WASHINGTON - During Congressional testimony Wednesday, Feb. 24, Toyota President Akio Toyoda apologized to the U.S. and American Toyota vehicle owners for any company safety lapses and vowed to change the way the company responds to customer complaints about vehicle safety in the future.
The hearing was called to address public concerns about sudden unintended acceleration of certain Toyota vehicles and the company's response to the problem.
"I am deeply sorry for any accident that Toyota drivers have experienced," Toyoda told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He suggested that Toyota's quick expansion in the past several years may have led Toyota to focus too much on company growth and not enough on safety as the leading priority.
Toyoda vowed to change the company's safety recall decision-making process in the future. This reform effort will give regional management more decision-making power in such matters. In the past, all decisions on conducting safety recalls came from the Customer Quality Engineering Division at Toyota Motor Corp. in Japan, he said.
The company will also take new measures to ensure that management understands safety issues from the customer's perspective and that customer complaints are addressed in a timely manner. "Further, we will form a quality advisory group composed of respected outside experts from North America and around the world to ensure that we do not make a misguided decision," Toyoda said.
The company will also invest more in quality control, establish an Automotive Center of Quality Excellence, create a new product safety executive position, and promote greater communication within the company about defects and recalls and other quality matters, he said.
In response to questions from lawmakers, Toyoda said he was "absolutely confident" that there was no design flaw in the company's electronic throttle control system. Toyota has blamed the episodes of sudden acceleration on floor mat entrapment and sticking gas pedals. However, during testimony before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Tuesday, Feb. 23, James E. Lentz, Toyota's top U.S. sales executive, acknowledged the possibility that there may be other causes as well.
More than 6 million vehicles have been recalled in the U.S. because of the sudden acceleration problem.