TOKYO -- Handing more authority to U.S. bosses is a big theme of Toyota Motor Corp.’s plan to overhaul operations and prevent a repeat of the quality crisis now battering the carmaker.
But when it comes to recalls, President Akio Toyoda says the final say still rests in Japan.
In a front-page interview with Japan’s Nikkei business daily, Toyoda also ruled out seeking alliances with other auto companies.
Toyoda, grandson of the automaker’s founder, has been under increasing pressure to show more leadership as the world’s largest car company tries to handle the recall of about 8.5 million vehicles worldwide.
His newspaper interview, published today, follows a trip to the United States, where he testified before Congress and met factory workers, and a visit to China to apologize to customers there.
Toyoda, 53, has said repeatedly that the headquarters in Toyota City needs to delegate more decision-making power to regional businesses to improve operations.
Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. and Toyota's highest-ranking U.S. sales executive, acknowledged under questioning from lawmakers that he has no authority over issues involving manufacturing, engineering or safety, such as recalls in the United States.
Better in Japan
Toyoda conceded the shift to a regional focus was “not easy.”
“But we're making progress,” he told the Nikkei. “All our workers share an understanding of what the problems are. Now, we're ready to start toward a regional structure.”
Yet when asked whether recall decisions would be left to locals, he said: “The final decision is better made in Japan. The regional quality control managers that we've recently put in place will make it so our customers' voices reach us quickly.”
Toyoda was referring to new quality czars that are being appointed in each region to report to a global quality task force chaired by the president himself. The goal is to recognize customer complaints as soon as they pop up and react before the number of problems balloons.
Toyoda also said his company was in no need of partners, despite its unprecedented losses and damaged public image. The outlook stands in marked contrast to that of Carlos Ghosn, head of the Nissan-Renault alliance. He confirmed recently that he is still hunting for another partner.
Toyoda said the alliance that matters most to Toyota is the three-sided relationship between the manufacturer and its suppliers and dealers.
Said Toyoda: “Rather than looking for something outside, we're going to make this relationship stronger.”