Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Poor Polish Lawyer From Detroit Takes Toyota to Task

Toyota North America President James Lentz made the most heart-felt and earnest apology, yet, from any Toyota executive as he appeared before a U.S. Congressional Committee in Washington, DC Tuesday.

He was grilled after Rhonda Smith, of Sevierville, Tenn., said "Shame on you, Toyota," at the same congressional hearing. Her Lexus had accelerated out of control for several miles before she got it stopped. She and her husband told the panel Toyota sent them a form letter and discounted her harrowing experience.

When Lentz began his remarks, he said, "I'm embarrassed for what happened." Lentz added, "I want her and her husband to feel safe about driving our products."

Michigan Representative John Dingell launched into a list of questions prepared by his staff, and kept demanding "yes or no" answers to many questions that could not be answered yes or no.

At one point he told Lentz, "I'm just a poor Polish lawyer from Detroit" and asked for simple yes or no answers.

If I had been Lentz, I would have been tempted to respond, "I know your Polish and a lawyer, but I doubt your poor!" If I had been counseling Lentz, I would have died on the spot, if he had said what I would have been tempted to say.

Some of the questioning was good and tough. Some was mean-spirited. Some of the questioning was political posturing.

What Lentz did well, was to keep calm, not over-react to the baiting questions, and allowed his humanness to show at times. He came close to tearing up, at one point, when he talked about losing a relative in an automobile crash, and how he knew the pain of such a tragic event.

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