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"There But For The Grace Of God Go I"

In business, there's long been an unwritten rule: competition is good, capitalizing on the mistakes and misfortunes of rivals is good, but certain major problems of your competitors is simply not done. It's not only unethical and tacky, but just plain common sense.

When an airline has a crash, the other airlines don't immediately put out ads touting their safety records.

When a pharmaceutical company has a scare with one of its medications, others don't come out with ads plugging their own presumably safer products.

When a bank is robbed, other banks don't make announcements about their security.

And the reason is simple: such things happen in business. Sooner or later, these kinds of disasters hit all companies. And bragging about how it didn't happen to you this time is begging people to remember that when it eventually does happen to you.

That's a lesson that most anyone who's spent a bit of time in the private sector learns. Fortunately, it's one that's most often passed on by word, not by experience -- because it's a painful as hell lesson to learn.

That's a lesson that's never been learned by the current owners of two of our biggest companies. Instead, the lesson they live by is "never let a crisis go to waste."

In this case, it's the Obama administration, owners of General Motors and Chrysler, who are using the event of Toyota's recent quality issues to do everything they can to scare Toyota owners away from their products -- and, presumably, towards the products put out by the companies the government owns.

In the old days, this would be considered a conflict of interest. The government is supposed to be a neutral arbiter, an impartial overseer who administers the laws and regulations that cover the entire industry without bias. But here, they have a clear stake in seeing certain parties succeed -- and, by implication, others not do so well.

It's all too predictable -- when a crew of career political hacks with cutthroat instincts ("the Chicago Way") gets involved (almost all of them for the first time) in the private sector, they're going to make mistakes. Stupid mistakes. Rookie mistakes.

But when these rookies hold the reins of political power, the consequences of such blunders have hefty consequences.

afterword: Just as I finished this article, I noticed that my colleague Michael Laprarie had a similar piece. Fortunately, there is enough difference between our pieces that I don't have to trash this posting.


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Comments (17)

Read "Airframe" by Michael ... (Below threshold)

Read "Airframe" by Michael Crichton. The press is being used by the Obama administration to bludgeon Toyota. The Japanese will not take kindly to this. American workers are being hurt by this, of course Big ears doesn't care since they're not union workers.

god bless our troops,

This still won't change thi... (Below threshold)

This still won't change things for many folks.

After buying GM and Chrysler vehicles for over 30 years, 11 vehicles in total, I will never purchase one again as long as they are owned by the Government and UAW. Nope, go Government Motors vehicles for me.

My next truck will be a Ford, the first one in my life.

This would have happened ev... (Below threshold)

This would have happened even if the feds hadn't taken over GM and Chrysler... and it would have happened in a GOP Administration.

There's nothing that bureaucrats like more than the opportunity to flex their muscle, and they're doing it. Bash some company as being insensitive to public safety, great! Accuse them of willfully ignoring the risks, even better! And it doesn't matter if the initial accusations are later proven wrong or overblown, the important thing for these bureaucrats is that they show the public that the guardians of public safety are on top of things and, after all, isn't it better to be safe than sorry?

steve,you are abso... (Below threshold)


you are absolutely correct that this recall would have happened either way. But in a McCain admin do you think a clown like LaHood would be allowed in front of a mic to spout nonsense ?
rookies ... led by a rookie con man ...


Hallelujah!!! Unemployment ... (Below threshold)
recoverd liberal democrat:

Hallelujah!!! Unemployment is 9.7!!! We're saved!!!
Actually the Labor Dept. got the "word". The unemployment number will start coming down each month between now and Nov. Even if it's just a tenth of a point. Do what it takes to jumble the numbers to make it happen. Got it!!

Good luck with that TexBob.... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

Good luck with that TexBob. It might be a good idea to attach some strong magnets to the rear bumper to catch the parts that fall off. I once owned a Ford truck so I speak from experience. I also have a friend who continues to buy Ford trucks and he continues to spend thousands each year on repairs-- I can't figure that out.

My next truck will be a Tundra.

Do the safety issues at Toy... (Below threshold)

Do the safety issues at Toyota make me want to buy American? Uhhh, no. This is a smear campaign by the Administration and the media is as usual carrying their water.

Go Honda!

F=FixO=OrR=Re... (Below threshold)


That said, I will never purchase another GM product. I don't trust the UAW or teh gummint.
Just bought my first (and used) Ford Ranger. It would have been a Toyota crew cab if I had the $$.
At this point, I don't trust anything I see in print or on TV (maybe 50% of what Fox carries).

BTW, I remember the daily wall to wall coverage of the crash and burn US made Ford Pinto way back when.

