While in Switzerland for an economic summit, Toyota CEO Akido Toyoda apologized for the problems his company is facing, saying he is “deeply sorry.”
Then, according to ABC News, he got into a black Audi and drove away.
There is a potential excuse for why that happened, but first let’s discuss the effects of this major lapse of vehicular judgment.
Toyota isn’t winning any new fans lately, and seeing the company’s top boss in an Audi doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the masses. In fact, it conveys the message, “I am deeply sorry that you all own Toyotas, now if you’ll excuse me, I need to test the limits of my new Audi.”
The Audi most likely wasn’t his, nor was it his likely car of choice. But none of that matters, because all the public saw was Mr. Toyoda in a car that doesn’t bear his name. And that’s not good.
Now for the full disclaimer: Audi was a sponsor of the event Toyoda was attending, and in all likelihood required all attendees to either drive or ride in Audi vehicles.
Even that doesn’t excuse him from being seen in the Audi, though. In fact, if he had some common sense and wanted to convey that he truly is working to fix these problems, he should have skipped the conference altogether and stayed home to give the public daily status updates regarding the recalls and the timeline for potential fixes. Why his loyalty wasn’t to his company and customers during this time is mystifying.
Maybe, just maybe, Toyoda thought he’d prove that a company can come back from a brush with unintended acceleration. Audi is certainly no stranger to that problem, having survived its own accusations in the 1980s that nearly drove the automaker out of the U.S. market.
That’s probably not the case, though, as more evidence piles up that Toyota knew about the safety problems long before it announced any recalls. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had some tough words for the company in an interview with the Associated Press:
They should have taken it seriously from the very beginning when we first started discussing it with them. Maybe they were a little safety deaf in their North American office until we went to Japan.
Safety deaf. Ouch.
It just goes to show that Toyota’s execs have been aloof in their handling of this problem, which makes me think Mr. Toyoda didn’t even give hopping into an Audi a second thought. And that’s what is disturbing about this whole thing.
Does it matter to you that Toyota’s CEO was seen in an Audi, right after apologizing to the public for his company’s safety issues?