The Truth About Cars » Akio Toyoda The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:27:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Akio Toyoda Toyoda: Recalls Changed Thinking On Safety, Customer Focus Fri, 21 Mar 2014 12:15:46 +0000 Akio Toyoda

One day after Toyota agreed to pay a record $1.2 billion in a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department resolving a criminal probe into the automaker’s handling of a recall involving unintentional acceleration in its vehicles, president Akio Toyoda proclaimed the recalls changed Toyota for the better.

Automotive News reports Toyoda, speaking before the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association this week, said the recalls “marked a shift in how Toyota and the industry think about safety”:

The criteria for recalls used to be compliance with laws or whether there are technical problems. Now, I think it has become whether the products can assure customers peace of mind.

Regarding recalls overall, Toyoda stated they were good for the “long-term perspective of the automotive industry’s sustainable development,” noting the tool allows for product improvement and finding countermeasures from problems that arise down the line.

Though he remained silent on the settlement, Toyoda said the experience prompted Toyota to alter its approach to quality:

I think it provided a turning point for us to go back to our basic philosophy of “customers come first.” It is getting more and more important to handle recalls by seeing things from our customers’ point of view.

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Akio Toyoda Sees Emerging Markets’ Growth Slowing, Uncertainties in China, Japan Thu, 02 Jan 2014 13:00:58 +0000 TOYOTA/

Bloomberg is reporting that Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp. and scion of its founding family said that a slowdown in emerging markets and uncertainty over demand in both China and the Japanese home market makes 2014 “unpredictable”.

While the weaker yen increased earnings for Japanese exporters, those profits are being offset by slowing demand in India, Thailand, Brazil, and Russia. Japanese automakers also continue to face a potential repeat of Chinese consumers rejecting their products, as happened last year as tensions between those countries’ governments increased over who owns a group of Islands under dispute.

“It may be impossible” to shield against tensions between the two countries, Toyoda had told reporters earlier in December. “But we will work to minimize the impact.”

Slowing sales in emerging markets caused Honda Motor Co. to miss analysts’ forecasts for its first-half earnings this year. Nissan Motor Co., which is looking to make Mexico a hub for exports, reduced projected full-year earnings by 15 percent to reflect slower than anticipated sales in the developing world.

Toyota’s own operating profits were down in Asia, excepting Japan, in the third quarter, as Thailand ended government incentives for first-time car purchases. Akio Toyoda was pessimistic about Japan as well because of that country’s planned increase in the national sales tax rate from 5% to 8%. The Toyota president said, on behalf of JAMA, that automakers would like to see a stable yen since production cannot be shifted around the world as quickly as currency values change. The Japanese currency is currently at a five year low against the American dollar.

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Reader’s Rides: It’s Good To Be Akio Toyoda Wed, 16 May 2012 14:59:53 +0000

Today, I happened to be at Toyota’s Tokyo headquarters in order to personally get to the bottom of numbers nobody seems to care about. There was a minor riot in the usually zen-like lobby of 1-4-18 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku.  TTAC was there to investigate …

Toyota employees, who usually pass the cars on display in the reception area without the slightest hesitation, rushed to a matte-black Lexus LFA parked near the entrance. One woman touched the car as if it was a sacred object.

Another man impulsively checked himself. It is hot again in Tokyo, and people start to perspire. “Do I also?” asked this man before he approached the black car.

The matte-black LFA looked like any other $375,000 supercar Lexus makes in Motomachi. Except …

This is a used car!  A used car in Toyota’s holy halls? It looks new to you? Have a look at this:

Spend some time in Japan, and you will run into the dreaded Shaken sticker.  Shaken is the third degree the Japanese government gives people’s cars after three years when the cars are new, and then every two, to make sure that the cars are in working order, allegedly. The examination is so expensive and so rigorous that many Japanese rather buy a new car, much to the joy of the Japanese car industry. Most Japanese prefer “pika-pika” (new and shiny) over “boro-boro” (old and tired) anyway.

