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Influencing corporations' injury-producing practices: lessons learned from the Toyota recall
  1. Lainie Rutkow,
  2. Stephen P Teret
  1. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Assistant Professor Lainie Rutkow, Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 N. Broadway, Room 513, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA; hrutkow{at}jhsph.edu

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Through their products and behaviours, corporations greatly influence the health of populations.1 2 Some corporations, such as pharmaceutical manufacturers, develop vaccines and life-saving medications, which are essential for protecting the public's health. Other corporations manufacture products that confer benefits to society but are also associated with hundreds of thousands of injuries and deaths each year. For example, despite certain required safety features, motor vehicles are associated with approximately 34 000 US deaths each year and over 1.2 million deaths globally.3 4 Firearms are associated with approximately 30 000 US deaths annually and over 200 000 deaths worldwide.5 6 Participation by injury prevention professionals in the policy-making process is an important strategy to reduce injuries associated with some corporate behaviours.

Too often, corporations pursue increased profits even though this might elevate the injury risks their products pose. This was highlighted last year during a congressional hearing about Toyota Motor Corporation's response to concerns about uncontrolled sudden acceleration.7 During its investigation, a US House of Representative's committee received over 70 000 pages of Toyota documents.8 One document, a now publicly available July 2009 presentation, given by Toyota's president and CEO of North American operations, noted a ‘win’ because Toyota saved over US$100 million by negotiating with federal regulators for an ‘equipment’, or limited, recall of certain Camry and Lexus ES models due to uncontrolled sudden acceleration.9 This 2007 ‘equipment’ recall meant that Toyota saved millions of dollars because it was not required to repair the affected cars. Instead, Toyota recalled 55 000 floor mats that could ‘potentially [get] stuck under the accelerator pedal …

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