Was transport chief pushing 'buy American'?

LaHood backs off of a suggestion that owners of recalled Toyotas stop driving the cars. What was behind the remark?

By Kim Peterson Feb 3, 2010 4:01PM
It's pretty shocking when the U.S. transportation secretary urges Americans to stop driving their recalled cars.

But that's what Ray LaHood did on Wednesday, although he later backed off and called his comments "obviously a misstatement." He meant to say that Toyota (TM) owners should take their cars to dealerships for examination. Or so he claims.

How do you mess up something like that? That's a pretty damaging thing to say, even for a company like Toyota, which has already done plenty to damage its reputation. Is there something more nefarious going on here?

The Zero Hedge blog suggests that the government is jumping all over Toyota as a way to encourage people to buy American cars.

The comment was "a de facto endorsement of buy American, and not just any American, but cars made by bankrupt and spun off automakers, in which the country has a major equity stake in via TARP and loan facilities."

So the transportation secretary disses Toyota to boost U.S. automakers and help the government recoup its TARP money? Hmm. That's crazy -- or is it crazy like a fox?

Let's hear more from the black helicopter folks at Zero Hedge:

As everyone knows, Cash For Clunkers was a benefit exclusively to Japanese automakers, with Ford barely sneaking into a top 5 spot for cars sold. Well, now it's time for Uncle Sam to demand his pound of flesh; if that involves a "recall" and a huge hit to Toyota's sales and market cap, so be it.

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