Empty barrel politics …

Well, from time-to-time, Thomas Friedman just gets something right and he can turn a good phrase on occasion.  When it comes to the automakers, Friedman is noting that they are followin empty-barrel politics, conniving to have

Michigan lawmakers year after year shielding Detroit from pressure to innovate on higher mileage standards, even though Detroit’s failure to sell more energy-efficient vehicles has clearly contributed to its brush with bankruptcy, its loss of market share to Toyota and Honda — whose fleets beat all U.S. automakers in fuel economy in 2007 — and its loss of jobs.  

And well, as noted in Astroturfing to fight mileage standards, the auto firms are working hard to give these politicians coverage. 

What is too rarely acknowledged or realized is that this is not just the big three. In fact, Toyota is complicit (even leading) in this effort. As discussed in Astroturfing to fight mileage standards, Toyota is fighting alongside Detroit to keep down increases in mileage standards.

“Toyota wants to keep its green halo and beat G.M. in the big trucks, too,” said Deron Lovaas, vehicles expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As the world’s largest automaker and inventor of the best-selling hybrid car, Toyota has a responsibility to lead, follow or get out of the way as Congress debates the first substantial fuel-economy boost in decades. Shamefully, Toyota has joined forces with older automakers that are getting their lunch handed to them in the marketplace, in part because they’ve consistently shunned fuel efficiency.”

Toyota is using its Prius as coverage for huge trucks, aiming to own the full range of America’s bulging car market. 

Have to say that I agree with Friedman

Sad. If Toyota were to take the lead on this front, it could enhance its own reputation and spur the whole U.S. auto industry to become more globally competitive. Hey, Toyota, if you are going to become the biggest U.S. automaker, could you at least bring to America your best practices — the ones that made you the world leader — instead of prolonging our worst practices? We have enough people helping us commit suicide.

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