Now, for some Shaken arcana. The Shaken sticker of the matte black LFA expires in December of the 25th year of the current Heisei period of Emperor Akihito. Heisei 25 equals 2013, deduct three years …. OMG, this car was registered in December of 2010!

This makes it one of the first cars of the very limited 500 car production run of the LFA.  Production of the LFA started in December 2010. Who owns that rare used car?

Discreet inquiries produced the suggestion that the owner of the used car works at Toyota. It is Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota. The suspicion was confirmed when a polite lady approached the crowd, bowed, and said:

Sumimasen, he needs his car back.”

PS: The image quality may not be up to TTAC standards. The pictures were taken with my cellphone, and my hands were shaken …

Akio Toyoda's LFA. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Akio Toyoda's LFA. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Akio Toyoda's LFA. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Akio Toyoda's LFA. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Akio Toyoda's LFA. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 13
Akio Toyoda Personally Introduces The 2012 Camry Fri, 01 Jul 2011 19:17:29 +0000

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.

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Rough Day At Toyota Tue, 06 Apr 2010 11:26:52 +0000

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.

There is no better way to tell the impact and importance of a news item in Japan than taking the fever of the Nikkei wire. One mention a day = no worry. Two mentions = eyebrows go up. Multiple mentions = Red alert!

Today is such a day.

At 9:37 in Tokyo’s morning, The Nikkei [sub] remains sanguine: “Toyota treads water after U.S. fine” is the headline as ToMoCo’s stock is unimpressed and trades at round 3820 yen, higher than the previous day’s close. The matter receives a few lines on the wire, and The Nikkei goes on its merry business.

Half an hour later, Japan is worried. The stock drops to 3750. At 10:38, The Nikkei [sub] sees the matter worthy of a bigger story. “Toyota to face largest civil fine over recalls” is the headline of a lengthy article.

The surprise is buried deep in the article. Flabbergasting U.S. commentators which “expect Toyota to appeal the fine,” as Reuters put it, the Nikkei carries an official Toyota statement “that it is unlikely to lodge a protest against the penalty.” Toyota even ”understands that the NHTSA has taken a position on this recall.” Admission of guilt? Lawyers in the U.S. who are still awake and sober reach for their cells and call their partners: “Did you hear what the nips just said? We’ll be rolling in dough.”

Thirty minutes later, The Nikkei [sub] ticker spits out another Toyota message: “Toyota falls on U.S. fine, S Korea recall.” To add insult to LaHood’s injury, South Korea ordered the recall of 13,000 Toyotas.

Five minutes thereafter, 11:15, The Nikkei [sub] reports that the Japanese government chimes in. It’s taking a wait-and-see position. The U.S. move is ”based on laws in the United States, and therefore it is difficult for the Japanese government to make any direct comment,” says Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima. That’s Japanese for “we have no idea of what to do, please get lost.”

11:29, the next Toyota News: The Prius was Toyota’s best selling car in the 2009 fiscal year, says The Nikkei [sub]. “So what?” says the market.

11:45, the next Toyota News. Detail on South Korea. Affected are 13,000 Lexus ES350, Camry and Camry Hybrid: Accelerator pedals are getting entrapped by floor mats again. The market is taking a lunch break.

Back from lunch, The Nikkei [sub] reports at 1:09 pm that Toyota is between a rock and a hard place: “Admitting to the charge could strengthen the cases of car owners suing the firm, while refuting it risks inflaming U.S. public opinion.” There are more than 100 lawsuits pending against Toyota. The Toyota stock goes down.

Later in the afternoon, with no other news on the ticker, the stock inches back up to 3775 Yen.

Rough day at Toyota. And a bright morning for lawyers in the US.

“Ms. Dingelfinger, get me some brochures for that 150 foot Sunseeker.”

“Yes, Sir. Gulfstream just called, and are we still interested in that G5?”

“Tell them we’ll call back.”

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Toyota Loses Face In Japan. Or Not Mon, 15 Mar 2010 09:12:40 +0000

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.

