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Panel Cites Toyota's Centralized Management for Slow Recall Response

Posted: May 24, 2011 11:18 a.m.

An advisory panel appointed by Toyota released its report yesterday, which addresses safety concerns that have arisen in recent years. The panel, which is headed by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Rodney Slater, said that Toyota’s recalls since 2009 were due in part to centralized decision making that’s still too Japan-based.

However, Toyota’s management style wasn’t solely to blame. “The company's ‘skepticism and defensiveness’ toward consumer and other outside complaints also played a role, and Toyota should align itself more closely with the goals of U.S. safety regulators and less with industry lobbyists,” writes Automotive News regarding the panel's 60-page report. “The automaker also lacked a top safety executive until April, and the seven-member panel that is being paid by Toyota said it still couldn't ‘identify a clear management chain of responsibility for safety.’”

The panel’s criticisms have not fallen on deaf ears. “Over the past year, Toyota has learned a great deal from listening to the Panel’s valuable counsel,” Toyota’s President, Akio Toyoda, says in a press release. “Their advice has been reflected in the meaningful steps we’ve taken to give our North American operations more autonomy and become an even more safety-focused and responsive company.”

Additionally, the panel believes that recent changes may ultimately help the automaker better serve consumers. “Even with continued management issues, the panel apparently still has high hopes for the automaker's future,” reports Autoblog. “Slater adds that Toyota has been more proactive and is reacting to issues faster than before, and that the automaker is serious ‘about wanting to reclaim their valued perch of premier leader in auto manufacturing.’”

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