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Toyota's wishful thinking on fresh start

TOKYO -- The opening slide of Toyota's earnings presentation said it all:

“Ready for a fresh start.”

The optimism seemed less about Toyota's rebound to a full-year profit than the company's eagerness to finally put to rest its unprecedented global recall crisis.

President Akio Toyota and other executives on hand didn't mention “recall” or “quality” once in their speeches -- blithely ignoring the 5-ton elephant in the corner of the room.

The topic, however, was eventually broached by reporters during the Q&A session.

Still, Toyota officials say privately that their CEO wants to put the matter behind him with the close of the fiscal year that was just reported. Toyota not only zoomed back to profit, after its first loss in seven decades, it forecast earnings to surge again this year -- all despite the recalls.

But the recent past is far from buried. And Toyota still has to watch its back as it moves ahead.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is combing through 500,000 internal Toyota documents for signs of slip ups. And that will take months, he says.

So much for a fresh start.

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