Your May 13 article about Charlene Blake ("Charlene's Web/How a fifth-grade teacher uses the Internet to get automakers to do the right thing") was rather interesting. But based on that and previous articles on Toyota's engine oil gel problem, it seems that Automotive News has a rather one-sided view of how all this happened.
Your article did not fully explain how the Internet contributed to the formation of Toyota's Special Policy Adjustment, nor did it give the full story of Charlene Blake.
She was banned from participating at one major bulletin board for disruptive behavior.
When she was banned from Edmunds, the sludge topic continued to foment. How much of that was a result of her minions is unclear.
What is clear is that four or five Toyota owners seem to have a credible case with Toyota. Between those individuals and some strong instigators, the topic grew.
Enter Bruce Ertmann, corporate manager of field operations and dealer development. He started a topic at Edmunds to introduce Toyota's revised Special Policy Adjustment. It answered questions from owners, potential owners and any interested parties.
No manufacturer has ever done what Toyota just did.
Beyond the subject of Blake's involvement, your May 13 article makes little mention of why Toyota created the engine oil gel Special Policy Adjustment. That is a curious omission, leading readers to believe that Blake's position is the only one. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A much more plausible explanation for sludge conditions - than a product defect - would be a lack of proper maintenance.
I do think Toyota has some responsibility here. The Owner's Maintenance Guide is far too vague in its definition of "severe" driving conditions.
I don't deny that some customers were treated poorly. I also know some customers fabricate their maintenance practices to avoid paying for damage they caused.
Your article about Charlene Blake seems to cater to the more hysterical elements of the sludge debate while ignoring other important facets of the issue.
I believe a more complete story would include a discussion of how the automotive industry can deal with small groups of determined individuals with access to worldwide audiences.