Toyota Boss Bows To Beijing

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
toyota boss bows to beijing

„Itai!“ Or rather, „tong!“ Ouch, that hurts: Toyota boss Akio Toyoda bowed deeply to 300 reporters assembled in Beijing, and to 1.3b Chinese who could watch the drama live on national TV. Four times in one hour, Toyota’s chief “apologized to customers in China for the company’s quality problems and emphasized the significance of the nation’s fast-growing market to his company,” as Shanghai Daily has it. There must be nothing more painful for an upstanding Japanese captain of industry than to bow deeply in front of the Chinese. But as they say in China: „bú tòng bù qiáng.” No pain, no gain. Even more astonishing:

Toyoda flew straight to Beijing from the U.S., did not stop in Tokyo, not even to get a change of unscorched clothes after he had “faced a grilling last week in Washington DC by American lawmakers” as the fast learning Shanghai Daily writes,

“The Chinese market is very important, so I flew here in person in the hope my personal expression of an apology and explanation will give customers some relief,” Toyoda said in Beijing.

Toyota recalled a mere 75,522 RAV4 SUVs in China in late January – a drop in the bucket, seen in relationship to the 8.5 million vehicles Toyota had to pull worldwide since October.

Some of the press felt slighted, and asked Toyoda why so few vehicles were recalled in China and whether that meant Toyota was discriminating against Chinese customers. Toyoda answered, no worry, the other vehicles sold in this country did not use components that led to recalls.

Denying previous whispers that Toyota’s February sales might be down by 20 percent in China, the China Passenger Car Association now estimates that Toyota’s sales with two local joint-venture partners were up solidly in February from a year earlier. Preliminary numbers indicate that sales of the joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group climbed 50 percent to 17,500 units, while sales at the joint venture with FAW jumped 106 percent to 40,400 units. Exact data are expected in a few days. These early numbers point to a very strong February in China overall.

Masahiro Kato, president of Toyota China operations, said the worldwide ruckus is not causing a major drop in sales in China.

Toyota underperformed in the Chinese market, the world’s largest. Last year, Toyota sold 709,000 vehicles in China, up only 21 percent from 2008, while the overall Chinese auto market jumped 45 percent to 13.6 million units. For this year, Toyota maintains a cautious target of 800,000 units in China. In January, sales of Toyota vehicles in China grew 53 percent from the same month last year. Sales for all vehicles in China rocketed up 126 percent in January. Last year, Toyota sold 1.554 million units in the U.S.A. China is Toyota’s fastest-growing market, but also a market where it holds only 5 percent.

China’s national news service Xinhua beamed the picture of a contrite Akio Toyoda around the world, but refrained from making any disparaging remarks, even after Associated Press had complained that “China’s state-controlled media have made only muted comment on the recalls, in contrast to the blistering criticism Toyoda faced from American lawmakers.”

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5 of 13 comments
  • CarPerson CarPerson on Mar 01, 2010

    When Mr. Toyoda states Toyota will re-engineer the ECU firmware, release it for peer and public review, and update every Toyota still on the road with the new firmware, he will only then be walking the talk. Mr. Toyoda's comments that the Toyota vehicles in China are Ok is total Bull. They have the same ECU flaws as everywhere else. It's clear that Toyota, like General Motors, has an endless supply of hubris.

    • See 2 previous
    • Tricky Dicky Tricky Dicky on Mar 04, 2010

      CarPerson - think you are confused. Despite a raft of expert witnesses addressing possible electronics issues with Toyota accelerators, no fault has been found or established. That is not the same thing as a corporation being hell-bent on a campaign of misinformation. In fact, the biggest criticism people have been making about their response is that it's too slow and they aren't saying much else apart from sorry they've let their customers down. Where is this defect you are ranting about? I do agree that they certainly don't have enough diagnostics inside the vehicle to proove anything, but in the mind of a brilliant Japanese engineer, why have all those extra bits when what they've got already works? That's the problematic mindset I think - a kind of infallible belief in the quality of their work.

  • OldandSlow OldandSlow on Mar 02, 2010

    Common sense would tell you if there is a software design flaw, then we would see tens of thousands SUA reports, given the number of Toyotas on the road. This ain't happening. Meanwhile, from a much smaller population of Lincoln Town Cars we see a more reports of SUA than with all Toyotas combined. What's interesting is that the Town Car is basically a gussied up Crown Vic. Both share the same platform and engines. Yet, the Crown Vic, which was produced in far greater numbers, has a much lower number of SUA reports than the Town Car. Call me a skeptic, but I not buying into the mass media hysteria.

  • Jeff S If AM went away I would listen to FM but since it is insignificant in the cost to the car and in an emergency broadcast it is good to have. I agree with some of the others its another way to collect money with a subscription. AM is most likely to go away in the future but I will use AM as long as its around.
  • BEPLA I think it's cool the way it is.If I had the money, time and space - I'd buy it, clean it up, and just do enough to get it running properly.Then take it to Cars and Coffee and park it next to all the newer Mustangs.
  • Dave M. I suppose Jethro’s farm report comes via AM, but there’s a ton of alternative ways to get that info. Move forward people. Progress is never easy.
  • BEPLA For anything but the base model, I'd rather have a pre-owned Polestar 2.
  • BEPLA "Quality is Job........well, it's someone's job, but it's not our job.Neither is building vehicles that people actually want or need.We only build what's most profitable. If only someone would buy our 97 day supply of SuperDutys."