Revelations from the U.S. Government’s Heavy Fining of Toyota

On April 5, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it intends to fine Toyota Motor Company up to $16.4 million for its massive recall. This would be the largest fine to date that the U.S. government has issued to an automotive company (April 6, Xinhua Net).

Toyota Motors’ “Recall-gate” caused a major uproar. As the first country to “crusade” against Toyota, so far, the U.S. is unwilling to take off the gloves. Along with the U.S. government seeking justice for Toyota car owners and fighting for compensation, they “invited” the head of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, to come to the United States to attend the Toyota hearings. U.S. congressmen and government officials at the hearing were glaring angrily, making the head of Toyota, a grown man, openly weep. In the “recall-gate,” it became obvious that the power of the protection of consumer interests of both buyers of Toyota cars and American car owners is greater than in other countries.

This “astronomical” $16.4 million penalty and high fines are well-founded. 1. There was evidence that Toyota Motors had failed to carry out its legal obligations. 2. There was a deliberate cover-up for several months, without any steps to protect tens of thousands of drivers and their families. 3. There are grounds for “death penalty” charges. 4. Even after the fine, they will continue to investigate, paying close attention to whether Toyota has made other legal violations.

After the Toyota issue broke out, the U.S. government played a major role in the auto recall. Public opinion shows that the U.S. is deliberately making a show of power by pressuring Toyota and seeking to promote its domestic automakers following the financial crisis. However, the U.S. is using its national power to fight the mighty Toyota and protect its own consumers. Globally, Toyota recalled an estimated 8.5 million cars, of which 6 million, or 70 percent of the total amount recalled, were in the United States. Aside from Toyota’s high sales in the U.S., the U.S. government’s harsh attack has little to do with the recall.

This shows us that, under the circumstances of growing globalization, an increasingly interconnected economic world and boundaryless circulation of commodities, countries are increasingly getting involved in conflicts of interest over their national products. On the side of protecting interests, the country’s consumers obviously have no way to contend with multinationals by going at it alone; hence the need for the support of state power. In China, Japanese products entered the market on a large scale starting in the 1980s, but in recent years, problems with Japanese products have become increasingly common and violations of consumer rights have be increasing nonstop. However, successful cases of protecting Chinese consumer rights are extremely rare, which is food for thought.

Therefore, the government’s approach to foreign products should be to treat domestic products equally and without discrimination, and when they are protecting the rights and interests of their own consumers, they should do so proactively. For example, when facing powerful Toyota Motors, protecting domestic consumers alone would not shake Toyota; however the government must come out to negotiate to ask for justice on behalf of the consumers, fight for compensation and the repair of vehicles. As of late, Toyota in China has recalled only a few hundred thousand vehicles, mainly the RAV4 model, but they truly should recall far more than this amount. Of course, protecting national consumer interest should still start with legislation. Only with laws to follow can we continue to increase efforts to safeguard the interests of the domestic consumer.

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