The poll was conducted on March 1-2 by TNS-Infoplan Inc., a week after Akio Toyoda apologized on Capitol Hill and days after he bowed to the Chinese in  Beijing. I was in Japan at the time, and you could feel the embarrassment and loss of face.

Polls of that kind are generally useless, results change daily, depending on the news. What counts are the opinions of owners of the brand (and those of other brands) who are about to buy another vehicle. TNS should know that,  they have years of experience from the conduction of the (usually secret) European Customer Satisfaction study for European automakers. Another way of interpreting the data would be “majority of Japanese unfazed by Toyota’s troubles.” But that doesn’t sell expensive studies.

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The Eternal Quest To Explain The Unknown Sun, 28 Feb 2010 13:26:26 +0000

A quiet Sunday. Time to fire up Google and put in “Toyota AND [cause OR reason].” We come up with ample explanations why Toyota is not called Toyoda.  Or why Peiping turned into Peking, and then into Beijing. What about the causes of sudden acceleration? Let’s see what we find. (If you have other things to do on a  Sunday: We find a lot of questions and no answers.)

ABC News, 11/25/2009: “However, safety expert Sean Kane said the recall doesn’t address hundreds of runaway Toyota cases he has uncovered where owners insist floor mats cannot be blamed. “What concerns me is that this recall still doesn’t get to the root cause of the non-floor mat sudden acceleration cases,” said Kane, who heads the firm Safety Research & Strategies. Overall, the firm says it discovered over 2,000 Toyota sudden acceleration cases involving 16 deaths and 243 injuries. An ABC News investigation revealed that many Toyota owners are in rebellion and have refused to accept the company’s explanation for their sudden acceleration incidents. “

Reuters 2/1/2002: “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reviewed the automaker’s plan to install new parts in existing accelerator systems or replace them entirely. “Toyota has announced its remedy and based on its current knowledge, NHTSA has no reason to challenge this remedy,” the agency said in a statement. No deaths or injuries are suspected in cases of sticking pedals, the government said.”

Injury Law Blog & News, 2/23/2010: „Of the 2,000 complaints of sudden acceleration, just 5 percent blamed a sticking gas pedal. No government investigation of sudden-acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles has identified a sticking pedal as a potential cause.”

Toyota’s Pedal Recall FAQ, undated: “The issue involves a friction device in the pedal designed to provide the proper “feel” by adding resistance and making the pedal steady and stable. This friction device includes a “shoe” that rubs against an adjoining surface during normal pedal operation. Due to the materials used, wear and environmental conditions, these surfaces may, over time, begin to stick and release instead of operating smoothly.” 1/30/2010: Drops Toyota pedal in bucket of ice water, bakes it, finds no fault. Issues a call to send in pictures or videos of faulty pedal: “How is it that we cannot get a picture of one of these pedals with so many people complaining? It just doesn’t make sense.” 2/18/2010: “Mechanical failure is easier and more transparent to diagnose than an electronic problem. The average garage mechanic might miss out checking the computer micro-processing failures. Service centers usually replace the whole defective unit without some serious investigation on the cause. The management, dealers and mechanics have difficulty in diagnosing rare unpredictable failure in their electronics. The average driver does not really know also the exact problem when their cars computer or electronic gadget malfunctions. It’s hard to check wiring failures, damaged circuit boards and programming in modern cars. Thus, proving that Toyota recall as due to faulty electronics and auto computer system failure might be a difficult task.”

Ron Hart in the Walton Sun, 2/27/02: “ Congress dragged Toyota, kicking and bowing, to Washington to testify in one of the indignant show trials they so love. I wish they would subpoena themselves and bring Congress before a Senate hearing, under oath and under the hot lights of TV cameras. Then we might get to the roots of most problems in America: Too much government intervention, confusing rules, and second-guessing politicians.”

The Korea Herald, 2/13/2010: “Many observers suspect something other than safety concerns behind the harsh response of the United States to Toyota’s recall. To former Kia Motors chairman Kim Sun-hong, the U.S. reaction to the Toyota problem is an act of “killing the chickens to scare the monkeys.” This Chinese proverb illustrates the cruel yet effective tactic of killing one to tame a hundred: As monkeys misbehave in the treetops, annoyed humans violently kill chickens in front of the monkeys. From fear, the monkeys get silent and tamed. Some even fall out of the trees.”

