Sunday, February 28, 2010

Latest Toyota Inquiries May Reveal Foul Play

NYTimes: Toyota Accused of Withholding Records;
TheIrishTimes: Toyota’s Troubles; Toyota Deliberately Held Documents, Towns Says.

Representative Edolphus Towns of New York made a statement Friday, suggesting that Toyota was guilty of withholding records harmful to them in a past court proceedings. In his statement Rep. Towns did not release the documents that would reinforce his accusations. The Rep. informant, a former member of Toyota’s in-house counsel, is currently contending his employment discharge with Toyota in court. These facts together raise questions about the merit of the Rep.’s claims, and have already drawn skepticism from many.

This latest accusation is only one of the difficulties Toyota has faced this year. Toyota has recalled around six million vehicles for various engineering concerns. The recall was officially made to deal with “unintended acceleration” as well as braking problems linked to at least thirty deaths in the U.S. Toyota has suffered with wavering consumer confidence as a result of the recall. Man consumers are now suspicious of Toyota’s regard for consumer safety and as a result sales on particular models have been plummeting.

The current controversy involving Rep. Towns involves what Toyota has named its “Book of Knowledge.” Toyota claims that this electronic database is where Toyota engineers keep information relating to the design of the vehicles as well as the records of vehicle trials. Rep. Towns claims that the database contains support for his accusations that Toyota knew of the instability of its products and did nothing to remedy them. A request for discovery regarding the book was made in another legal matter, and that request was denied. Toyota’s argument was that the book is protected under trade secret laws because it contains confidential information relating to Toyota’s business and inventions.

Discussion Questions:
1. Should Toyota be protected by trade secret laws so that the Book of Knowledge cannot be released? What could happen to Toyota if the book was uncovered?

2. How much do you think the American media has targeted Toyota’s recall due? Do you think this has anything to do with the American auto-industry’s demise?

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