OK, so Toyoda-san didn’t so much introduce the new Camry as introduce its headlight. The good news is that the headlight looks like progress. The bad news is that most Americans were probably a bit distracted by the video’s spare production values and Mr Toyoda’s somewhat awkward demeanor (to protect you from your own hypocrisy, commentary on Toyoda-san’s accent will be moderated… unless you can post it in Japanese). Net-net though, Toyota can’t help but come across as an earnestly nerdy lot (led, as they are, by the king of the auto otaku), which fits their brand image well. And for all the talk about styling being the prime mover for consumers, and the necessity of emotion in design, if this new Camry is simply a fresher take on its earnestly nerdy predecessor, Toyota will have accomplished its mission. I’m beginning to wonder if Detroit’s intense dislike of Toyota isn’t simply because it’s the biggest Japanese competitor, but because Toyota’s leadership culture is the unassuming, unglamorous opposite of Detroit’s flamboyant tradition.
Last evening, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared he’d be seeking the maximum penalty from Toyota. That’s $16.4m, because “they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families.” That’s the largest civil penalty the U.S. Department of Transportation has ever sought. According to Reuters, “previously, the largest fine was $1 million against General Motors Co for failing to promptly recall windshield wipers in 2002-2003 model vehicles.” One would think Toyota can pay that out of petty cash. But the matter has Toyota concerned. Plaintiff lawyers are rubbing their hands. (Read More…)
Toyota sales back home in Japan have yet to show a sign of suffering (they were up 49.9 percent in February while the Japanese market rose 35.1 percent.) However, Toyota’s reputation is taking a hit in the Land of the Rising Sun, says The Nikkei [sub]. Depends on how you look at it: 40 percent of Japanese consumers in a recent survey said Toyota’s troubles have undermined their confidence. 58.4 percent said the issues have not changed their opinion of Toyota, 1.4 percent said they now hold the firm in higher regard. (Read More…)
No politician worthy of your vote will pass up on the chance of publicly bashing the heads of foreign corporate types with deep pockets. And so, the Senate will convene its Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation next Tuesday. They will repeat this week’s grilling until perfectly good Kobe steak is well done and reduced to dog food.
Tuesday’s cast will consist of familiar faces: Ray LaHood will again “go into the weeds” and hold Toyota’s “feet to the fire” until all cars – well, at least those of Toyota, will be “100 percent safe.”
Smooth Yoshimi Inaba, Prez. of Toyota Motor North America will bring his baritone to bear. The congress casting crew was obviously dissatisfied with Akio Toyoda playing the role of the duplicitous villain. He will not be called and can (phew…) go home to Toyota City. (Read More…)
It’s not likely that former Toyota exec Jim Press wishes he had been called down to congress instead of Jim Lentz, but he may just be trying to angle for a return his old company. Press took time out of his busy schedule of job-hunting and worrying about taxes to write an (apparently unsolicited) email to Automotive News [sub]. Judging by the portions that AN [sub] did publish, it should probably have gone straight to Toyota’s CEO… or the shredder.
Toyota doesn’t want me to speak out, but I can’t stand it anymore and somebody has to tell it like it is. Akio Toyoda is not only up for the job, but he is the only person who can save Toyota. He is very capable, and he embodies the virtues and character that built this great company. The root cause of their problems is that the company was hijacked, some years ago, by anti-family, financially oriented pirates. They didn’t have the character necessary to maintain a customer first focus. Akio does.
Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda will give the following prepared statement in his testimony before the House Oversight Committee tomorrow [via WOKV].
Thank you Chairman Towns.
I am Akio Toyoda of Toyota Motor Corporation. I would first like to state that I love cars as much as anyone, and I love Toyota as much as anyone. I take the utmost pleasure in offering vehicles that our customers love, and I know that Toyota’s 200,000 team members, dealers, and suppliers across America feel the same way. However, in the past few months, our customers have started to feel uncertain about the safety of Toyota’s vehicles, and I take full responsibility for that. Today, I would like to explain to the American people, as well as our customers in the U.S. and around the world, how seriously Toyota takes the quality and safety of its vehicles. I would like to express my appreciation to Chairman Towns and Ranking Member Issa, as well as the members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, for giving me this opportunity to express my thoughts today.
