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Toyoda testimony: As automaker grew, safety suffered

Tue, 23 Feb 2010

Toyota Motor Corp. president Akio Toyoda plans to tell lawmakers on Wednesday that the company regrettably chased growth at the expense of safety in recent years, and he will announce steps to improve Toyota's handling of customer complaints.

Toyoda's written testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says the automaker's priorities “became confused.”

“We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and our organization,” Toyoda says. “I regret that this has resulted in the safety issues described in the recalls we face today.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released Toyoda's testimony today at the same time that the House Energy and Commerce Committee was conducting the first congressional hearing into Toyota's safety problems.

Toyoda also says the company's recall decisions will be informed by a new system in which customer input from around the world “will reach our management in a timely manner.”

His testimony doesn't provide details.

Toyoda says the company will form a quality advisory group composed of outside experts from around the world “to ensure that we do not make a misguided decision.” In addition, Toyota will form an Automotive Center of Quality Excellence and introduce the position of product safety executive, he says.

There also will be “the sharing of more information and responsibility within the company for product quality decisions, including defects and recalls,” Toyoda says, without providing details.

Finally, Toyota managers will “actually drive the cars” and “check for themselves where the problem lies as well as its severity,” he says.

“My name is on every car,” says Toyoda, grandson of the company's founder. “You have my personal commitment that Toyota will work vigorously and unceasingly to restore the trust of our customers.”

By Neil Roland- Automotive News