How's this for a sign of the times?
Toyota recalls more than 6 million vehicles in the United States, and five months pass before President Akio Toyoda visits the epicenter of its global quality crisis to apologize.
Toyota recalls 75,000 vehicles in China -- less than 1 percent of its global recall total -- and the family scion is there within weeks, bowing to the public at a press conference in Beijing.
Few things better underline China's rising star as the world's biggest auto market than Toyota Motor Corp.'s prompt effort to shore up its reputation in the Middle Kingdom.
Granted, Toyoda's visit to China last week came after he appeared before Congress and is part of a global road show meant to win back consumers' trust. But his stop in Beijing underscores the clout of Chinese consumers -- not just with the world's top automaker but all automakers.
Consider the status of lowly Europe. Toyota only dispatched Vice Chairman Kazuo Okamoto to make a perfunctory appearance at the Geneva auto show and repeat Toyoda's apology. By comparison, China got royal treatment from the grandson of the company's founder.
During his March 1 press conference in the Chinese capital, Toyoda said: "I flew directly from the U.S. because I wanted to explain the situation to the Chinese people as soon as possible."