Ah, political spectacle. When Detroit’s CEOs took the stand at congressional hearings over a year ago, the main browbeating bullet point wasn’t the decades of mismanagement and greed, but the fact that Messrs. Wagoner, Mullaly and Nardelli had taken separate corporate jets to the festivities. The lesson: convenient focal points for anger always trump the complexity of a substantive dressing-down. And as congress gears up to grill Toyota’s CEO, the Japanese automaker has given congress just the thing to sharpen its collective knife against: an honest opinion. One document [via PoliticoPDF here] briefing Toyota USA boss Yoshi Inaba for the hearings, reveals that Toyota believe the current administration is “activist” and that “not industry-friendly.” True or false, this document sets up an adversarial relationship between Toyota and the majority party going into the hearings. Which would be bad enough if Toyota hadn’t also handed over evidence, already leaked by the Oversight committee, indicating that it balances recall costs against risks and lobbies the government in its own interest. On its own, this evidence might be merely embarrassing, but having slighted the Democrats, news that Toyota treats recalls like a business has become prima facie evidence in the (increasingly political) case against the Japanese automaker.
There is widespread public concern regarding reports of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota motor vehicles. There appears to be growing public confusion regarding which vehicles may be affected and how people should respond. In short, the public is unsure as to what exactly the problem is, whether it is safe to drive their cars, or what they should do about it. To help clarify this situation, I am inviting you to testify…
House Oversight Committee Chair Edolphus Towns invites Akio Toyoda down to DC for an evening of under-oath testimony and light refreshments. According to the NY Times, Toyoda has said he “would consider” dancing the Potomac two-step “if he receives a formal invitation, which none of the committees have issued.” Consider yourself officially invited, Mr Toyoda. We’ll start making the popcorn.
Toyota’s president Akio Toyoda was already getting ready to “visit the United States over massive recalls of its vehicles,” reported the Nikkei [sub]. Japan’s transport minister Seiji Maehara told U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos that Toyoda would be dispatched to DC. There, he would be ready to “explain the recall problems to the U.S. Congress if asked.” (Read More…)
After piles of books have been written about the „Toyota Way,“ this round of recalls will have a permanent place in the annals of how to completely NSFW-up crisis management. The epicenter of the disaster at Toyota is not in the pedal dept., it is not in the software development dept., it is in the Public Relations Department in Toyota City. Or possibly, right at the top.
Last Friday evening, Toyota trotted out their CEO and founder’s grandson Akio Toyoda to address the complaints about Prius brakes. Toyoda said nothing of substance. What irked the public, and what became instant fuel to the already raging fire, was that Akio Toyoda refused to address the fact that Toyota had changed the Prius software, and changed the braking hardware in January, for cars in production. People wanted to know what happens with the cars they had already bought. Akio Toyoda left his customers in a lurch. Answering in very bad English instead through an interpreter made matters worse.
A day later, Reuters wrote that Toyota will recall the Prius “in the next few days.” Who was the source? A Toyota spokesperson? Nah. A “person close to the matter?” Nope. The source was a Toyota car dealer. “Toyota officials were not immediately available to comment.”
Today, the Nikkei [sub] writes that Toyota “has decided to recall and repair free of charge the latest model of its Prius hybrid sold in the domestic market due to complaints over brake problems.” And who’s the source? A Toyota spokesperson? Nah. (Read More…)
Oy, will they get slaughtered for that: So Toyota Prez. Akio Toyoda met the press late in the Japanese evening in Nagoya. And what did he say? Basically nothing. He said he “ordered swift action” to get a grip on the reported brake problems of the (in Japan) wildly popular Prius hybrid. But he didn’t say anything else. Recall? Shirimasen. (I don’t know.) Free repair if customer requests it? Shirimasen. Computer reflash? Shirimasen. Does Toyota know what’s going on? Shirimasen. Apparently, LaHood’s threat of bodily harm was lost in translation. (Read More…)
When a Japanese company NFSWs up in a big way, it is customary that the CEO says “honto ni moshiwake arimasen” (“I am deeply, seriously sorry”) in front of running cameras, takes a very deep bow and exits stage left, not to be seen or heard of anymore while someone else takes his job . That’s just the way Nipponese crisis management works.
Cars are not a mere means of mobility. They respond to the driver’s will; they turn, speed up, slow down. Naturally, there’s a need for excitement…Of course, eco-friendly cars are a prerequisite for the future, but there must be more than that. Morizo cannot afford to lose. I will tackle the challenge of creating a car with even more splendid flavor than the Scirocco.
Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda blogging at his company’s Japanese marketing website Gazoo.com, as reported by Automotive News [sub]. Toyoda’s Scirocco killer? That has to be the FT-86 “Toyobaru” coupe. Interestingly, Inside Line reports that the Subaru version will have about 250 hp, AWD and will cost about $30k. In contrast, the $25k Toyota will be smaller, RWD and only 200 hp. Smaller, lighter and RWD? Sounds like Toyota beat Subaru to the splendid flavor. [Hat Tip: Cammy Corrigan]