House: Obama protected GM, made example of Toyota in recall dramas?

House: Obama protected GM, made example of Toyota in recall dramas?

Did the Obama administration purposefully hide problems with GM cars? Were they panicked that a massive recall of GM products would undermine one of President Obama’s most self-congratulatory campaign themes – that he “saved” Detroit’s auto industry?

This is a tale of two car companies: GM, shining star in President Obama’s reelection galaxy, and Toyota, which became political fodder.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced two days ago that it would undertake an investigation into why it took GM until quite recently to address a decade of complaints about stalling problems with several car models, and why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not demand a recall of the troubled lines earlier on.  Reports of unexpected stalling in Chevy Cobalts began to trickle in as early as 2003 when 7 incidents were relayed to NHTSA, according to The New York Times. …

In March 2010, Congress held showy hearings on the Toyota safety issues. In his opening statement, Senator Rockefeller from West Virginia boasted, “We have dedicated an entire day – we’ve never done that before that I can remember – to one subject…” – reviewing the Toyota affair. Senator Mark Pryor used his opening statement to reassure listeners that “this is not a witch hunt.” All this – even though it was still not clear that Toyota’s vehicles were defective.

Meanwhile, back in Detroit, evidence of problems in various GM cars – and especially the Chevy Cobalts — continued to mount. To date, the auto maker has reported 13 deaths   related to sudden deceleration in various GM models. While the government is now questioning why the Detroit firm delayed initiating a recall of the troubled vehicles, one can also challenge NHTSA’s hands-off attitude. …

According to The Times, there were only 260 complaints [about GM cars] specifically mentioning stalling, but almost 8,000 reports of problems that could be tied to the same defect – plenty of complaints to alert safety watchdogs. In all, the vehicles recalled have been involved in 78 deaths and 1,581 injuries.
Finally, last month, GM initiated a recall of 1.6 million Chevy Cobalts, Saturns, and Pontiac G-5s for faulty ignition switches; NHTSA has (finally) launched a widespread investigation, threatening civil and never-before levied criminal penalties.

Why would the Obama administration sanction such a tough crackdown on Toyota, while leaving GM in peace?

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