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Toyota Chief Apologizes for Recalls

Source: LA Times

Posted on 05 Feb 2010

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At a hastily called news conference today, the head of Toyota Motor Corp. apologized for the huge recall of company vehicles and said he personally would lead a special committee to improve quality control.

"Please believe me. We always put customers first," Akio Toyoda, the company's president and chief executive, said in English at the company's headquarters in Nagoya, Japan, according to news reports.

But Toyoda, the grandson of the legendary automaker's founder, did not announce a recall of its popular Prius hybrid, which is the focus of government investigations in Japan and the United States for brake problems. The vehicles also have other possible glitches, including headlights that suddenly go dark, The Times reported Friday.

Some had expected Toyota to announce a recall of about 270,000 Priuses on Friday, which company officials had said was under consideration. But Toyoda said a decision had not been reached. He promised one as soon as possible.

A Prius recall would add to the automaker's mounting troubles. Toyota has recalled more than 9 million vehicles because of problems that can cause sudden acceleration.

"I offer my apologies for the worries," Toyoda said in Japanese at the news conference, according to the Associated Press. "Many customers are wondering whether their cars are OK."

It was Toyoda's first extended comments on the recalls. He gave a brief interview last week to a Japanese reporter, saying that he was "deeply sorry" for the inconvenience of the recalls. On Wednesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood spoke with Toyoda and was told that the company takes American safety concerns seriously and makes safety a top priority.

At Friday's news conference, Toyoda said he would head a special committee to review internal checks, analyze consumer complaints and get input from outside experts to address the company's quality control.