Toyota brand faces 'serious crisis'

Top executives rally workers to regain consumer confidence in wake of recalls.

    Akio Toyoda, left, urged workers to unite and help to restore the company's brand [AFP]

    Friday's gathering – dubbed "Toward a New Beginning for Toyota" - was called in an effort to rally employees and associates as the world's number one carmaker looks to minimise the fallout from a string of safety alerts over faulty brakes and accelerator pedals.

    About 2,000 workers and dealer gathered at the company headquarters in Toyota City, while the meeting was also streamed live to Toyota plants across Japan.

    Toyota

    Founded in 1937, based in Toyota City, Japan

     Employs approximately 320,000 people worldwide, with manufacturing or assembly plants in 27 countries

     Overtook GM in 2008 to become world's number one selling carmaker

     Sold 7.8 million vehicles worldwide in 2009, including the Prius, the first commercial, mass-produced hybrid car

     Reported a record annual loss of $4.4bn in May, due to impact of global financial crisis

    Speaking at the meeting Akido Toyoda, the company's president, sought to boost morale, urging workers and dealers to unite to help win back customer trust.

    "Let's go with high spirits, have fun and be confident while staying humble," said Toyoda, choking up and wearing a gray workman's jacket, on Friday. "We are making a start today."

    Toyota has been widely criticised over the speed of its response to safety concerns with its cars, and its transparency about the scope of potential defects.

    Criticism has been especially strong in the US, where three separate congressional investigations are underway and a string of class action lawsuits have been launched against the carmaker.

    US safety probe

    Earlier this week Toyoda returned to Japan after being questioned by US legislators over on a spate of quality lapses that include problems with braking systems and sticking accelerator pedals.

    The problems have resulted in global recalls of 8.5 million vehicles, 6 million of them in the US.

    Other executives who appeared before congressional hearings on Toyota's recalls also attended Friday's event.

    On Thursday US regulators said they were reviewing more than 60 complaints that fixes made on recalled vehicles for accelerator problems had not solved the problem.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement it was interviewing vehicle owners, but added that the complaints were as yet unproven allegations.

    Toyota said this week it had fixed more than 1 million of the more than 6 million cars and trucks recalled in October and January.

    The company said it plans to review its research and development process and set up a special team to beef up road tests.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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