Charlie Rossiter in 2/07/2010: “Now, with the tragedies around the Toyota sudden-acceleration problem, I am reminded once again of how limited driver’s education is for preparing people to drive. It breaks my heart to think that most, if not all, of the tragic deaths that have occurred because of sudden unexpected acceleration could have been avoided if the drivers had only known that putting a car in neutral means that a stuck accelerator can do nothing but race the engine—it can’t accelerate the car. Knowing that simple fact and acting upon it could have saved their lives. It makes me wonder how many people know what to do if their brakes fail. I doubt that many youngsters coming out of drivers ed classes realize that if they shift to a lower gear, even with an automatic transmission, they can slow the car. Would they think to gently try the emergency?“

CNN Money, 2/26/2010: “Up until last month, you’d think there was no need to worry about angering the Japanese. But now that our best and brightest in Congress have done a wonderful job of verbally undressing the CEO of Toyota Motor in front of the entire world, are we biting the other hand that feeds us? ‘We have to be the dumbest borrower around. It’s pretty remarkable. We don’t want to alienate Japan,’ said Haag Sherman, managing director with Salient Partners, an investment firm in Houston. Japan held approximately $768.8 billion in U.S. Treasurys as of December and China owned $755.4 billion. Those numbers were just released last week. ‘$750 million times 2 is a much bigger problem than $750 million times 1,’ said Keith McCullough, CEO and founder of New Haven, Conn.-based investment research firm Hedgeye Risk Management, about the possibility of our two biggest creditors losing interest in our debt. ‘It won’t matter if Bernanke doesn’t want to raise rates. The market may do it for him.’”

Norfolk Daily News, 2/4/2010: “Wrecks involving old cars are a lot like wrecks involving any newly recalled Toyota: far more often than not, the cause is not mechanical. The cause is the driver, and there’s no recall procedure for that.”

Reader totothedog in the (usually heavily redacted) comments section of China Daily, 2/9/2010: “Toyota Pedals Cause Power Cut at Santander. The Spanish bank has bought a string of Poodleville banks in recent months, similar to the way Icelandic banks bought Poodleville’s high street retailers. As a result, Santander which is probably on the same terrorist list as Iceland, has had several computer and power failures in the poodle state. Strangely, no such power cuts occur in Spain. The recurring faults have been traced to pedals installed in the power station which are identical to those used in Toyota cars.”

US Recall News, 2/3/2002: “Toyota recall: Four different causes. So which is it?“

Wikipedia, undated: “The 5 Whys is a question-asking method used to explore the cause/effect relationships underlying a particular problem. Ultimately, the goal of applying the 5 Whys method is to determine a root cause of a defect or problem.”

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An Interrogation – Tales Of Terror From Toyota City Volume 3 Fri, 26 Feb 2010 11:57:53 +0000

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.

Instead, the Senate has extended a cordial invitation to Toyota’s Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki to come and get barbecued by the esteemed embers of the committee.  “Sasaki is effectively in charge of making recall decisions at the Japanese automaker,” writes The Nikkei [sub] today, glad that “the announcement ended speculation that Toyota President Akio Toyoda might also be grilled.”

Surely, the elected embers are all students of the great James Madison, who said “The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”

Deep insights, which should always be kept in mind when politicians start pointing the finger abroad during tough times at home. All that perceptiveness will most likely be for naught – again. It didn’t keep Madison from starting the war of 1812, highlights of which were: Trade restrictions that led to the war, the capture of Detroit, and the burning of the White House. Students will also remember how it ended: All were exhausted and went home. Then, a new era of good feelings ensued.

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Jim Press Phones Home Thu, 25 Feb 2010 15:47:31 +0000

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.

