Washington: Toyota Motor Corp executives in North America will have more authority over recall decision-making under quality control changes that will also give safety a sharper focus in vehicle design, company officials said on Tuesday.
The automaker’s North American president, Yoshimi Inaba, said in prepared testimony for a US Senate Commerce Committee hearing the overhaul will allow Toyota to “better share” quality and safety information across its global operations and with regulators.
Inaba restated Toyota’s apology for losing customer focus during its period of rapid global growth, a condition that fueled sharp US criticism of its attention to safety and triggered recalls of more than 8 million cars and trucks worldwide for unintended acceleration and braking problems.
“We sincerely regret that our shortcomings have resulted in the issues associated with our recent recalls,” Inaba said.
US Senate investigators have reviewed thousands of documents from the company, regulators and insurers over the recall firestorm that has jolted the company’s reputation for quality and reliability.
The hearing will focus on recalls in 2009 and 2010 with special emphasis on criticism that regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were not aggressive enough when investigating complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who will also testify, has defended the agency.
Shinichi Sasaki, the executive who heads quality control, said in separate testimony the Toyota quality assurance overhaul will cover vehicle design, manufacturing sales and service.
The automaker will emphasize safety in its designs with more focus on driver behavior and real world driving conditions.
It will improve its network for collecting consumer information, establish new technical offices in the United States, and will review vehicle data recorders and enhance other diagnostic tools.
The company plans to establish an independent review panel to assess quality control changes.
The Commerce Committee hearing follows two similar sessions in the House of Representatives last week where Toyota president Akio Toyoda expressed testified last Wednesday.
Toyota said dealers have so far fixed more than 1 million recalled vehicles.