Speaking Out Could Be ‘Difficult’ at Toyota, Chairman Says; Akio Toyoda to ‘Lead Reforms from Standpoint of Shareholders’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Toyota Motor Corp. Chairman Akio Toyoda is seen at a press conference in Nagoya on Tuesday.

Toyota Motor Corp. Chairman Akio Toyoda admitted at a press conference on Tuesday that its affiliated companies found it difficult to speak up to Toyota regarding the string of irregularities at the group firms. The situation has shaken confidence in the quality of the group’s products, and the effectiveness of efforts to reform the group will be tested.

“We delivered products that shouldn’t have been sold because there was fraud in the certification [process]. We did something that should never have happened,” Toyoda said.

He bowed at the press conference on the group’s vision for the future held in Nagoya. The press conference lasted an hour, and many of the questions were about the fraud. Regarding the context of the case, he said that in some instances Toyota was making the orders and that “there is some truth in the claim that it can be difficult to speak up to Toyota,” he said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

All the fraud found recently occurred when Toyoda was president. He looked back on the damages caused by the economic downturn triggered by the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers and the flooding in Thailand and said, “To be honest, we had a series of crises and no leeway,” admitting that he failed to pay attention to the corporate governance of the entire group.

The instances of fraud were discovered successively after Toyoda was changed out as president of Toyota last year for the first time in about 14 years. He expressed his thoughts that a new atmosphere had been created by the management, making it easier for voices pointing out violations to emerge. “It has been one year since I left the presidency. I thought it was a good thing, in a sense, that various problems came to light,” he said.

When asked if there were any other irregularities within the group, he said, “Not as far as I know.” He also indicated that he believes it will take a considerable amount of time to restore trust in Hino Motors Ltd., Toyota Industries Corp. and Daihatsu Motor Co., where many irregularities were found.

From now on, he said he will clarify his position as the person in charge of the group and lead the reforms. As a specific measure, he explained that he will “look at the group from the standpoint of a shareholder” and will attend the general shareholders’ meetings of each affiliated company this year to exchange views with management.

The group’s vision for the future was originally scheduled to be announced on Feb. 14, the birthday of late founder Sakichi Toyoda, but was moved up in light of the string of fraud cases. The leaders of the group’s 17 major companies also gathered Tuesday, sharing the goal of coming up with a new pathway forward.

Masahiro Fukuda of the research firm Fourin Inc. said: “It is difficult to foresee whether [the reforms] can really be implemented. It is necessary to create an environment in which group companies can have frank discussions with Toyota.”