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Toyota chief apologises over flawed testing at group company

Mr Sato bowed as he made the apology (Kyodo News via AP)
Mr Sato bowed as he made the apology (Kyodo News via AP)

Toyota chief executive Koji Sato has apologised to customers, suppliers and dealers for flawed testing at a group company, following a series of similar problems in recent years.

The apology came a day before Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda was due to announce a “global vision” for the group.

The latest woes at Japan’s top carmaker involve testing required for Japanese government approval at Toyota Industries, which makes diesel engines.

False results were found in certification testing and other sampling inspections for engines which claimed the products met standards when they actually did not, according to Toyota.

Mr Sato said at a hastily-called news conference at Toyota’s Tokyo office: “We will do our utmost to resume production as soon as possible.

“Management was not able to fully comprehend and keep track of the details of what was happening on the ground.”

Toyota chief
Mr Sato acknowledged the flawed testing and apologised to customers (AP)

The skirting of required tests surfaced last year at Daihatsu, which makes small cars and is 100% owned by Toyota. That cheating, which came to light because of a whistleblower, spanned decades.

In 2022, Hino Motors, a truck maker that is also part of the Toyota group, said it had systematically falsified emissions data, going back as far as 2003.

No major accidents have been reported in connection with any of the cheating, but the news has raised serious questions about oversight at the companies, as well as at Toyota.

Production has stopped for many Toyota group models until proper testing can be carried out, although people who already own the models can continue to drive them safely, according to the companies.

Toyota chief bows
The Toyota chief acknowledged workers were under pressure (Kyodo News via AP)

When asked about the root causes of the repeated scandals, Mr Sato said better communication was needed among the companies, as well as a more thorough education about the importance of complying with rules.

He also acknowledged that workers were feeling pressurised into cutting corners in an intensely competitive industry. Toyota management needs to better understand what is happening on the ground as car industry technology rapidly evolves, Mr Sato said.

“We recognise that not only people at the testing site but also management did not have proper understanding of certification,” he added.

The latest problem affects 7,000 vehicles a month in Japan and 36,000 vehicles on a global level sold in Japan, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, but not in North America.

They include the Land Cruiser and Hilux sport utility vehicles.