Toyoda: I Take Full Responsibility
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In remarks prepared for his appearance before the House Oversight Committee, Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp., said he fears the automaker has grown too quickly and that this has impacted quality.
"Toyota has, for the past few years, been expanding its business rapidly. Quite frankly, I fear the pace at which we have grown may have been too quick. I would like to point out here that Toyota's priority has traditionally been the following: First, safety; second, quality; and third, volume. These priorities became confused and we were not able to stop, think and make improvements as much as we were able to before and our basic stance to listen to consumers' voices to make better products has weakened somewhat.
"We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and our organization, and we should sincerely be mindful of that. I regret that this has resulted in safety issues described in the recalls we face today, and I am deeply sorry for any accidents that Toyota drivers have experienced," he continued.
In his prepared remarks, he makes a special point to share his condolences to the members of the Saylor family for the accident in San Diego. Toyoda said he will do everything in his power to make sure such a tragedy like that does not occur again.
"Since last June, when I first took office, I have personally placed the highest priority on improving quality over quantity, and I have shared that direction with our stakeholders. As you well know, I am the grandson of the founder and all the Toyota vehicles bear my name. For me, when the cars are damaged, it is as though I am as well. I, more than anyone, wish for Toyota's cars to be safe and for our customers to feel safe when they use our vehicles," Toyoda said.
"Up to now, any decisions on conducting recalls have been made by the Customer Quality Engineering Division at Toyota Motor Corp. in Japan," he continued. "This division confirms whether there are technical problems and makes a decision on the necessity of a recall. However, reflecting on the issues today, what we lacked was the customers' perspective."
To improve the recall process, Toyoda said the automaker will add a step and create a system whereby customers' voices throughout the world can reach management in a timely manner. Moreover, there will be a system in each region that can make decisions as necessary, he noted.
"Further, we will form a quality advisory group composed of respected outside experts from North American and around the world to ensure that we do not make a misguided decision. Finally, we will invest heavily in quality in the U.S., through the establishment of an Automotive Center of Quality Excellence, the introduction of a new position — product safety executive — and the sharing of more information and responsibility within the company for product quality decisions, including defects and recalls.," Toyoda said in his prepared statement.
He went on to stress that he will ensure that each management member actually drives Toyota's vehicles to see for themselves what the problems are and their severity.
"I myself am a trained test driver. As a professional, I am able to check on problems in a car and can understand how severe the safety concern is in the car. I drove the vehicles in the accelerator pedal recall as well as the Prius, comparing the vehicles before and after the remedy in various environmental settings. I believe that only by examining the problems on-site can one make decisions from the customer perspective. One cannot rely on reports or data in a meeting room," Toyoda suggested.
Acknowledging that customers have begun to feel uncertain about the safety of Toyota models, Toyoda said he takes full responsibility.
"My name is on every car. You have my personal commitment that Toyota will work vigorously and unceasingly to restore the trust of our customers," he concludes.