The governors of Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky and Mississippi — all states that are home to Toyota plants — on Wednesday (Feb. 10) defended the Japanese automaker amid its worldwide recall of millions of cars.
Republicans Bob Riley of Alabama, Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Haley Barbour of Mississippi, along with Democrat Steve Beshear of Kentucky, sent a letter to congressional representatives ahead of hearings they plan to hold on Toyota's recall, The Detroit News reported . The governors took exception to recent critical statements made by federal officials about Toyota's response to the problems discovered with its vehicles, which include faulty brakes and unexpected acceleration.
The governors wrote that "despite the federal government's obvious conflict of interest because of its huge financial stake in some of Toyota's competitors" — a reference to Washington's bailout of American carmakers last year — "it has spoken out against Toyota, including statements U.S. government officials have later been forced to retract."
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood earlier this month said Toyota owners should not drive their cars until they have been repaired, though he later backed away from that statement, the Northwest Indiana Times reported .
In their letter, the governors praised Toyota, which they said "identified the problems, found solutions and delivered those solutions to its dealers worldwide" in the wake of a recall of nearly 8.5 million cars around the globe.
The Associated Press noted that the letter did not include signatures from the governor of California, where Toyota has its North American headquarters, or Texas and West Virginia, where it has manufacturing plants. But the AP reported that Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) are likely to write their own letters.
The fragile economy — and the need to keep jobs — underscores the governors' efforts to maintain strong relations with Toyota.
"In Mississippi, Toyota is a valuable partner in building a highly skilled, high-tech workforce," a spokeswoman for Barbour told the AP. "Governor Barbour wanted to convey his confidence in the auto maker and in Toyota's beginning operations in Mississippi when market conditions improve."