Toyota Quality Chief: ""I Was Told by Akio Toyoda to Make Decisions That Will Not Hurt Our Credibility."

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Today, Toyota gave a press conference in Nagoya, the first at Toyota’s home base to address the recall. Akio Toyoda was AWOL as usual. Instead, Toyota’s Vice President Shinichi Sasaki, who is also in charge of quality assurance, did the dubious honors. He did what he had to do: He apologized profusely.

“I’d like to offer an apology for causing anxiety among our customers around the world,” Sasaki said, according to the Nikkei [sub]

Sasaki said Toyota aggravated the situation by disclosing the problem before firming up countermeasures. By doing so, “we ended up creating mistrust in the market,” he said. “We prioritized customer safety, focusing on releasing solid information first.”

In a rather un-Japanese move, he passed a tiny bit of the blame:

“I was told by the president (Akio Toyoda) to make decisions that will not hurt our credibility. It is in this way that I have dealt with the issue, rather than thinking about the impact on earnings,” the vice president said.

Speaking of earnings, Sasaki said that Toyota’s sales around the world will likely be hit severely in the wake of the recall. Sales the U.S. and elsewhere are already slipping, and given the severity of the recalls, Sasaki anticipates a double digit slide in Toyota’s global sales.

“Yabai,” as they say in Japan in an oh shit moment like that.

Join the conversation
8 of 15 comments
  • Dr Strangelove Dr Strangelove on Feb 02, 2010

    Does anyone know for how long the CTS pedal assemblies have been used? Does it date back as far as the beginning of the unintended acceleration issue?

    • JohnAZ JohnAZ on Feb 02, 2010

      My understanding is that CTS started making pedals for Toyota in 2005. There have been unintended acceleration reports for Toyota/Lexus since 1999.

  • JohnAZ JohnAZ on Feb 02, 2010

    Toyota is turning their problems into a 2010 version of the Perrier benzene problem of 1990. Both companies had a very tough problem to solve and mismanaged the news. Perrier eventually found a worker was at fault when he accidentally contaminated just a small number of bottles, however 160 millions bottles were recalled, and Perrier never recovered financially from their lost reputation for water purity. Toyota has blamed floor mats and users instead of the pedal that was designed too close to the floor. They have blamed CTS for the sticky peddles and left an impression that sticky peddles equate to unintended acceleration. They have glorified a shim with a fancy label of "precision cut steel bar" that is already becoming a laughing stock. They are apparently sneaking in a fail-safe fix to the ECU for only some model/years while avoiding any discussion about the unintended acceleration problem behind this fix. They are facing public investigations in Washington that will generate untold amounts of spin that Toyota will be unable to control. And to top it off, their CEO is unwilling to put himself forward as the place where the buck stops. This is Perrier all over again, and Toyota deserves the same results. In my opinion, they should shut down all sales and production until Washington is finished their investigation, take a hit of a few billion dollars which they can easily afford, and relaunch their sales when their story is clear. In the meantime, they should cut off all "too long peddles" and install "SHIMS" as a "TEMPORARY FIX" for recalled cars until their investigation is complete. That's the only way they will get in front of this train wreck. Like the Tylenol problem, Maple Leaf Foods in Canada a year or so back, had a contamination problem in their packaged meats that was killing people. They immediately recalled all their meats and shut down their factories until the problem was resolved. They have since fully recovered their reputation and market share. Toyota should do the same before Washington forces them to do so.

  • Redmondjp Redmondjp on Feb 02, 2010

    Have you been paying attention to the careful wording used in all of these apologies from the company over the past few days? They are sorry for causing people's anxiety about their Toyotas -- Really? That's it? Of COURSE they are sorry about this, as it will hurt their bottom line! I'm still waiting for the first accident report with the floormats in the trunk AND a new pedal assembly (or the shim fix) installed . . . not that I want it to happen by any means, and I pray that it doesn't. The explicit statements from Toyota that "This is not an electronics problem" suggest otherwise . . . Reminds me of the statements from many of the failed financial institutions in 2007 shortly before they went kaput: "Everybody keep moving along, nothing to see here, everything is fine"

  • Hank Hank on Feb 02, 2010

    Is there any conflict of interest in a Toyota-crippling recall being urged by the NHTSA at the same time 67% US Gov. owned GM is offering special deals to Toyota or are we just not supposed to ask that?

    • See 2 previous
    • Steven02 Steven02 on Feb 02, 2010

      I think the legitimacy is very relevant, not that I think the gov't should be in the car business. When you ask a question about a conflict of interest, when there clearly is none, the question doesn't make any sense. At that point, it sounds like a conspiracy theory because you have to then start the questions with what if, when you don't have a leg to stand on. But, you can apply this to many more ideas about gov't. Like, congress voting to give themselves pay raises, to me that is a conflict of interest.