Sunday, January 31, 2010

Turnabout isn't Fair Play?

I was surprised to hear a well known automotive insider comment Friday that Ford and GM were being "predatory" in their attempts to take advantage of the massive Toyota recall in order to sell domestic cars. Why not? The quality issue - which the domestics have fought for years and sometimes rightly so - has been one of Toyota's key selling points. From a PR perspective, where timing is everything, why would any car company, regardless of country of origin, not step up to the plate and tout its products?

I feel a personal connection to this developing story because I was once the owner of a Lexus ES-350. I had three unexplained acceleration experiences, the scariest of which occurred on 1-75 north in the winter of 2008. I was driving my then 14 year-old daughter, Lucie, and her best friend skiing at Pine Knob. Suddenly, the car lurched past 70 to 85 and 90. I wish I could say I remained calm, but I'd be lying. I was screaming for the girls not to worry because I'd figure this out, but I had no idea what was happening. Did I hit the cruise control by mistake? How could I stop the car, given that using the brake was producing zero results? I think I must have jimmied the floor mat in my frenzy to try something, anything, to slow the car down. The car then resumed normal speed and we survived unscathed.

It deeply concerns me that this dangerous acceleration problem has been identified in 8 Toyota models, especially with one of my sisters driving an Avalon and another a brand new RAV 4. The problem needs to be resolved immediately. In the meantime, with car safety top of mind, manufacturers with cars with no known safety issues do need to tell their story loud and often. (By the way, I love my 2009 Lincoln MKZ.)

It's About TIME

A belated thank you to TIME magazine and its other national titles for focusing on Detroit and surrounding areas for an extended period. I heard TIME editor Ann S. Moore speak at an INFORUM event on January 15th and it was hard not to feel a sense of pride in Detroit, both from the success this region has historically known and the potential to innovate our way back to the top again.