Toyota Keeping Lawmakers Happy

Photograph by Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP via Getty Images

A journalist drives a Toyota i-Road in Tokyo.

Tired of waiting to (finally) get your turn to question that Obama administration official at your subcommittee hearing? Bored of floor debates on bills that will never go anywhere?

Toyota has a solution for you, just a few blocks away from the Capitol Building: come test drive their three-wheeled concept car, the i-Road.

A handful of House members yesterday made the short walk over to the Washington Court hotel to take the lithium ion battery-powered two-seater for a spin — and take a break from the House floor debate over Democratic budget proposals.

For lawmakers like Representative Larry Bucshon, an Indiana Republican, the opportunity to take the car for a spin goes back goes straight back to his district.

“Toyota has a big plant in my district,” said Bucshon, who is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “I wanted to see what the i-Road could do because I think there is some potential opportunity for it, especially in urban settings.”

For the company, it’s relationship maintenance without the usual office meet and great, fundraisers and dinners. And, perhaps more importantly, it gives Toyota’s executives a sense of what lawmakers think of the car before any final decisions are made about bringing it to U.S. roads.

“We’re frankly testing to see what public reaction is, and what do people think of us — is there actually a market for such a vehicle in the United States?” Andrew Coetzee, Toyota’s group vice president for product planning, said in an interview.

The test-drives for the car, which operates with a system that uses on-board computers to counterbalance centrifugal force when the vehicle turns, may also have an added bonus: making a good impression with lawmakers just in case any regulatory issues pop up in the future.

“I definitely think there is a market for it with the right audience,” said Representative Aaron Schock, an Illinois Republican. As for whether it was more exciting than the hearings and floor debates of the day?

“Oh, way more exciting, way more exciting,” Schock said. “Usually when you have fast coming at you it’s not in the form of an automobile out here in D.C.”

What do you think about this article? Comment below!