How bad will it be for BP? Think Toyota

How bad will it be for BP? Think Toyota

A complete disaster, that could have been averted, or minimized by utilizing one piece of equipment that was available.

“While BP is ultimately responsible for funding the cost of response and cleanup operations, my administration will continue to use every single available resource at our disposal,”

President Barack Obama

On the surface it might appear that Toyota and BP don’t have anything in common.

There is one difference between oil companies and car companies. Many people buy gasoline because it is in close proximity to them when they need gasoline. People will not realize that they are buying gasoline from BP if they stop at ARCO, Amoco, or BP. When you buy a car the brand is of upmost importance.

The similarity comes in the balance sheet. When I look at BP I think they played the same gamble game that Toyota played.

Toyota’s problems are caused by sudden acceleration. Toyota could have prevented this sudden acceleration by installing brake override on their vehicles. Other car companies had problems with sudden acceleration and did install brake override. It is not required by law to have brake override on vehicles.

Toyota made the decision not to install brake override in their vehicles.  A leaked document written by Toyota stated that Toyota “saved 100 million dollars on the recalls”. This has some indication that Toyota tried to avoid a costly recall in order to save money.

Short-term money versus long-term safety

Other countries require a remote control shut-off switch on their deep oil rigs. It’s really as simple as the brake override on a car, and is simply a safety valve. It does add expense to an already expensive project.

The Wall Street Journal did an excellent article on the shut-off switch and reported, “U.S. regulators don’t mandate use of the remote-control device on offshore rigs, and the Deepwater Horizon, hired by oil giant BP PLC, didn’t have one. With the remote control, a crew can attempt to trigger an underwater valve that shuts down the well even if the oil rig it’self is damaged or evacuated.”

Sound familiar? If there had been a remote shut-off switch, the oil would stop flowing. If there had been a brake override in a Toyota there would be no gasoline flow and the person could steer the car to safety.

Part of the reason the U.S. doesn’t require the mechanism is because drilling companies protested, saying the cost was too high. The drilling industry argued that the backup system wasn’t needed because the primary shut-off system worked.

That would be the same assumption Toyota might have been making: there was no need for brake override because the brakes on the car worked.

No car company that is using brake override has the lawsuit’s looming that Toyota has in their future. The number of deaths related to these lawsuit’s are unparalleled. This incident is a marketing nightmare for the once golden global car company.

The 2010 Gulf oil spill will be a marketing nightmare for BP as well. Lives have already been lost. Gone is the flower power, beyond petroleum, buy from us because even though our core product is oil we are investing in alternative energies campaign.

The campaign for both companies now is damage control, and this campaign will cost both companies billions of dollars.

A complete disaster, that could have been averted, or minimized by utilizing one piece of equipment that was available.

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.