Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Dad and Toyota

Image from the movie Gung Hu, available here at IMDB.
My father only bought American cars. He thought imports, primarily the asian ones, were not as safe or reliable. He used to tell stories that I have never attempted to verify about people suffering from kidney failure because the shocks on their Toyota trucks were so bad.

But at the time, the Asian auto industry, especially Toyota, was in full upswing. When it seemed everyone around us was buying Honda minivans, and those Toyota 4Runner and those boxy Tercels were all but ubiquitous, my family always had GMC trucks. To his credit, we did live in the snow, and the one we bought in 1985 still gets my mom around town.

But I remember thinking at the time that my dad was behind the times. It seemed to be the general consensus that the US auto industry that was having quality-control problems, and that you actually got more for your money if you bought an import. I couldn't really tell if my dad was just afraid at the time that the Japanese would take over the auto industry, or if he really thought American cars were better. Despite my father, the ascent of the Asian auto industry, and especially the Japanese car maker Toyota, seemed unstoppable.

Between last year's bailout of the US auto industry and now the abrupt decline of Toyota, I am just baffled at what has happened to car makers.

I watched the beginning of the testimony this morning, and it was awkward, but I saw our congress members not really realizing (as many Americans didn't in the 1980s) that the Japanese culture is significantly different from our own. In one exchange some representative seemed to berate Mr. Toyoda for not seeming to show adequate remorse for those who had lost their lives in Toyota vehicles. The Japanese though, are known to show little emotion, especially in formal situations. If anything though, I thought the fact that this congressman, who didn't know any of the victims personally, was being a bit brazen by judging the adequacy of someone else's remorse for his own political shots.

I don't really have any interesting insight so much, but as I watched this testimony this morning, while on the treadmill, I just felt that this whole thing keeps going around in cycles.