From Automotive News:
Jim Press creates PR
mess for Toyota and Chrysler
Debate over Japanese r&d subsidies continues
and Mark Rechtin
April 3, 2008 - 11:11 am ET
UPDATED: 4/3/08 11:40 a.m. EDT
Chrysler LLC co-President Jim Press has a PR
problem -- and so does his former employer, Toyota Motor Corp.
In an interview published Thursday, March 24, Press told BusinessWeek that the Japanese government " paid for 100 percent of the development of the battery and hybrid system that went into the Toyota Prius."
On March 14, 2007 -- when he was still Toyota's top U.S. executive -- Press told something else to a subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee. U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, questioned Press about the seven years of r&d that went into Toyota's hybrid technology:
Burgess asked: " That seven-year interval, was any of that research and development funded by the government?
Press answered: " No, sir."
Burgess responded: " So that was all just done under your own initiative."
Press said: " Yes."
All this chatter created a public relations challenge Wednesday, April 2, for both Toyota and Chrysler, which hired Press late last summer when he ended his long and successful career at Toyota.
'Absolutely no support'
" I can say 100 percent that Toyota received absolutely no support -- no money, no grants -- from the Japanese government for the development of the Prius," Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco told the Associated Press in Tokyo.
According to the AP report, Nolasco said Toyota received no public money for developing the battery or any other part of the Prius.
Toyota amplified that position later Wednesday. Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. spokesman Mike Michels gave Automotive News this statement:
" For the first Prius project, we used a nickel-metal hydride battery that Toyota developed internally. There was no subsidy whatsoever received from the government for either the development of the car or for the battery.
" Currently, for lithium ion and other advanced batteries, the Japanese government is subsidizing some research and development. But mostly that is at the academic level, just like the governments are doing in Europe and the U.S."
The statement also noted consumer tax credits for car buyers in Japan.
Chrysler weighs in
Chrysler, for its part, seemed to downplay Press' remarks, saying he was " not speaking negatively" of Toyota in the BusinessWeek interview.
" In a recent interview, he referenced the close cooperation between the Japanese government and Japanese industry," Chrysler said in a statement released Wednesday evening. " He said the Japanese government strongly supported r&d investment in battery development, and the Prius and other Japanese models benefited from that investment in industry.
" He cited this as an example of cooperation between government and industry working together on public policy issues. He went on to say that he would like to see similar cooperation in the United States in order to find technological improvements that help give U.S. companies a competitive advantage."
BusinessWeek is standing by its story.
" In the interview with Businessweek, Press was clearly talking about direct subsidy by the Japanese government, not consumer tax credits," reporter David Kiley wrote Wednesday on his blog. " I stand by my account of the story, as does BusinessWeek."