So, it was all eyes on Toyota, then, as the March US sales results came out. They tanked, right? Wrong. Clink enough incentive gold coin under the nose of any potential new car buyer in any market (ref. China) and he or she will reach for the plastic. And so it proved. Sales up 35.3% over March 2009 and a whopping 86.8% over the recall-infested February when some cars had to be withdrawn, temporarily, from sale.

There were also good results for GM, which led the US incentive spend race last month, and bad news only, really, for Chrysler. A little more good GM news: 100 people back at work at Warren Transmission.

Thereafter, the news this week, at least for Toyota, was not quite so good. First, on Tuesday, came reports of US safety regulators proposing a hefty US$16.4m fine because the automaker delayed notifying Authority of its ‘sticky gas pedal issue’. As we reported, the Japanese government was diplomatic and official Toyota US reaction was muted beyond an official statement acknowledging the government proposal. Various reports filtered out later in the week suggesting the automaker might – or might not – contest the fine; there’s no definite outcome as we reach the weekend.

Then a small bombshell hit. As was widely reported, news media got to see papers Toyota submitted to the US government which included an email between top automaker officials debating whether to ‘come clean’ over the sticky pedals, an issue which, just-auto understands, had first been identified here in the UK, and there had been a European remedy in the works months before Toyota finally announced a US recall at the end of January.

I strongly suspect this ‘what did they know and when did they know it?’ issue will run on a bit yet and won’t really help consumers’ perception of an automaker already under fire for how it has handled these huge recalls. The fact that the company, suppliers, dealers and staff subsequently knuckled down to make an impressive go of the herculean task of repairing millions of potentially faulty gas pedal assemblies in several key markets, with many dealers operating extended or even 24/7 hours, will probably have been overlooked in the rush to report the more sensational aspects that seem to keep cropping up.

No stranger itself to recalls, GM announced it would fit a brake override system to most models worldwide by the end of 2012.

Lucklily, thanks to two certain gentlemen named Ghosn and Zetsche, we, here in Europe at least, had something else to scrutinise following the short-notice calling of a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday morning. Readallaboutit here. As always, the devil is in how the details will pan out but the broad outline seems sensible and has been generally well received.

Now, of course, the question is who will be next to ally in some fashion? Honda has been suggested but with who? Most observers seem to have forgotten the largely successful arrangement with MG Rover (RIP) here in the UK, terminated rather abruptly by the British government in favour of BMW late in the 90s. And we know how that turned out. And we could also mention the words Daimler and Chrysler…

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts
Deputy/News Editor