“Building a trust among the customers is the key to our past success and we would like to do the same into the future,” said Yoshimi Inaba, president and CEO of Toyota Motors North America. Toyota employs some 200,000 “team members” at plants, dealerships, and suppliers in the US, where it has had a presence for 50 years.
Last week, Toyota President Akio Toyoda, grandson of the founder, appeared before a House panel and took “full responsibility” for the failures that prompted the recalls of millions of Toyotas in the United States.
Toyota executive vice president Shinichi Sasaki, one of two top board members to appear before the Senate panel, said that Toyota is “fundamentally overhauling Toyota’s quality assurance process, under the personal direction of our president, Akio Toyoda.” He also said that Americans would have a greater role in quality assurance decisions, including recalls. (For Monitor coverage on the impact of the recalls on Toyota's sales, click here.)
Senators pressed for assurances that someone would be held accountable for errors of the past, especially the failure to respond to thousands of complaints from US Toyota owners since at least 2003 that brakes had no impact on suddenly surging Toyota vehicles. (For Monitor coverage of a report on sudden car acceleration, click here.)
US officials were also under the gun for failing to respond promptly to consumer complaints and aggressively investigate accident reports. In his opening statement, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood encouraged owners of recalled vehicles to remove floor mats and pay special attention to gas pedals.
“If your accelerator becomes stuck for any reason, steadily apply the brake, put the car in neutral, bring it to a stop in a safe place, and call your dealer," he said.