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Independent Panel Recommends Fixes for Toyota Quality, Safety Problems

Led by former Transpo Sec. Slater, group calls for more global flexibility.

by on May.23, 2011

Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater delivers some harsh recommendations to Toyota.

An independent panel led by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater has issued some far-reaching recommendations aimed at helping Toyota avoid the sort of quality and safety problems that have been plaguing the maker – resulting in the recall of over 10 million vehicles, damage to the once-lofty Japanese brand’s image and a slew of potentially costly lawsuits.

Perhaps the most far-reaching conclusion is that Toyota needs to shift from a highly centralized global structure to one that gives more autonomy to regional operations, notably in North America.  The panel’s report, titled “A Road Forward,” also stresses that Toyota needs to be more willing to listen to concerns raised about its quality and safety by outside sources.

The panel was initially created during the so-called “unintended acceleration” crisis that was kicked off by a huge October 2009 recall.  A second recall, three months later resulted in the maker temporarily halting sales and production while it dealt with potentially sticky accelerator pedals.  But a variety of other quality and safety issues have since cropped up, resulting in the callback of millions of additional vehicles.  That led the panel to conduct a “much broader” review, according to a summary of its findings.

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“It has been said that a good company takes a problem and solves it, but a great company takes a problem and learns from it,” said former Sec. Slater.  “Toyota appears to be committed to applying what it has learned to make important changes to improve its quality and safety processes, but there is more to be done.  We hope this report helps Toyota in that endeavor.”

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