Toyota CEO to acknowledge 'confused' priorities in testimony

-February 23, 2010

WASHINGTON — Toyota's CEO concedes in prepared testimony before a House panel that the Japanese car maker's "priorities became confused" as it pursued global market growth.

In testimony released on the eve (Feb. 23) of his appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Wednesday, Chairman Akio Toyoda said the embattled car maker will form a "quality advisory group" composed of outside experts to "ensure that we do not make a misguided decision" about remedying quality control and safety issues.

Toyoda also told lawmakers that Toyota will establish an "Automotive Center of Quality Excellence" in the U.S. and create a new position, "product safety executive."

According to the testimony released by Toyota and the Washington public affairs and lobbying operation, Glover Park Group, Akio will explain the underlying causes for the massive Toyota recall this way:

"Toyota's priority has traditionally been the following: First; safety, second; quality, and third; volume. These priorities became confused, and we were not able to stop, think and make improvements as much as we were able to before, and our basic stance to listen to customers' voices to make better products has weakened somewhat.

"We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and our organization, and we should sincerely be mindful of that. I regret that this has resulted in the safety issues described in the recalls we face today, and I am deeply sorry for any accidents that Toyota drivers have experienced."

In testimony on Tuesday, James Lentz, head of Toyota sales in the U.S., denied reports that electronic control units were a possible cause of runaway vehicles, which prompted the first wave of Toyota recalls.

Following harrowing testimony from the owner of 2006 Lexus ES350 about unintended acceleration, lawmakers pressed Lentz to track down the Lexus and and other problem vehicles, tear them apart and have Toyota engineers determine the precise cause of the uncontrolled acceleration.

Then, they told Lentz, Toyota should fix the problem.

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