The Speech We Want to Hear Akio Toyoda Make
I know you have been waiting to hear from me on the crisis facing our company. I haven’t spoken out previously because I wanted to be sure of my facts. Yet, my not speaking has caused many to think we at Toyota were hiding something, fearful of the press, or just plain stonewalling.
My hesitation has caused our stock price to fall and our credibility to crumble. For that, I am more than sorry; I am ashamed.
The truth is we Japanese are good at making apologies. We are good at being sensitive to public opinion. Maybe we are not so good at being open.
We have been working night and day to solve the sudden-acceleration problem. With close to 8 million cars in recall, we have to devise a strategy to get those on the road and at dealers repaired as quickly as possible and restart production of fully safe cars and trucks.
Beyond the logistics of recall, we have to deal with investigations by U.S. and Japanese authorities, and we will be fully cooperative. We have to deal with a software glitch that has caused braking problems in the new Prius. Equally important, we have to deal with some angry and frustrated customers and the press, who are saying things like:
- In the Japanese culture you “NEVER admit a problem until you have a solution.”
- Toyota has become “a victim of their own press clippings.”
- The Wall Street Journal wrote that hell is not a fiery lake, but “a maze of deposition rooms you can’t escape, where nothing is what it seems. That’s where Toyota has landed.” Yes, the lawyers are coming after us.
So we are taking it on the chin, and deservedly so, because we went back on our long tradition of listening to customers. As I said when assuming the presidency, after 70 years of overcoming challenges to build great cars, we must start again from the very bottom up. Our new business must be to reinvent the automobile.
But before we do that, we must immediately get our house in order to rectify the serious problems that have surfaced in our cars. I am directing everyone in the organization to make that their first priority. If need be, production will again be discontinued so as to get all cars in the pipeline safely modified.
We will work 24/7 to study the history of unintended acceleration in all our products, including electronic throttles and all associated systems. In developing a fix, we will work closely and openly with suppliers, government agencies, and the public. All proceedings will be open to public scrutiny, and the company will issue regular reports. So will I.
Any problems with braking on Prius vehicles will be treated similarly. Any future problems that surface will be treated similarly.
Some of you know that I love racing and drove the Lexus LF-A at Nurburgring. I love it because it forces you to make rapid decisions with great concentration and skill. Toyota had to quit racing last fall, but we intend to keep our hat in the ring and apply that kind of concentration and skill to making better cars and restoring our long-standing reputation for quality and reliability.
Yes, we may have moved too fast as a company. Yes, our management is perhaps too vertical. Yes, in the past we have made apologies too easily and not followed through on the product changes required. Yes, we have been way too slow in dealing with customer complaints.
But we are still the most quality-inspired auto company in the world, and we want that to be our legacy. I will devote my presidency to restoring your trust and confidence in our cars. That I promise.
Well, is there anything else you think Akio Toyoda should say right now? Please let us know.