- Title: JAPAN: Toyota head agrees to testify in US recall probe
- Date: 20th February 2010
- Summary: TOYOTA CITY, JAPAN (FILE) (REUTERS) PRIUS CAR PASSING BY PRIUS BILLBOARD TOYOTA SIGN ASSEMBLED PRIUS VEHICLES PARKED IN FRONT OF FACTORY TOKYO, JAPAN (FILE) (REUTERS) TOYOTA AUTO SALON SHOWROOM SIGN OF TOYOTA AUTO SALON TOYOTA SHOWROOM TOYOTA EMPLOYEE TALKING TO CUSTOMER CUSTOMER LOOKING AT TOYOTA PRIUS PRIUS INTERIOR PRIUS WHEEL FRONT WHEEL BRAKE MORE OF PRIUS
- Embargoed: 7th March 2010 12:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Transport
- Reuters ID: LVA5TNYXRUKEVH7Z8GJB2XWEOURD
- Story Text: The president of Toyota Motor Corp said on Friday (February 19) that he intended to give a "sincere explanation" about the company's series of safety recalls when he testifies in the United States next week.
"I've received an official request and I believe this is an opportunity for me to give a sincere explanation, which I have been doing in Japan to send the message across the world," Toyota president Akio Toyoda told a group of journalists in the central Japanese city of Nagoya.
"I will humbly take in any criticism against our compliance. I'm not quite sure how well I can explain. However, I will do my best to express our feelings to our customers and the United States for everyone to understand," he added.
Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota's founder, accepted an invitation to testify next Wednesday (February 24) before a congressional panel.
His decisiondays of uncertainty about how the embattled automaker would respond to calls for a better response over its safety issues.
Toyoda had said he wanted to show that the firm is looking for the causes that led to the recall of about 8.5 million cars worldwide for problems with unintended acceleration and braking, according to Japanese media.
He previously told reporters that he would send the company's North American chief, Yoshimi Inaba, and that he had no plans to appear before the panel himself.
The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee invited Toyoda to the U.S. on Thursday (February 18), a month into a safety crisis that has tarnished the automaker's reputation, hurt sales and sapped profits.
Analysts say Toyoda's decision to testify is crucial to the automaker's future especially in the U.S.
"The fact that Toyota's president is going to the U.S. can send the message that Toyota really cares about U.S. consumers. Toyota should fully take advantage of this opportunity," said Yasuhiro Matsumoto, senior analyst at Shinsei Securities.
"U.S. consumers are gradually starting to lose confidence in Toyota. If other Japanese and foreign companies launched a negative campaign against Toyota, Toyota could now possibly lose its ground in the U.S. market," he added.
Shares of Toyota were little changed in Tokyo trade on Friday, having fallen some 20 percent since Jan. 21, wiping out more than 25 billion U.S. dollars in market capitalisation.
Japan's Nikkei average dipped 0.7 percent to 10,264.18 with investors turning cautious after the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to raise the discount rate jolted U.S. equities futures and commodities.
The broader Topix index slipped 0.7 percent to 898.71.
Toyota has recalled more than six million vehicles in the U.S. market for problems involving the accelerator pedal becoming stuck, either by a loose floor mat or because of a glitch in the pedal assembly.
Up to 34 crash deaths have been blamed on unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles since 2000, according to complaints tracked by U.S. regulators.
A separate recall is underway to fix software controlling the brakes on Toyota's Prius hybrid.
Toyoda, just seven months into his tenure in the top job at the automaker, has at times appeared uneasy with the heightened scrutiny.
The House oversight panel said it had also issued a subpoena for internal documents Toyota had fought to keep sealed in a legal battle with a former employee who had claimed the automaker routinely hid evidence of safety problems.
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