Toyota’s Toyoda Seeks to Rebuild Trust After RecallsJuly 10, 2010, 1:41 AM EDT
By Alan Ohnsman
July 10 (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. is focused on restoring customer confidence as the world’s biggest automaker revamps quality control efforts following its worst recall crisis, President Akio Toyoda said.
“Customers will make the judgment” as to whether Toyota has solved concerns arising from recalls, Toyoda told reporters yesterday in Nagoya, Japan. “We’re doing everything possible to earn their continuing trust.”
Toyota seeks to regain a reputation as an industry leader in quality even as it prepares to fix flaws in luxury Lexus models and faces continued U.S. congressional inquiries over recalls of more than 8 million cars and trucks for defects linked to unintended acceleration. Toyoda told a House committee this year the problems arose partly because of the Toyota City, Japan-based company’s rapid expansion in the past decade.
The automaker this week said it added 1,000 engineers to an expanded quality assessment group, is extending vehicle development time by about four weeks and is opening more regional offices in the U.S. and Canada to more quickly investigate customer complaints.
The announcements came as Toyota demonstrated its engineering centers in Toyota City and Higashi-Fuji, Japan, that are looking into potential sources of sudden acceleration.
Not Stepping Down
Toyoda, 54, grandson of the company’s founder, said he hasn’t considered stepping down as president of the carmaker.
“I haven’t overcome the crisis yet,” he said. “Doing the kind of work I’ve done for the past year, it’s no longer whether I want to step aside or not. I want people to understand the real Toyota.”
The House Energy and Commerce Committee on June 29 said it needed more information from Toyota about the possible role of electronics as a cause of unintended acceleration and asked U.S. sales chief Jim Lentz to meet with the panel, a fifth congressional inquiry this year.
The company was fined a record $16.4 million by the U.S. Transportation Department for violating recall regulations.
Toyota, the world’s largest seller of hybrid autos, is pursuing a multidirectional strategy that includes autos powered by hydrogen, batteries and other fuel alternatives, Toyoda said yesterday.
The company will take delivery of two rechargeable prototypes from Tesla Motors Inc. this month. Both are Toyota models fitted with Tesla battery packs and motors, according to JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technology officer. The Japanese automaker said in May it would invest $50 million in Palo Alto, California-based Tesla, maker of the $109,000 Roadster electric sports car.
Tesla vehicles are powered by thousands of the small lithium-ion batteries used in laptop computers. Toyota wants to study that approach to see if it offers advantages over using larger types of battery cells, Toyota Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki said.
Toyoda also said the carmaker will make “every effort” to improve communication and relations with workers in China to minimize unrest at factories there. Since May, at least nine strikes at plants of Japanese carmakers and suppliers have disrupted their production in the world’s biggest auto market.
Japanese-affiliated companies are “not necessarily being singled out” for strikes in China, Toyoda said. “The workers and the management of the companies have to share the same goal, to create better cars.”
While higher wages may have some effect in China, workers will also have more money to buy autos in the future, he said.
Toyota’s American depositary receipts fell 14 cents to $71.07 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. They have declined 16 percent this year.
--Editors: Ian Rowley, John Lear
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