Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pretzel logic as an element in willful blindness--and how to report the straight truth

Tasty-looking. But twisted.

Yesterday, Sean Kane wrote one of the best blog posts ever on the Safety Research and Strategies website. He sets out some of the key points of the sorry, ongoing tale of consumer woe caused by the massively twisted "regulatory partnership" between NHTSA and Toyota, where pretzel logic prevails on the cause diagnosis for any and every SUA incident. No matter the evidence, this twisted logic always seems to produce a putative cause that is not electronic.

Sean's key question: If NHTSA doesn't have the brain power or the will to accurately pinpoint the causes of SUA incidents, or a defect, and if Independent Monitor David Kelley is not tasked with finding any "new, officially recognized" SUA related defects, but only tasked with determining Toyota's compliance with applicable laws and its DPA, then to what address can American consumers report SUA incidents, and why report them at all?

Sean is in the habit of telling the truth, harsh as that truth may be. So, to our sorrow, he does not offer a good answer to this question. He recommends that SUA victims report incidents to NHTSA and to Mr. Kelley anyway, despite the likely futility in the short term, because eventually it might do some good to have a record of events.

But maybe there is an answer. I suggest that perhaps Mr. Kelley might not need to establish an official government recognition of a defect. All he (and the prosecutors who stand behind him) may need to see is that Toyota was and still is willfully blind to the facts of Toyota's ongoing consumer fraud. What could happen if Mr. Kelley learned of a mountain of facts to which Toyota and, by inference, its executives, are obviously willfully blind? We don't really need NHTSA's official blessing on facts before they are recognized as facts, do we? Just because the DOJ cravenly relied on NHTSA (and Toyota's defense counsel) last time, it does not necessarily follow that they must rely on them this time. Does it? Remember, the federal judges in the SD NY, and even Eric Holder, are not at all happy that the DOJ has not been prosecuting executives, and they have been pretty vocal about that. Maybe prosecutors will listen carefully if enough facts are presented.

It bears noting that Toyota's officers have the power to learn any fact that is known within the company, and that includes driver descriptions of their SUA incidents, such as Mr. Pepski's and Mrs. Ruginis'. Am I correct in understanding that drivers are testifying? That is, their testimony can be taken seriously. If you are an SUA victim, I join with Sean in urging you to report your incident and Toyota's response.  Report early, thoroughly, if possible in the form of an affidavit written with the help of an attorney, and as many times as possible if no response is forthcoming. Best to do it in writing, but if you call, take notes.

Report to your dealer, to Jim Lentz at Toyota Motor [important!], to Mr. Kelley, and to NHTSA.

ToyotaMonitor [at]

Jim_Lentz [at]


Margaret Heffernan wrote a book on willful blindness. Its Amazon page is here. Two important quotes from the book's introduction:

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