On a related note:=<... (Below threshold)

On a related note:
MADDOW: As I understand it, your job is very narrowly defined by Congress. You are to set executive pay limits at companies that received the most bailout money and only while they still have bailout money outstanding, is that right?

FEINBERG: That's exactly right. That's the way the statute reads. I started with seven companies. Bank of America and Citigroup repaid the taxpayer. That was my primary objective under the law. They're out. In 2010 I'm down to five companies -- AIG, GM, GMAC, Chrysler and Chrysler Financial.

Wait, I thought it was BIG BANKS and WALL STREET that need special taxes so we get our money back...GM, GMAC, Chrysler, Chrysler Financial...hmm...those sound familiar...

"I also have a friend who c... (Below threshold)

"I also have a friend who continues to buy Ford trucks and he continues to spend thousands each year on repairs."
6. Posted by P. Bunyan

LOL! You people just lie about everything!
"Thousands?!?" "Each year?!" *snort*

Actually, I like GM but I do have a '95 F-250, and Fords ARE known for hinky ignitions switches. But! The starter solenoid is under the hood on Fords as opposed to under the BODY on GMs. Long-short: You can get'er going with a Ford, as opposed to calling a tow truck or risking a freak accident with a GM.


"I also have a friend wh... (Below threshold)

"I also have a friend who continues to buy Ford trucks and he continues to spend thousands each year on repairs."
6. Posted by P. Bunyan

LOL! You people just lie about everything!
"Thousands?!?" "Each year?!" *snort*

Said friend could own a small business with a small fleet of Ford trucks. If the business owned, say, 6 trucks, that's $500 per vehicle per year. Not an unimaginable amount.

No, it's not what Bunyan said. But it's entirely consistent with what he did say, and an entirely reasonable extrapolation from what he did say -- unless, of course, you're an asshole who jumps on any possibility to call someone a liar.

Not that I'm pointing any fingers...


"....unless, of course, you... (Below threshold)

"....unless, of course, you're an asshole who jumps on any possibility to call someone a liar."

This is the very first post that I've ever called someone a liar. Because the comment I responded to was, let us say, Tall.

As for your fleet sales theory, use your head, Jay Tea. Fleet sold "as is"??? From Irish gypsies? Nope.

I agree with TexBob (#2).<b... (Below threshold)

I agree with TexBob (#2).
We have always bought GM trucks and cars for our personal use and construction company and they have always been quality vehicles.

We will drive the GMs we have now until they no longer funtion and then we will be FORD customers. That is, until the government does something to put them out of business.

RE #10 & 11,No, it... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

RE #10 & 11,

No, it's just one truck at a time. And yes I may have exaggerated a little. He buys them new and in the first year or so most of the repairs are under warranty, so he doesn't have to pay $1000's for the first 36K miles. Last year he had to put a new engine in his 120K mile truck which cost around $3000 (he found a used 20K mile engine from a crash or it would have been over $6000). The year before his 4 WD tranfer case went out and that was about $1500 to repair. The year before that it was the automatic leveling suspension which IIRC was around $2000 to replace (couldn't be repaired), but that may still have been under warranty--I'm not sure. And those are just the major repairs that I know about and remember-- there have been a lot more little things and likely things he never told me about. This is just his latest Ford. His previous trucks had similiar records as did the one I owned back in the 80's.

But then again being called a liar by BryanD is actually a compliment. So thanks for the complement Bryan, you nut case who believes in every single conspiracy theory ever conceived.

Say Bryan, didn't you hear that the illuminatti are going to lock up all the blog commenters in the secret underground prisions they're cutting into the rock under the Rocky Mountains using alien technology stolen by the government? You'd better stay away from blogs or they're gonna come after you!

Bush I and II had clowns wo... (Below threshold)

Bush I and II had clowns working for them, as Reagan did before that. It's not a GOP or Democratic thing, it just comes down to bureaucrats looking for their moment of glory.

"When a pharmaceutical comp... (Below threshold)

"When a pharmaceutical company has a scare with one of its medications, others don't come out with ads plugging their own presumably safer products."

You must be tuning-out when the drug ads come on TV.

I've owned 4 Fords in the l... (Below threshold)

I've owned 4 Fords in the last 10 years (still own 3 of them), and mechanically, they've been tanks. The oldest is now 11, with 200k miles, and the only non-wear repair it's needed was a new Ox sensor. OK, that is also wear, I suppose.
The one I don't still have, a 150 I dearly loved, but it had to go in for some little BS things like the cord that runs from the transmision to the dash to indicate what gear you are in. I didn't notice that it had snapped until a valet in the city took the keys and got confused.






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