As much as Akio appreciates a few kind words right now, Press’s mash note is a little tough to fathom. It’s hard to imagine anyone at Toyota thinking that Press would have been a better representative of Toyota’s US operations than Jim Lentz was. Especially considering Press pretty well torched his bridges back to Toyota, when as a bailout-begging Chrysler VP, he alleged that the Japanese government had footed “100 percent of the bill” for the Prius’s drivetrain development, a charge Toyota has vehemently denied and Press later retracted. But hey, there’s a fine line between love and desperation… and Toyoda seems like he could use a hug.

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Akio Toyoda’s Prepared Statement Tue, 23 Feb 2010 17:57:38 +0000
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.

I would like to focus my comments on three topics – Toyota’s basic philosophy regarding quality control, the cause of the recalls, and how we will manage quality control going forward.

First, I want to discuss the philosophy of Toyota’s quality control. I myself, as well as Toyota, am not perfect. At times, we do find defects. But in such situations, we always stop, strive to understand the problem, and make changes to improve further. In the name of the company, its long-standing tradition and pride, we never run away from our problems or pretend we don’t notice them. By making continuous improvements, we aim to continue offering even better products for society. That is the core value we have kept closest to our hearts since the founding days of the company.

At Toyota, we believe the key to making quality products is to develop quality people. Each employee thinks about what he or she should do, continuously making improvements, and by doing so, makes even better cars. We have been actively engaged in developing people who share and can execute on this core value. It has been over 50 years since we began selling in this great country, and over 25 years since we started production here. And in the process, we have been able to share this core value with the 200,000 people at Toyota operations, dealers, and suppliers in this country. That is what I am most proud of.

Second, I would like to discuss what caused the recall issues we are facing now. Toyota has, for the past few years, been expanding its business rapidly. Quite frankly, I fear the pace at which we have grown may have been too quick. I would like to point out here that Toyota’s priority has traditionally been the following: First; Safety, Second; Quality, and Third; Volume. These priorities became confused, and we were not able to stop, think, and make improvements as much as we were able to before, and our basic stance to listen to customers’ voices to make better products has weakened somewhat. We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and our organization, and we should sincerely be mindful of that. I regret that this has resulted in the safety issues described in the recalls we face today, and I am deeply sorry for any accidents that Toyota drivers have experienced.

Especially, I would like to extend my condolences to the members of the Saylor family, for the accident in San Diego. I would like to send my prayers again, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.

Since last June, when I first took office, I have personally placed the highest priority on improving quality over quantity, and I have shared that direction with our stakeholders. As you well know, I am the grandson of the founder, and all the Toyota vehicles bear my name. For me, when the cars are damaged, it is as though I am as well. I, more than anyone, wish for Toyota’s cars to be safe, and for our customers to feel safe when they use our vehicles. Under my leadership, I would like to reaffirm our values of placing safety and quality the highest on our list of priorities, which we have held to firmly from the time we were founded. I will also strive to devise a system in which we can surely execute what we value.

Third, I would like to discuss how we plan to manage quality control as we go forward. Up to now, any decisions on conducting recalls have been made by the Customer Quality Engineering Division at Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan. This division confirms whether there are technical problems and makes a decision on the necessity of a recall. However, reflecting on the issues today, what we lacked was the customers’ perspective.

To make improvements on this, we will make the following changes to the recall decision making process. When recall decisions are made, a step will be added in the process to ensure that management will make a responsible decision from the perspective of “customer safety first.” To do that, we will devise a system in which customers’ voices around the world will reach our management in a timely manner, and also a system in which each region will be able to make decisions as necessary. Further, we will form a quality advisory group composed of respected outside experts from North America and around the world to ensure that we do not make a misguided decision. Finally, we will invest heavily in quality in the U.S., through the establishment of an Automotive Center of Quality Excellence, the introduction of a new position – Product Safety Executive, and the sharing of more information and responsibility within the company for product quality decisions, including defects and recalls.

Even more importantly, I will ensure that members of the management team actually drive the cars, and that they check for themselves where the problem lies as well as its severity. I myself am a trained test driver. As a professional, I am able to check on problems in a car, and can understand how severe the safety concern is in a car. I drove the vehicles in the accelerator pedal recall as well as the Prius, comparing the vehicles before and after the remedy in various environmental settings. I believe that only by examining the problems on-site, can one make decisions from the customer perspective. One cannot rely on reports or data in a meeting room.

