WASHINGTON - Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda wrote in an article published on Tuesday that he has promised the top U.S. transportation official the troubled automaker will be more vigilant in the future about responding to safety regulators.
I have spoken with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and given him my personal assurance that lines of communications with safety agencies and regulators will be kept open, that we will communicate more frequently and that we will be more vigilant in responding to those officials, Toyoda wrote in Tuesday's Washington Post.
Publication of Toyoda's article on the Post's op-ed page came as the world's largest automaker announced it would recall its flagship Prius hybrid in Japan for braking problems and that it had halted shipments of two other hybrid models to check for similar problems.
Toyota, fighting to keep its reputation for quality and reliability, is already implementing two other recalls covering more than 8 million vehicles worldwide due to problems with slipping floormats and sticky accelerator pedals.
Toyoda acknowledged in his article that the recalls facing Toyota today are by far the most serious we have ever faced.
Toyota has long been known in business circles for its culture of quality, the vaunted Toyota Way, with its cycle of continuous improvement and the power of any employee on the assembly line to stop production to fix problems by pulling a so-called andon cord.
Two weeks ago, I pulled the andon cord for our company, Toyoda wrote. I ordered production of eight models in five plants across North America temporarily stopped so that we could focus on fixing our customers' vehicles that might be affected by sticking accelerator pedals.
He said Toyota dealers and teams were working around the clock to fix the recalled vehicles.
But to regain the trust of American drivers and their families, more is needed, Toyoda said. We are taking responsibility for our mistakes, learning from them and acting immediately to address the concerns of consumers and independent government regulators.
He said the company had launched a review of its global operations to ensure that problems of this magnitude do not occur again and would ask a blue-ribbon safety advisory group of respected outside experts to review Toyota's operations to ensure deficient processes are eliminated.
We fully understand that we need to more aggressively investigate complaints we hear directly from consumers and move more quickly to address any safety issues we identify, Toyoda said.
(Reporting by David Alexander, editing by Jackie Frank)