24 Feb 2010

Toyota growth may have been too rapid, says president

4:15 pm on 24 February 2010

The president of Toyota has admitted that the firm's rapid expansion might have prompted safety problems which led to the recall of 8.5 million vehicles.

In a personal statement to be delivered to US congress on Wednesday, Toyota president Akio Toyoda said the firm's growth "may have been too quick" and that priorities became confused as the carmaker grew, the BBC reports.

In recent months, Toyota has been hit by three main safety problems - faulty accelerator pedals, accelerator pedals getting stuck in floor mats, and a problem with braking systems on its hybrid models.

The reputation of Toyota has been severely damaged by a string of major problems across a range of vehicles.

Mr Toyoda, the grandson of the company's founder, said that he took a personal responsibility for improving the quality of Toyota cars.

Problem baffles US chief

Toyota's most senior US executive, James Lentz, has admitted to lawmakers in Washington that the company still cannot explain why some of its cars can accelerate suddenly and uncontrollably.

The problem has caused at least five deaths.

Mr Lentz also says it took too long to deal with safety problems that led to the recalls. On one issue, he says, the company failed to promptly analyse and respond to information provided.

Mr Lentz, appearing before a US congressional committee over the recall, said the company took too long come to grips with "a rare but serious set of safety issues".

"The problem has also been compounded by poor communications both within our company and with regulators and consumers."

The congressional hearing heard harrowing tales from the drivers of so-called runaway Toyotas. One driver told the hearing she thought she was going to die as her Toyota Lexus sped out of control on a freeway.

Tennessee woman Rhonda Smith's Lexus suddenly zoomed up to 160km/h as she drove down a highway in October 2006.