly moving from a nuisance to the world's most successsful car manufacturer to a significant problem which is now undermining the entire company.  The subpoena for Biller's records seems to have the company so worried that it is reversing its position on its Chief's testifying in the US.   They are now so disturbed that they are going to roll the dice by sending Toyoda, who does not speaking English, to a hearing that the entire country will be watching.

This is a "no win" situation for Toyota.  Many car owners will make the decision on the basis of records that will be made public and Toyoda's testimony to never purchase a Toyota or Lexus product again.  Others like me have already made that decision.

They will be studying this one in business school for years.  Not sure what Toyota could have done differently.

Full disclosure: I drive a Lexus and I'm short the stock.

Reviews

  • Rick Belda

    February 22, 2010

    The only thing Congress realizes is that the US taxpayer owns GM so if they want to get reelected, they should pounce on anything, including Biller's testimony. The article is correct that this could be easily turn from a bad development to a PR nightmare for Toyota.

  • Mike

    February 19, 2010

    Mr. Biller's documents were part of a lawsuit against Toyota, which was dropped because of a lack of evidence:

    http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/28/lawyer-withdraws-cases-against-toyota

    I wonder if Congress will realize that this person has been discredited already?

  • Sol Nasisi

    February 19, 2010

    Toyota will be a good buy soon, it not now. There's no death spiral. For all of the recalls, Toyota reaffirmed that it would meet its earning projections. Banks go into death spirals, not profitable manufacturing companies.

    In six months this will be over and Toyota will be back on top. In the meantime, I bet you can get a good price on a Toyota.

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