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Panel Releases Report on Toyota Recall

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A Toyota Motor Corp. advisory panel recently issued a report detailing the company’s operations in connection to the auto recall in 2009 and 2010. In March 2010, Toyota President Akio Toyoda created the North American Quality Advisory Panel in response to the recall of millions of autos in the U.S. and abroad. The panel, led by former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, reviewed the company’s operations for more than a year before releasing a detailed report. Bloomberg.com reported flaws linked to unintended acceleration, specifically, floor mates at risk of jamming accelerators and sticky gas pedals sparked the recall. Toyota paid $48.8 million in fines and the company president, along with other officials, was called before Congress. According to Bloomberg, the panel reported Toyota “erred too much on the side of global centralization and needs to shift the balance somewhat toward greater local authority and control.” The flaws “hindered information sharing and contributed to miscommunication” and

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“delayed response time to quality and safety issues.” Toyota’s operations in North America are divided into units responsible for sales, engineering and manufacturing; therefore, the panel concluded the company would benefit from a unified structure and greater local authority to make decisions. The report highlighted Toyota’s disregard for vehicle complaints from outside sources. According to the advisors, the company initially treated consumer complaints about unintended acceleration “with a degree of skepticism and defensiveness.” Bloomberg reported Toyota “does not appear to treat feedback from external sources, including customers, independent rating agencies and regulators, the same way.” Adviser’s emphasized examination of complaints is critical. “There are sometimes very important signals in all those noisy data,” stated panel member, Brian O’Neill. Panel advisers noted Toyota also lacked a direct chain of managers responsible for safety issues. Toyoda said the recommendations have resulted in “meaningful steps” to Toyota’s North American operations more autonomy and make the company ever more focused on safety, reported Bloomberg. The panel discovered several issues with Toyota’s operations; however, the review did not include evidence of any additional causes for unintended acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Although the panel did not identify additional causes for unintended acceleration, panel member Brian O’Neill said, “There’s still a serious debate as to whether these [electrical faults] were serious safety problems.” In February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration terminated an investigation of Toyota models after NASA said it found no electronic causes of unintended acceleration during a 10-month review. Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, said the NASA report showed “deficiencies” in Toyota’s vehicle electronics, reported Bloomberg. In an email, Kane stated, “NASA identified numerous failures in Toyota electronic that could lead to unwanted acceleration.” The panel did not identify any problems “related to Toyota’s ability to fully integrate electronics and software or its methods for ensuring that changes in software don’t cause unintended consequences,” says Bloomberg. The company’s oversight of suppliers and other prevalent issues will be studied by the panel for at least one more year, said Slater.

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