David Prosser: A chance for Toyota to pull clear of crisis
Friday 19 February 2010
Outlook This will be a good test of how seriously Toyota takes the scandal that has engulfed it over the past month. Akio Toyoda, the president of the world's largest car manufacturer, and the grandson of its founder, has until now had an excuse not to attend a US Congressional hearing on the affair next Wednesday – he pointed out that he had not been invited. Now he has, with the Democrat chairman of the committee giving Mr Toyoda until the end of today to reply.
Mr Toyoda would be wise to say yes – and not just because the committee has the option of issuing a subpoena should he decline. From the moment the first evidence emerged that Toyota had widespread problems with its vehicles, the company has faced criticism for being too slow to respond. For its figurehead to turn down the opportunity to explain Toyota's behaviour in such a high-profile forum, even if he has already dispatched his US chief to the hearing, would compound that perception.
There is no sign that this crisis is about to end. Repairs on those faulty accelerator pedals are now well under way, and a software patch for the iffy Prius brakes is available. But we have not yet been told the full extent of the problems which apparently affect the steering of some Corollas, the company's most popular model.
Mr Toyoda certainly wasn't able to clarify the Corolla position at his most recent press conference on Wednesday. And although he has now made several public appearances to apologise for Toyota's failings, he will be aware that he was widely attacked for leaving it so long before the first of those appearances. The Congressional hearing is another chance for the Toyota boss to put things right.
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