Just read a post at Autoblog Green about how current Chrysler executive (and 37-year Toyota veteran) Jim Press has gotten himself in a bit of media hot water over his allegations that Toyota's hybrid battery system was bought and paid for by the Japanese government.
Above and beyond the controversy over what the Japanese government might have funded or financed, the question remains: "What is wrong with this picture?"
In a word, nothing.
Indeed, haven't the leading candidates right here in the U.S. been calling for funding exactly this type of public/private research/design partnerships? It's a question of priorities -- Japan, Inc. builds up its industries, while we build up...Iraq. I don't think Jim Press would be complaining now if the Prius was a Chrysler product developed with a public research grant in some University of Michigan automotive engineering lab -- indeed, he'd probably be getting recruited by Toyota. And noone doubts that American cars would be selling a lot better if they had a CAFE average of 45 mpg (like the Japanese fleet).
If the U.S. companies are so aggravated by yet another example of the power of government and industry to make progress, then they should put the rubber to the road and work with the U.S. government on developing competitive next-generation automotive products (instead of spending time and money on lawyers to lobby against raising CAFE standards).
Interestingly, "green" Toyota also lobbied recently against CAFE; Marty Jerome at Wired's Autopia thinks that it's just savvy strategy from the wily Japanese automaker, lulling Detroit into making more big trucks and SUVs that won't be selling in 3-5 years, while Toyota milks the high-mileage market.
Anyway, to make it back to the point I wanted to make, I like the fact that Toyota execs are striking back using their corporate blog -- it's a good use of the medium, since the blogosphere is basically the battleground of today for this type of corporate outflanking and tactical maneuvering.
That is, unless it ends up in court. But hey, I heard the Big 3 have some dynamite lawyers...