The chief executives of Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor North America appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform today to present their positions on how the automaker plans to move forward in addressing the current recall situations and the procedures it will enact to help repair its reputation.
In opening remarks during a session that lasted more than three hours, Akio Toyoda, grandson of the company's founder and president of Toyota Motor Corporation, admitted that the company's longstanding priorities of safety first followed by quality and then growth had become confused during the past several years. "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 the safety issues described in the recalls we face today, and I am deeply sorry for any accidents that Toyota drivers have experienced." He also offered his condolences to the surviving members of the Saylor family that were killed when a Lexus they were driving was involved in a fatal crash as the result of having experienced unintended acceleration.
Joined by Yoshimi Inaba, president of Toyota Motor North America, Toyoda offered details of a series of new programs that the automaker will enact. All will involve bringing a "customer perspective" into the proceedings that will provide early and direct input from this critical group in any recall-related issue to ensure that safety always takes precedence. In addition to forming a quality advisory group composed of respected outside experts from North America and around the world to prevent any future "misguided decisions," Toyota will establish an Automotive Center of Quality Excellence and add a new Product Safety Executive post here in the U.S. Toyoda promised a more rapid sharing of information between the American and Japanese operations with respect to all product quality decisions, including those involving defects and recalls. Lastly, he indicated a commitment to work even more closely with NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration). "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."
While Toyoda and Inaba were lauded for appearing before Congress, committee members subjected them to intensive questioning on a wide range of subjects that spanned everything from what was known about the matter being discussed and who knew it to potential issues involving its electronic throttle control system and what steps Toyota would take to defray incidental costs incurred by owners whose vehicles had been involved in the recall. It's clear that this is only the opening salvo in what's likely to be a fairly lengthy investigation.