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Editorial: Toyota CEO Abandons Credibility

Akio Toyoda must risk appearing before a hostile Congress.

by on Feb.17, 2010

Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda apologizes for ongoing safety problems, but refuses to meet with U.S. representatives.

During his third news conference in barely two weeks, Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda announced today that he will not appear before a U.S. Congressional hearing, later this month, as he’d been requested to do.

Instead, the top man at the world’s largest automaker will send one of his subordinates.

“We are sending the best people,” including Yoshi Inaba, head of Toyota’s U.S. operations, claimed Toyoda, who happens to be the grandson of the founder of the world’s largest automaker. They “will amply answer the questions” Congress poses he asserted.

Is Toyoda risking violating the vision of his grandfather, one that made Toyota an industrial giant and a global force to be reckoned with, and one that humbled the Detroit Three using their own techniques?

Perhaps, and simply providing answers is not what either Toyota – or Toyoda – must do right now. The executive’s imperial decision to pass on Washington’s invitation is as wrong-headed as anything we could imagine the automaker doing  in the current environment.

And that’s on top of a running series of breathtaking mistakes that has already tarnished the company’s  image and that of its senior management team.

The irony of all this  is that Akio Toyoda took on his current post, barely a year ago, under the cloak of being a “reformer.”

In what then seemed an unusually candid admission, he warned that Toyota was making some major mistakes that threatened its long-term viability. Oh how true that statement rings and rings now…

Did Toyoda, at that time, have a premonition of what was to come, or was he simply looking at broader issues of profitability, product development, engineering,  manufacturing efficiency, overall competitiveness, to say nothing of declining quality?

If, in his mind, Toyota was in trouble at the beginning of 2009, just months after attaining its goal of becoming the world’s largest automaker, what shape is it in now?

Perhaps, if you have traveled in the Orient, you have observed the hiss-ssss  of “teeth-sucking” when such a difficult question is posed – sssssssssssss

Akio Toyoda is in our view a reluctant leader.    (more…)