Toyota President Toyoda has faced criticism for his low-profile during the company’s recall crisis
Toyota President Akio Toyoda apologized for safety problems that have left the Japanese carmaker “in crisis” as the group considered a second recall — this time over the brakes on some Prius hybrids.
“Believe me, Toyota cars are safe”, said Toyoda — the grandson of Toyota’s founder — breaking his near-total silence on the recall woes.
Even by Japanese standards — where chief executives routinely make public apologies if their company is in crisis — Akio Toyoda’s comments on Friday were surprising.
A little more than three months after assuming his post, the president of Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, recited a long list of mea culpas to astonished reporters at the Japan National Press Club.
Motor, at a news conference in Tokyo on Friday.
Last week, Toyota announced its biggest recall ever in the United States after a crash in August in which a California highway patrol officer and three family members were killed.
He expressed grief over a fatal crash that led to a recall of 3.8 million cars, regrets about an expected second consecutive annual loss and sorrow over the decision to close the company’s first American factory in California.
The accident, which Mr. Toyoda called “extremely regrettable,” apparently occurred when the accelerator got jammed by a floor mat.
“Four precious lives have been lost. I offer my deepest condolences,” Mr. Toyoda said. “Customers bought our cars because they thought they were the safest. But now we have given them cause for grave concern. I can’t begin to express my remorse.”
It was “agonizing” to decide to cease production at a California plant this year, after G.M., its partner in the joint venture, decided to pull out. Mr. Toyoda, who worked at the plant in the 1990s, added, “I know it’s a big blow to the local economy.” The Japanese people were also owed an apology, he said, because Toyota was no longer producing cars that excited them. Auto sales have fallen in recent years, partly because of a growing disinterest in cars among younger Japanese buyers.
“They say that young people are moving away from cars,” he said. “But surely it is us — the automakers — who have abandoned our passion for cars.”
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, announced a recall of 2.3 million U.S. vehicles on Jan. 21 to repair defects linked to unintended acceleration. The company has lost almost $34 billion in market value as the recall has grown to almost 8 million units worldwide, tarnishing Toyota’s reputation.
Separately, Japan’s government has ordered Toyota to investigate complaints from customers about brake failures in the latest version of its Prius hybrid car, the nation’s best- selling vehicle last year.
The company is still considering measures related to the Prius, Toyoda said. The carmaker will hire outside experts for its quality committee, said Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki.
The company will set up a new committee on quality control, Toyoda, 53, grandson of the company’s founder, told reporters in Nagoya, Japan.