Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda on Wednesday spoke of the massive global recalls of Toyota cars as he addressed the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“I am deeply sorry for any accidents that Toyota drivers have experienced,” he said. During the more-than-three-hour session, he denied that Toyota had tried to cover up any defects in its cars and pledged that the company will go back to its traditional safety-first policy. It may take some time, though, for the carmaker to ride out the current crisis, which is likely to bring slower sales and class-action lawsuits.
As for the factors that led to the recalls, Mr. Toyoda said Toyota expanded its business so rapidly that it was unable to “develop our people and our organization” to the extent needed to ensure safety and product quality. He also said “our basic stance of listening to customers’ voices to make better products has weakened somewhat.” To get back on track, he said Toyota will devise a system under which management will quickly respond to complaints from customers around the world and operations in each region will be able to make decisions concerning recalls.
As a company making and selling products whose defects could cause death to users and others, Toyota must quickly reform its organization along the lines laid out by its president.
Mr. Toyoda rejected claims that Toyota’s electronic throttle-control system was behind a number of incidents of sudden, unintended acceleration. “I’m absolutely confident that there is no problem with the design of the ETC system,” he said. This issue could linger because convincing people at this point that the technology is completely problem-free won’t be easy.
Toyota officials’ slow response early on to reported problems with its vehicles led to this emergency, and they face a challenge to maintain the good will of the public. Mr. Toyoda might have been able to lessen the damage to his firm had he visited the United States earlier. Toyota’s crisis offers a lesson to other companies that a quick response and accepting full accountability are key to maintaining credibility.
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