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Japanese Dailies, Gov’t Blast Toyota Over Recall

Posted February. 08, 2010 09:08,   


The Japanese government and dailies have begun lashing out at Toyota Motor after having remained silent about the country’s top automaker’s massive recall of vehicles.

The about-face over Toyota turned visible from late last week, as the company merely took stop-gap measures for defects in its cars, including a braking problem in its new Prius hybrid model.

The leading Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun said in a Saturday editorial that Toyota made a belated decision to recall its vehicles after insisting on repairing the cars that drew complaints, adding the company was aware of the braking problems last fall.

The newspaper said Toyota responded slowly to the defects because it failed to think from a customer’s point of view. Companies that fail to meet customer demand for safety cannot survive, it said.

Another major daily, the Yomiuri Shimbun, also said in an editorial the same day that the Prius brake problem is a basic feature that should not be dismissed as a matter of driver’s sense.

Since Toyota cannot deny its excessive belief in high-tech equipment and disregard its customers’ voices, Yomiuri said, Toyota should fix the way it handles customer complaints.

The newspaper urged the carmaker to do its best to listen to criticism and ensure product safety and quality, warning that failure to properly respond to mounting censure in the U.S. market could undermine customer trust in Japanese-made products overall.

The Japanese government also joined in on the bandwagon of Toyota criticism. At a news conference Friday, Japanese Land and Transport Minister Seiji Maehara blasted the automaker’s failure to think from a customer’s perspective. He said Toyota should blame the Prius debacle on software settings because consumers are ultimately the ones who decide whether a car issue is big or small.

His message was that Toyota should quickly recall Priuses to alleviate consumer anxiety rather than downplaying or making excuses for the braking problems. Maehara is the first Japanese Cabinet minister to directly criticize Toyota since the massive recall. Toyota decided to recall Priuses the same day.