5pm in Tokyo. Toyota has a news conference. Somehow, they forgot to invite me. And I’m right here, in Tokyo. From our Ota-ku apartment, the fallout from the conference as it is reported in Japanese and international media. Call it vicarious live blogging.
Brake override becomes standard: Reuters has it that Toyota will add a brake-override system, which cuts engine power when the accelerator and brake pedals are applied at the same time, to all future vehicles worldwide. Kyodo confirms the story. Toyota “is also considering installing the system in vehicles that have already been sold,” writes the Nikkei [sub].
Power steering of the Corolla possibly next: And the next possible victim is the world’s bestselling car. Toyota’s executive on quality control says the automaker is looking into possible power-steering problems with the Corolla. He said Toyota is considering a recall, but no decision has been made. Toyota is still looking into the complaints in the U.S., which are fewer than 100. CNBC has the story.
Fix found: Toyoda said they have found a fix for the braking issues in the Toyota Sai and Lexus HS 250h and are beginning to notify owners about recall procedures, says CCN.
Won’t head for the hill: Koyodo News says that President Akio Toyoda indicated that he is unlikely to testify before a U.S. congressional committee to address quality issues raised by a recent series of massive global recalls of its vehicles. His visit to the U.S. has not even been scheduled yet, says the Nikkei [sub]. Toyoda thinks his people will do a better job. “His senior executives have his highest trust,” reports AFP.
More committees: The Nikkei also says that Toyota will establish a global task force headed by company president Akio Toyoda to improve quality control. The first meeting will be on March 30. Toyota will appoint a chief quality officer for each principal geographical region to make the company more alert to customer sentiment.
Growing pains: Toyoda his company may have grown too fast, neglecting the careful training of staff to ensure that quality does not fall behind, reports Reuters. (Did Toyoda clear that with Legal?) “Up to now, we had been saying that the rapid expansion was in response to customer needs — that it was inevitable. The basic rule of the Toyota Production System is to only build as many cars as there is demand for, and we ourselves broke that rule.” Toyoda said some of the sales during the rapid expansion over the last decade may have been driven artificially by sales financing, and was not based on “real demand”.
Black box becoming universal: Deeply buried in the press release (following) is the news that Toyota “will more actively use on-board event data recorders, which can, in the event of a malfunction, provide information necessary for conducting such activities as technological investigations and repairs.” The LA Times says it more succinctly: “New vehicles will also include an improved on-board event data recorder, a kind of “black box” for Toyota vehicles.” So far, Event Data Recorders, or EDRs, are built into some cars, including some Toyotas. NHTSA has released a standard for the black box, but hasn’t made it mandatory. It is supposed to become mandatory by 2012. The Lexus in the famous Saylor case had an EDR. The 911 call was all over the news. The EDR data were not: The black box did not survive either. At least that’s what Toyota says.
Sales plummet: Toyota sales have dropped 16 percent since the third week of January, reports the LA Times. To reduce the mounting inventory of Toyota vehicles, many of which have been sitting in dealers’ lots following the recalls, the company plans to temporarily suspend manufacturing operations at two U.S. plants.
Official version of the press conference: Press release, accompanying the conference:
TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION (TMC) announces that, at a press conference in Tokyo today on quality-related matters, it disclosed the following:
- Japan-market recall progress -
The company has completed preparations for recall repair for the Toyota “Sai” and Lexus “HS250h”, and its dealers began notifying owners today about the recall procedures.
- Electronic throttle control technology safety -
TMC’s electronic throttle-control system incorporates overlapping failsafe features linked to several sensors. The occurrence of a problem causes the system to shift the engine to idling mode or even to shut it off. TMC has conducted rigorous testing under extremes of electromagnetic interference, vibration and other adverse conditions. That testing has conclusively verified that the system cannot accidentally induce acceleration.
In addition, TMC has commissioned an independent, third-party research organization to test its electronic throttle control system. TMC will release the findings of that testing as they become available.
- Measures for improving product quality -
TMC will appoint a person to the post of chief quality officer for each principal geographical region to make the company more alert to customer sentiment.
Such officers will serve on the company’s newly established Special Committee for Global Quality. That committee, to be headed by TMC’s president, is for steering the company’s quality-improvement activities onto a new and higher plane. The Special Committee for Global Quality will hold its first meeting on March 30.
TMC will ask independent third-party experts to review the contents of that meeting.
In another initiative, TMC is strengthening its framework for conveying customer input from each region directly to its Quality Group and to its Product Development Group to translate that input more promptly into quality improvements in products. The initiative will get under way first in the United States, where TMC will expand its network of technical offices to fine-tune its information-gathering capabilities in an aim to be able to conduct on-site inspections within 24 hours of every reported incident of suspected product malfunction.
TMC will add a brake-override system, which cuts engine power when the accelerator and brake pedals are applied at the same time, to all future vehicle models worldwide.
TMC will more actively use on-board event data recorders, which can, in the event of a malfunction, provide information necessary for conducting such activities as technological investigations and repairs.
TMC, sincerely taking to heart customer feedback gained through genchi genbutsu, reaffirms – along with its dealers worldwide, suppliers and employees – its commitment to unwavering quality in products and services and to the spirit of “customer first”. TMC will continue to endeavor to provide products that are safe and reassuring.
Rem: Our in-house specialist on Japanese cultural affairs had similar problems with the untranslated “genchi genbutsu.” She reports that Toyota and Honda use the slogan, and that it means, “kind of, well, hard to tlansrate, I give up.” Then she produced a whole encyclopedia of Kaizen terminology. Kindly look it up there.
The encyclopedia of Toyotanese is required reading. Apparently, Toyota’s andon malfunctioned, leading to a deviation from the arubekisugata, the jidouka broke down, things went mura, and the whole Toyotaseisan houshiki went haywire. Dozo. There you have it.