| -

ERLANGER, Ky. — Toyota on Thursday continued to bolster its quality-control initiatives by announcing the formation of a North American Quality Task Force. This group is meant to guide the implementation of regional improvements and work closely with the Special Committee for Global Quality led by Toyota president Akio Toyoda.

This new task force will be headed up by Steve St. Angelo, who is executive vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America.

Along with this task force role, Toyota said St. Angelo also will serve as chief quality officer for North America. St. Angelo will join counterparts from the automaker's other global regions to work with Toyoda's committee, which is scheduled to meet for the first time on Tuesday in Japan.

Toyota explained that each regional task force is specifically charged with executing a six-point action plan outlined by Toyoda on Feb 5. Executives pointed out that elements include improved quality assurance, enhanced customer research, strengthened quality management training, incorporation of best practices through outside professionals, closer cooperation with regulatory authorities and improved regional autonomy.  

"We are making fundamental changes in the way our company operates in order to ensure that Toyota sets an even higher standard for vehicle safety and reliability, responsiveness to customers, and transparency with regulators," St. Angelo emphasized. "The new organization will open the lines of communication globally and enable us to respond faster here in North America to any concerns about our vehicles.

"In keeping with Akio Toyoda's mandate, North America will have greater autonomy and play a critical role in decision-making on recalls and other safety issues," St. Angelo added.

The automaker went on to point out that its new North American Quality Task Force will bring together the senior executive management of its research and development, manufacturing, sales and regulatory divisions and include a newly appointed regional product safety executive.

Toyota confirmed that Dino Triantafyllos, the vice president of quality at TEMA, will oversee the processes to improve the visibility of customer concerns and expedite North American safety-related proposals, as well as play a key role in decision-making with regard to recalls and other safety issues in the field.

"The aim of our new quality task force is to assure that all of us in North America listen and respond to the voice of the customer," Triantafyllos stressed.

"My primary responsibility is to assure that we utilize all of the data at our disposal and that we promptly decide the appropriate action," he continued.

Furthermore, Toyota stated that this new North American Quality Task Force also will work closely with former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater. In early March, Toyota named Slater to lead the independent North American Quality Advisory Panel.

The automaker also indicated that Slater is working with company executives to appoint additional independent members to that panel.