Toyota promises to raise vehicle quality (reauters)
Updated: 10:38 a.m. ET July 20, 2006
TOKYO - Toyota Motor Corp., plagued with a rise in vehicle recalls and
facing a legal probe into past recall practice, vowed on Thursday to step up
quality efforts, saying this was imperative to ensure continued growth.
Japan’s top auto maker, which has built its reputation on offering safe and
reliable cars at reasonable prices, has recalled more than one million
vehicles in Japan alone so far this year, and on Wednesday issued a recall
of some 400,000 SUVs in the United States, its single-biggest market.
In a first for the company, Toyota is also being criminally investigated by
prosecutors in Kumamoto, southern Japan, over whether its quality-control
managers had wrongfully delayed a recall filing that could have prevented a
road accident in 2004 that injured a couple and their three young children.
“The world-class quality that we’ve built is our lifeline,” President
Katsuaki Watanabe told a mid-year news conference dominated by questions
over Toyota’s recent quality woes.
“There will be no growth without an improvement in quality. This is the
biggest task that this management team must undertake,” he said.
Vehicle recalls have been on the rise at most auto makers as they use common
components across more models to save costs, and pile on advanced features
requiring more electronics parts to add value to their products.
“Given our rapid expansion, there is a need to strengthen the various
quality processes,” Masatami Takimoto, one of two executive vice presidents
overseeing quality at Toyota, said.
At a separate briefing earlier, Takimoto noted that Toyota had last year set
up a new division dedicated to gathering information on glitches from users
Another measure, taken in June last year, would enable the company to keep
data on vehicles repaired after the period covered by warranty, he said.
Concerning the pending criminal case in Kumamoto, Toyota executives repeated
the company’s position that all decisions taken in that case were sound, but
apologized for shaking up customers’ trust.
Japan’s transport ministry, which had summoned Toyota’s quality officials
earlier on Thursday for a briefing on its recall process, said it would
issue the company with a business improvement order on Friday morning after
finding problems in its system of handling vehicle defects.
Despite such setbacks, Watanabe said Toyota was on track to meet its
group-based global sales and production forecasts for 2006, of 8.85 million
units and 9.06 million units, respectively — figures that could soon see it
overtake General Motors Corp. as the world’s biggest auto maker.