Tom Friedman, The World Is Flat author and globalization guru, seems to think Toyota has dropped the ball on fuel efficiency in his latest New York Times op-ed piece.
Toyota, along with the Detroit Three automakers GM, Ford and Chrysler, is lobbying against a Senate bill calling for tougher mileage standards. This is not something new, as virtually every time the auto industry is asked to do something that'll cost them money up front, they'll object for any number of reasons (but mostly, because it'll cost them money up front).
Friedman, in his inimitable manner, suggests that by pairing up with the beleagured Used-To-Be-Big Three, Toyota is committing suicide, damaging its reputation as an enviro-friendly green-machine maker and instead singing the same sob song the U.S. carmakers have been singing for decades, by postponing the more efficient vehicles for a couple of years.
Frankly, I don't see Toyota's reputation taking a hit at all on this issue, or at least not one that'll stick. The Prius is a fait accompli, so it's not like the company hasn't already done the hard work on innovation. I don't see this as a manufacturing issue at all; rather, it's pure politics, plain and simple.