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Posted: February 26, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Toyota’s apology

I am still trying to work out what Toyota has to apologize for on the sticking gas pedal issue. Let’s assume that all 2,000 reported acceleration problems were all due to "defects" in Toyota vehicles. Some 8 million cars are being recalled for repairs. That is a "defect" error rate of 0.00025 percent. Or one out of every 4,000 cars.

I don’t know about others, but I can’t use the TV remote that accurately. I probably make an error with it every 20 times or so if not more often. People will say that Toyota’s "mistakes" lead to injuries and deaths. To the extent those are due to problems with the vehicles, Toyota should be responsible.

That isn’t the same thing as saying that millions of dollars should be wasted on recalling some 8 million vehicles for what is a rare problem. (Disclosure: My wife and I drive a Toyota Scion.) There is a trade-off to be made for reasonably priced and reliable cars versus perfect cars with no defects.

I suspect it would be possible to drive the "defect" rate down on cars closer to one out of every 10,000 but there would still be "defects." It is a hard fact of life that we are imperfect and so are our systems. A system with one "defect" out of every 10,000 cars would make every car several times more expensive than they are today.

In today’s economy we need reliable and affordable cars more than we need a quixotic quest for perfection, particularly if it is to be lead by our representatives in Washington. I wish we had Toyota’s error rate in those whom we elect.

Patrick Durusau is a resident of Covington. His columns regularly appear on Fridays.

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