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Toyota chair Akio Toyoda has said he takes full responsibility for a spate of scandals at some of the group’s closest affiliates and will “take action” as the world’s largest carmaker by sales tries to regain the trust of customers and regulators.
Toyoda on Tuesday apologised and said he “wanted to be the person that takes full responsibility” following recent disclosures of widespread problems with testing data at three affiliates: Hino Motors, Daihatsu and Toyota Industries.
Toyoda, who stepped down as president and chief executive last year, told journalists in Nagoya that he wanted to recreate a vision for the group companies. He added that although he had not yet decided on “specific or concrete activities”, he did intend to “to take action”.
Toyoda said he would be attending the annual meetings of the Toyota group affiliates this summer to “see what the companies are like from a shareholders’ perspective” and “what they are doing and have done”.
He also said he wanted group companies to select their leaders based on their abilities as “master drivers” — a Toyota designation that is based on technical skill and ability to judge the progress of a vehicle’s production — rather than on titles.
Toyoda’s intervention came after the group said on Monday that it was temporarily suspending shipments of 10 vehicle models, including the LandCruiser 300, after Toyota Industries admitted to irregularities in its engine power data.
That suspension came on the heels of Daihatsu’s revelation last year of widespread problems with crash safety testing dating back more than three decades. The Japanese government is revoking certification on three of the wholly owned subsidiary’s vehicles, essentially halting mass production until licences are regained.
Truckmaker Hino, which is majority-owned by Toyota, also lost some certificates in 2022 after admitting to falsifying emissions data.
The Toyota group — which retained its crown as the world’s largest carmaker last year, selling a record 11.2mn passenger vehicles with its subsidiaries included — is navigating the transition away from internal combustion engines.
On Tuesday, Toyoda reiterated the carmaker’s commitment to what it calls “a multi-pathway approach” that relies on a broad variety of cars being sold across more than 170 countries, although its battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) will remain unaffordable in many of them for years to come.
This month, Toyoda said he saw pure-electric BEV penetration topping out at 30 per cent and the level of adoption was “something that customers and the market will decide, not regulations or political power”. The remaining 70 per cent of vehicles would be hybrids, hydrogen-powered or have traditional petrol engines, he added.
Toyota’s strategy has led to some criticism that it is not moving fast enough towards BEVs and speculation that it might need to adjust its group structure to increase investment. It has already unwound some of its cross-shareholdings in an effort to mobilise resources.
Toyota sold 104,018 pure-electric vehicles in 2023 and is targeting 123,000 in its fiscal year to the end of March, lower than a previous target of 202,000.
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