The Speech We Want to Hear Akio Toyoda Make

February 4th, 2010

Good morning, all.

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.

Thank you.

Well, is there anything else you think Akio Toyoda should say right now? Please let us know.

—jgoods

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  1. zerrath
    February 20th, 2010 at 02:43 | #1

    >Is there something else Akio should have said?

    BANZAi?

  2. randy
    February 6th, 2010 at 10:29 | #2

    I was referring to a report on the ABC evening news that was on this past thursday night if I remember.

    Here’s the link for the original story last september concerning former Toyota lawyer Dimitri Billings concerning suppressed Toyota internal documents concerning rollover/roof crush litigation: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/rollover-lawsuits-haunt-toyota/story?id=8468319

    Here’s the link on abcnews.com concerning the NHTSA official hired by Toyota to hamstring the runaway acceleration investigation at NHTSA:
    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/RunawayToyotas/revolving-door-us-safety-agency-toyota-representative/story?id=9747342

    Here’s another concerning the same issue:
    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/RunawayToyotas/toyota-nhtsa-looked-sudden-acceleration-years-ago/story?id=9747426&page=2

    They Toyota meltdown is painful to watch for those of us in the industry because all the quality gains made by the domestic auto industry have been a direct result of the adoption of quality systems based largely on Toyota’s model. Remember when President George Bush struggled to say “money trumps everything” a few years back? Obviously Toyota has adopted a new prime directive in their business model, and quality has taken a second place. It’s almost a full circle from the postwar era when Dr. Deming help turn a country noted for manufacturing junk (much like China is doing now) into the international leader in quality and an economic powerhouse. American auto companies didn’t believe Dr. Deming, after all, they dominated the auto market and were making money hand over fist. Their motto became “ship it out and we’ll fix it later.” Kind of sounds like Toyota now that they’ve become top dog. So hard to achieve and so easy to lose, isn’t it?

  3. Joseph
    February 5th, 2010 at 00:20 | #3

    Well lets see what happens now. I think the speech really did say it all. I can see that they’ve been working really hard to gain back the trust and confidence of the people in their cars. It’s not like no company ever have faced a problem like this, I know there were a lot before. We’re just making a big deal out if it because it’s Toyota, the company that every car maker wants to bring down.

  4. jgoods
    February 4th, 2010 at 21:45 | #4

    @randy Thanks, Randy. I guess it will remain a fantasy if what you say is true. Send me some links or sources about the NHTSA official and any other info you have on suppressed documents. I suppose you’ve read the stuff in the LA Times. Is that what you’re referring to?

    I want to believe that Toyota is different from the rest of the creeps in this business. But in the other side of my brain resides a skeptic who never trusts big business and knows too many stories of cover-ups and illegalities.

  5. randy
    February 4th, 2010 at 18:50 | #5

    You’ve got a great fantasy going there, jgoods. The latest revelations today is that Toyota has been actively suppressing internal engineering documents that highlight product shortcomings, and worst of all, hiring a NHTSA official to convince former colleagues at NHTSA to bias the investigation of runaway vehicle accidents to eliminate most of the vehicle reports. Aside from revealing that NHTSA can no longer be trusted, this shows you the danger of allowing industry to hire government regulators.

    So much for Toyota’s gold-plated reputation. This company is just as bad (or worse) than many others who actively cover up their incompetence to keep the (undeserved) cash flowing in.

  6. Kyle
    February 4th, 2010 at 18:22 | #6

    Haha.

    Aparently I was so interested in what I thought I seen I perceived it as being HIS speech!

    My apologies!

  7. February 4th, 2010 at 17:18 | #7

    @Kyle:
    This is not an actual speech, and it was written by someone who does not work for Toyota or know exactly what’s wrong with its vehicles.

    I think a speech like this could lay the groundwork for Toyota to re-build its brand name and reputation for quality, but only if the company actually followed through on all the promises it includes, particularly the ones about “…work[ing] closely and openly with suppliers, government agencies, and the public.” But if the company keeps looking and sounding reluctant and slow to deal with critical safety concerns, its days as the world’s #1 automaker are all done.

  8. Kyle
    February 4th, 2010 at 15:58 | #8

    Is there something else Akio should have said?

    Maybe what was actually WRONG witht he cars, not babbling on about trust and loyalty to the customers.

    He talked his way out of making any statement on the vehicles, what the REAL problem is, and the livesthat has been lost from their vehicles malfunctions.

    He says they have waited so they had the real facts on whats going on. Well… What ARE the facts? They are never mentioned. Toyota is hiding alot. First it’s floor mats, now it’s cruise control, now it’s braking.

    Does Toyota even know whats wrong with their vehicles?

    They claim also, these problems don’t carry into Lexus, even though a Lexus was involved in the deaths of a small family not too long ago.

    You do the math.

  9. Travis
    February 4th, 2010 at 15:31 | #9

    This is wonderful. I’m stunned that the speech Akio should have made by now had to come from a car blog, but this is exactly what the public needs to hear from Toyota’s leader. Maybe he should just read this, and add a comment that says, “Yeah, what jgoods said.”

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