The single “wire fraud” count also covers Toyota’s supposed reluctance to recognize a “sticky pedal” problem—though the “sticky pedal” clearly emerged because Toyota ransacked its files for any “defect” it could “fix” in order to calm a public hysteria. To this day, no accidents or deaths have been tied to the sticky pedal.
Never mind that extensively documented coverup Toyota just admitted committing, how many scare quotes can fit into two paragraphs? I count six, plus a “panic,” a “supposedly,” a “supposed,” a deceptive framing, and a red herring.
Look closer at Jenkins’s line about “recalled floor mats in certain Toyota and Lexus vehicles,” a classic example of Wall Street Journal editorial page misdirection. This wasn’t just about floormats. It was about pedal design, as Toyota itself admits and which it has long since fixed. And to say that Toyota did the right thing by recalling “certain” vehicles in 2007 is nonsense. It recalled all of 55,000 cars, and under duress. The final figure, after the scandal broke? More than 10 million cars recalled from 2009 to 2011, replacing floormats and reconfiguring the pedals.
It’s just bizarre, given what we know today, that Jenkins claims—contrary to the statement of facts that Toyota itself signed—that Toyota went scrambling to find a defect to shut up the panic. That defect was well known to Toyota, again, by its own admission, a year before the crash that kicked off the uproar.
Doubling down, Jenkins then takes this shot at the Los Angeles Times, which led the reporting on the Toyota’s sudden-acceleration story:
After the horrific San Diego floor-mat crash, the Los Angeles Times fed the furor with a series of articles pushing the electronic bug theory. For a laugh, check out its stories this week on the Toyota settlement in which the paper continues to pat itself on the back for its “investigation” even while acknowledging that, aside from two floor-mat crashes, driver error is the only explanation ever found for Toyota sudden-acceleration mishaps.
Needing a laugh, I went searching for these stories that acknowledged only two floor-mat crashes. I couldn’t find them. I did find that the LAT reported that Toyota has agreed to settle 131 injury and wrongful death cases so far with at least 300 more in the works. It also reported that Toyota admits to five deaths, while the Nader-founded Center for Auto Safety estimates there were hundreds of injuries and deaths.
The Jenkins column wasn’t even the most misleading WSJ piece. That title goes to Cato’s Walter Olson, who wrote this:
The Justice Department’s Unjust Toyota Fine
Cost of safety violations: 0. Cost of paperwork violations: $1.2 billion.
The LAT’s Michael Hiltzik writing earlier on a different subject, talked about agnotology, the cultural production of ignorance. That’s what’s going on at The Wall Street Journal editorial page.