Through the measures I have just discussed, and with whatever results we obtain from the investigations we are conducting in cooperation with NHTSA, I intend to further improve on the quality of Toyota vehicles and fulfill our principle of putting the customer first.

My name is on every car. You have my personal commitment that Toyota will work vigorously and unceasingly to restore the trust of our customers.

Thank you.

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Leaked Toyota Documents Ensure Feisty Congressional Hearings Mon, 22 Feb 2010 14:54:34 +0000

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 Politico PDF 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.

This subpoenaed document is clearly an embarrassment. An internal presentation apparently prepared by Toyota’s Washington DC staff, describes the firm’s 2007 floormat recall as a “Win for Toyota,” noting [via BusinessWeek] that it had

Negotiated ‘equipment’ recall on Camry/ES re:[sudden acceleration], saved $100M+, w/no defect found.

Of course, this ties in nicely with earlier reports of Toyota’s employment of former federal regulators to negotiate such recalls with NHTSA. The implication of course, is that Toyota pressured NHTSA to let it get away with a 55,000-unit floormat recall (thus saving $100m+) when in fact sticky pedals, or some other unexplained problem caused unintended acceleration. Adding to the perception of Toyota as mass manipulator of government regulators, is the revelation [via Reuters] that Toyota’s lobbying team also:

helped negotiate changes or delays to four proposed vehicle safety rules covering standards for roof crush, electric shock, side impact and door locks.

By winning “added lead time and phase-in” for new side-impact crash standards, Toyota estimated that it had saved about $124 million, according to the document.

For many, these documents will be shocking, but as with the rest of Toyota’s fall from grace, the only surprises come from Toyota’s unrealistically clean image going into the scandal. The fact that Toyota lobbies NHTSA to limit the costs of its recalls and other regulation should be no more shocking than the fact that it allowed its defining commitment to quality to slide. But because Toyota has already fallen from grace in the public eye, it’s vulnerable to all kinds of attacks. And because it antagonized lawmakers in the documents it handed over pre-hearing, congress will have no problem wallowing in the dirty details of how Toyota behaves like every other automaker. After all, dressing down a multinational corporation is a lot more rewarding than laying into the bureaucrats at NHTSA, who have the direct responsibility of protecting Americans.

Ultimately, the whole question comes back to quality. It’s unrealistic to assume that the largest automaker in America would not lobby the NHTSA to limit its recall costs, and given the ephemeral nature of sudden, unintended acceleration, it’s not wildly surprising that the NHTSA was satisfied with the floormat explanation (even though they were warned as early as 2004). And though certain government-backed automakers (and others) are doubtless eagerly anticipating a shllacking of Toyota by posturing representatives, they should probably think twice before raising the safety-first rhetoric to a fever pitch and goading congress into beefing up the NHTSA’s investigative capabilities. After all, quality and cost are the fundamental balance of the auto industry, and it doesn’t take much for any automaker to find itself suddenly on the wrong side of the line. Unless automakers are done lobbying altogether (and they’re not) there’s not a lot to be gained by the industry as a whole by fanning the flames of what is turning into an almost personal confrontation.

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Quote Of The Day: Or Else… Edition Thu, 18 Feb 2010 22:09:32 +0000

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.

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Akio Toyoda Getting Ready For A DC Grilling Wed, 10 Feb 2010 21:25:02 +0000

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.”

In a later report, the Nikkei said Toyoda’s trip has been pushed back “to early March.” Toyoda was ready to leave “Japan for Washington as early as Wednesday, but the heavy snowfall in the U.S. capital city ended up delaying those plans. The U.S. House of Representatives has scheduled committee hearings on Toyota’s problems for Feb. 24 and 25, while the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing March 2.”

