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Massive Recall is Opportunity, Toyota Chief Claims

Maker also planning to move still more production to U.S.

by on Jan.13, 2010

Toyota's top U.S. executive, Yoshimi Inaba sees opportunity in the recall of 3.8 million vehicles due to sticking accelerator pedals.

Toyota hasn’t toted up how much it will cost to recall more than 3.8 million vehicles to replace floor mats and accelerator pedals Toyota’s top executive in the US, Yoshimi Inaba,  said, following a speech in Detroit.

However,  Toyota is committed to using the recall as an opportunity to both reassure customers and to impress them with the company’s service and attention to detail, Inaba emphasized during his speech to the Automotive News World Congress.

“We are going take care of people,” said the Japanese executive. “It an opportunity to prove ourselves to them.”

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Inaba insisted everyone at Toyota was committed to the principal, adding that he believes that a carefully-managed recall, “will make a huge difference” in protecting the company’s reputation, which has been built up over decades.

“It’s to show people we care,” he said. “We are watching very carefully to see if there is any damage to our reputation.”

Some industry watchers feel the automaker could escape serious damage due to a reservoir of support and good will for the company, which has long been seen as a benchmark of quality and reliability.  But there’s little question, add others, that it has been a tough year for Toyota, which recalled about 4 million vehicles, in 2009, about four times more than ever before in a single year in the U.S. market.

Like other industry leaders, there was a sense of cautious optimism in Inaba’s comments, the Toyota executive saying the carmaker expects new car sales in the U.S. to climb by more than 1 million units in 2010.

Toyota also continues to spend heavily on research and development, spending more than $9 billion in 2009 “with emphasis on safety and on the enviroment,” he said. “We crash 1,500 vehicles every year and we’ve also spent money on advanced crash test dummies,” Inaba noted.

The spending also means that Toyota will be launching 10 new products this year, beginning with the redesigned 2011 Sienna minivan and wrapping up, towards year end with the official launch for the $375,000 Lexus supercar, the carbon-fiber LFA.  Scion also will get new product, Inaba revealed.

“The business model we invented for Scion remains unchanged.” he said. The brand-within-a-brand’s sales have slowed recently, and that emphasizes the need for a steady supply of new products to work properly. “We are going back to re-vitalize the brand,” Inaba promised.

Toyota is stepping up plans to make more safety equipment such as electronic stability control standard on its vehicles, said Inaba.

He also said Toyota plans to expand its production in the US, starting with plans to complete the new, but only partially-completed assembly plant in Mississippi ,once the economy show definite signs of recovery.

“We plan to shift more production to the US,” Inaba said.

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