• Kyodo

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An independent panel of safety experts set up last year by Toyota Motor Corp. over the automaker’s massive recalls released the results of its review Monday, recommending the company loosen its tight grip on quality and safety problems and listen more to criticism from outsiders.

The Toyota North American Quality Advisory Panel, launched in March last year and headed by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, made the recommendations after conducting a thorough review of the company’s quality and safety processes in the wake of global recalls from 2009 through 2010.

It said in a report that Toyota centered too much control in Japan and gave its North American operations inadequate decision-making authority to handle quality and safety problems.

The seven-member panel said Toyota often responds with “skepticism and defensiveness” to criticism from outsiders, including customers, and that the automaker didn’t have a chief safety officer with overall responsibility.

But it added Toyota has not only acknowledged many of the challenges addressed in the report but also taken steps to address some of them — in several cases before the panel had started its work, citing as examples appointing a chief safety technology officer and providing North American operations with more autonomy and authority.

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