Toyota's take on VW scandal: Avoid fixation on being the biggest

Toyota President Akio Toyoda: "I want everybody in the world to see our company as the greatest car manufacturer, rather than the biggest." Photo credit: REUTERS

TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda weighed in for the first time about the scandal engulfing Volkswagen AG, stressing his resistance to getting consumed with sales targets.

Toyoda declined to take a direct shot at the German competitor that for years has set out to take its crown as world's biggest automaker.

Instead, he made reference to the unintended-acceleration crisis that engulfed his company more than four years ago and described his philosophy for running the company since.

"I myself won't talk much about the volume and the size of our business. If I just talk about numeric targets, then everybody would be very sensitive," Toyoda, 59, told reporters at the Tokyo Motor Show when asked for his thoughts on chasing sales volume in light of VW's emissions-rigging scandal. "I want everybody in the world to see our company as the greatest car manufacturer, rather than the biggest."

The Toyota founding-family scion's remarks put distance between the way he runs Japan's largest company, compared with the priority Volkswagen placed on becoming the world's No. 1.

After its admission last month to rigging diesel engines to deceive regulators about their emissions, Volkswagen's global sales trailed Toyota through the first nine months of the year, relinquishing the lead held as of June.

In 2010, then VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said the automaker had set its sights on capturing the top position with the goal of surpassing Toyota by 2018. Toyota said Monday it sold 7.49 million vehicles this year through September, topping the 7.43 million that Volkswagen reported earlier this month.

The German carmaker on Wednesday reported 6.7 billion euros ($7.4 billion) in special costs linked to the cheating scandal, which contributed to a 3.48 billion-euro third-quarter operating loss.

From backstage behind the new Prius and a fuel cell vehicle concept, Toyoda said the company will continue prioritizing hybrids and fuel cells rather than diesel engines for passenger cars. He said diesel should still play a role in trucks and other large vehicles.

"Diesel has its strengths," Toyoda said Wednesday. "Various manufacturers are making efforts to deal with environmental issues. The wrongdoing of just a single company should not really dampen the effort that other companies have been making."

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