So far, Yoshimi Inaba, president of Toyota Motor North America, was supposed to appear at the hearings. Today, Representative Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said he’s e is inviting Akio Toyoda to meet members of Congress. Issa also said he is urging his committee’s chairman to invite Toyoda to the February 24 meeting.

Most think that Inaba would be the better witness, but both governments apparently think it’s more appropriate to send the boss himself.

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Prius Recall, Or Not? Toyota, A Mass Producer Of Confusion Sun, 07 Feb 2010 12:44:31 +0000

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.

This time it’s “sources close to the matter.” The Nikkei says that Toyota “is expected to report the plan to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry early this week, before announcing it to the public.”

In another report, the Nikkei cited another anonymous source that said “Toyota also intends to take similar steps in the U.S. and other overseas markets simultaneously, but didn’t elaborate.”

Still, mum’s the word from Toyota.

Japan’s transport minister doesn’t need a report. Japanese transport minister Seiji Maehara, had already said last Friday that Toyota will carry out either a recall or voluntary repair over brake problems with the Prius. Toyota wasn’t listening.

Last week, Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima said he hopes Toyota will respond to the situation ”as soon as possible.” Toyota wasn’t listening. Maybe because Naoshima had been a lower level employee at Toyota, then rose through the ranks of the unions before taking up a successful career in politics.

There are louder and louder voices in Japan, warning that its industry is losing its edge. Korea’s Samsung has pushed aside the Japanese to become the world’s top maker of LCD TVs. Sony has become famous for its “Sony timer.” According to Japanese lore, it’s a device in every Sony product that causes it to break once the warranty expired. “The auto sector and Toyota is our last hope to maintain a very strong brand image and market position for Japanese companies,” said Tatsuya Mizuno, founder of credit ratings firm Mizuno Credit Advisory. “But when we look at this situation at Toyota, we may lose that last hope.”

Akio Toyoda had his chance last Friday night to get in front of the news and to shape the message. He blew his chance. Instead, Toyota has turned into a mass producer of confusion.

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Toyota’s Prez. Meets Press Over Prius, Says Nothing Fri, 05 Feb 2010 13:58:47 +0000

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.

As customary and expected in Japan, Toyoda offered “a heartfelt apology for causing so much trouble to many of our customers.” And that was pretty much it. Any action to stop the trouble? Shirimasen. Asked why he convened the press conference, Toyoda said: “I thought many of our customers were worried.”

They still are. More now than before.

The only milquetoast action promised: Toyota will form a global quality control committee. And when they know what steps to take, they will take them. “I will do my best,” Toyoda said.  Jya-ne! (See you later.)

Calling this a downer is the understatement du jour. Yesterday, Toyota had said that they had changed the Prius software in January. Also in January, Toyota had retooled the braking systems for cars made that month. People are anxious to know what happens with the cars they had already bought. Are they safe to drive? Shirimasen. Can it get any worse? Wakarimasen.  (Can’t tell the future.) If this was for U.S. consumption, they’ll puke.

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Toyota CEO Apologizes. Or Not Sat, 30 Jan 2010 12:52:15 +0000

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.

Not so at Toyota.

Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s CEO and grandson of the founder had not been seen or heard of ever since pedal-gate gained tsunami-strength. Asked about the boss’s whereabouts, the folks in Aichi said that they are not at liberty to disclose this information.

Finally, a camera crew of the Japanese NHK network cornered Akio Toyoda in the lobby of a swank hotel in Davos Switzerland. While 8 million Toyotas are recalled, he’s attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, where CEOs rub shoulders with politicos.

Visibly annoyed by the intruding cameramen, Toyoda didn’t say much. “We’re extremely sorry to have made customers uneasy,” and “we plan to establish the facts and give an explanation that will remove customers’ concerns as soon as possible.” That was basically it. No more questions could be answered, “because we are still investigating.” Then he left the hotel. In a black Audi, as ABC reports with glee. (For Japanese speakers: There is a video of the short interview in that link.)

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Quote Of The Day: Toyoda and The Splendid Flavor Wed, 18 Nov 2009 23:07:54 +0000 Hai! (

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, 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]

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