As though to make up for his early silence, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda has tossed out a Wall Street Journal op-ed two weeks after writing a similarly contrite piece in The Washington Post. The big motive is the beginning of Congressional hearings into Toyota safety problems on Tuesday morning. The embattled CEO makes a very personal case for the company--which some think the U.S. government is determined to crush.
"The past several months have been humbling for all of us at Toyota," Toyoda begins. He attempts to "assure" readers that changes are being made. But he quickly moves into first person singular:
Since last June, when I took over as president of the company, I have personally placed the highest priority on improving quality, not quantity. All Toyota vehicles bear my name. When cars are damaged, it is as though I am as well. I love cars, and I take the utmost pleasure in offering vehicles that our customers love. I, more than anyone, want Toyota's cars to be safe, and for our customers to feel safe when they drive our vehicles.
Toyoda then mentions the "Toyota Way," a set of principles established by his grandfather in 1937. The best way forward is to recommit to these principles, he argues: "I am taking the company back to basics." To prove his sincerity, he makes a few promises: "expanding our field monitoring team," a "top-to-bottom review of our quality control processes," and, most dramatically, becoming "one of the first full-line vehicle manufacturers to make advanced brake-override systems standard on all of our new models world-wide." The conclusion?
President Obama has urged all auto makers to act quickly and decisively when problems are identified. I look forward to speaking directly to Congress and the American people tomorrow about the decisive actions Toyota is taking to make things right for our customers by building the safest vehicles in the world.