The 'Big Brother' theory

Donna Harris covers finance & insurance and retail for Automotive News.
Last year's General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies are sparking gripes of protectionism in the wake of Toyota's recall fiasco.

Here at the NADA convention, I've run into a few Toyota dealers who think the federal government's persistent probe of Toyota's quality issues may be an attempt to prop up the automakers it rescued, particularly GM.

Toyota franchisees can't prove their conspiracy theory, but it's somewhat natural for them to think the government is out to get their manufacturer. The feds have a majority stake in GM, now laughingly dubbed "Government Motors." Other manufacturers have multiple recalls, so why else would the government come down extra hard on Toyota?

With the many billions of taxpayer dollars riding on the success of GM, it's easy for beleaguered Toyota dealers to connect the dots and say Big Brother is just looking out for his own.