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Independent Outside Consultant?

Toyota’s choice of an “independent” company to investigate its acceleration problem was as interesting as it was predictable. Toyota turned to Exponent, the company the auto industry has turned to for decades for one purpose: To “prove” there is no problem, whether there is a problem or not. Let’s look at Exponent’s credits:

  • Exponent has helped defend notoriously defective products for decades. While it jealously guards information about its benefactors, it has been forced to admit in lawsuits that it has been paid tens of millions of dollars by car companies alone. It likewise regularly defends polluters against claims their contaminants were injuring people.
  • It reportedly awards its employees based on “success” defined as helping win lawsuits.
  • It was hired to investigate Toyota speed control issues not by concerned engineers and managers, but by Toyota’s product defect defense lawyers. This will arguably allow Toyota to selectively disclose what it turns over to government investigators, and to hide anything it deems unhelpful by labeling it attorney work product.

We’ll report back when Toyota provides information answering one congressman’s question about how much money Toyota has paid Exponent over the years.
This is Toyota’s “independent” outside analysis? I do not think Toyota can point to a single company in the world less independent, or with less of a commitment to defending its client’s products, no matter what the facts.
- Stuart Ollanik
Related posting:
“Toyota’s ‘Independent’ Investigation Not So Independent,” Product Liability Blog Apr. 2, 2010

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