Toyota QC and “culture” again, says it will increase safety by dealing with mechanical and cultural defects, with Japanese-only review panel


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Hi Blog.  As an update to the whole Toyota and safety issues (with people blaming them on cultural differences), now we have news that Toyota is actually going to “review defect measures” and “beef up quality controls” using “outsiders” for “independent scrutiny”.

I myself am not all that optimistic.  Toyota is, as the article says below, essentially “keeping it in the family”.  After previously penalizing an American QC expert for his scrutiny, they’ve anointed a blue-ribbon panel of experts who are Japanese only. Yeah, that’ll learn ’em about “cultural differences”, all right. Especially since the article below once again quotes Toyota as still trying to “bridge a cultural gap”.  As if culture is any factor here in making unsafe cars safe.  Enforced cluelessness.

Meanwhile, a US federal grand jury is subpoenaing Toyota to make sure the documentation doesn’t also continue to “stay in the family”. That article and video below too. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Toyota to study quality panel’s recommendations
By YURI KAGEYAMA (AP) – July 13, 2010 Courtesy of MD

TOKYO — Toyota will start studying an assessment of the company’s quality control conducted by four outside experts to help beef up quality controls at the recall-battered automaker under a program that began in March to review defect measures.

Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday it was tackling a number of improvements, including analyzing each accident and consumer complaint more thoroughly and boosting communication with journalists and other outsiders to be better at ensuring quality.

Toyota, the world’s top automaker, has seen its once sterling image for quality plunge since October after recalling more than 8.5 million vehicles around the world with defective gas pedals, faulty floor mats, software glitches and other problems.

Despite vowing to improve quality, the automaker has in some cases discouraged independent scrutiny. Electronic messages obtained by The Associated Press in the U.S. show Toyota was frustrated with Southern Illinois University Professor David Gilbert, whose research indicated that electronics might be to blame for unintended acceleration problems in Toyota cars.

The messages show Toyota not only tried to cast doubt on his findings but also made clear it was displeased. One Toyota employee questioned whether he should be employed by the university, which has long been a recipient of company donations.

In steps disclosed Monday as under way, Toyota said it is boosting collaboration between Toyota’s quality-related divisions and its legal division, beefing up training among employees to get a better grasp of customers’ views on vehicle troubles, and trying to obtain more input from third-party experts.

Toyota has added four academic and consumer experts, who were recommended by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers, which is not directly affiliated with Toyota. They are Hiroshi Osada, professor of management at the Tokyo Institute of Technology; Noriaki Kano, honorary professor at Tokyo University of Science; Yasuo Kusakabe, chairman of the Automobile Journalist Association of Japan and Yoshiko Miura, general manager at the Japan Consumer’s Association.

“Especially pressing is the need for establishing guidelines to steer crisis-management activity by the president and other members of senior management,” the panel said in a summary of their report. “Also pressing is the need for bridging the culture gap between Japan and other nations in public relations activities.”


SEC and Federal Grand Jury Are Investigating Toyota
Toyota Subpoenaed Over Sudden Acceleration Cases
ABC NEWS Feb. 22, 2010

A federal grand jury in New York and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into sudden acceleration in Toyotas.

VIDEO:  Koua Fong Lee, in prison for vehicular homicide, says Camry’s brakes didn’t work
Article and video at

The grand jury in the Southern District of New York issued a subpoena on February 8 asking Toyota and its subsidiaries to “produce certain documents related to unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles and the braking system of the Prius.”

According to documents filed with the SEC, Toyota also received a voluntary request and a subpoena from the Los Angeles office of the SEC on February 19 asking for production of “certain documents including those related to unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles and the company’s disclosure policies and practices.”

5 comments on “Toyota QC and “culture” again, says it will increase safety by dealing with mechanical and cultural defects, with Japanese-only review panel

  • No better way to bridge the culture gap than to have all the panel experts from one country.

  • We all know what “better understanding of cultural differences” means. It means accept whatever I have to say without question.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    May also help in the defense of lawsuits. As a cause of anything, culture is a pretty hard thing to disprove, or prove, depending on the attorney perspective needed at the time. Just sayin’.

  • John (Kostiuk) says:

    Here is a company with a different attitude towards NJ (and immigration):

    “Interview: Uniqlo chief Yanai calls on Japan to internationalize, accept immigration

    Fast Retailing Co. Chairman and President Tadashi Yanai at a recent interview with the Mainichi. (Mainichi)
    It has been some 20 years since Japan’s economic “bubble” burst, a disaster from which the country has still not entirely recovered. Yet even while the economy has been in a 20-year funk, casual clothing chain Uniqlo has seen explosive growth, and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing Co.’s President Tadashi Yanai has his sights set on globalizing the brand. How is the present state of the Japanese economy reflected in the success of this company and its president? The Mainichi asked Yanai to find out.

    Mainichi: The decades since the bubble burst is being called Japan’s “lost 20 years.” What do you think about that?

    Tadashi Yanai: I think Japan has been economically defeated. The United States has annual growth of 3-4 percent, and emerging economies growth of close to 10 percent. Meanwhile, over the past 20 years Japan has for the most part not seen any growth at all. The nation’s finances are also on the verge of collapse. If the market turns on us, I think there is a serious danger of Greece-like national bankruptcy. Foreign investors are going from having no interest in Japan, to worrying that the Japanese economy will never recover, that Japan is “crashing.” I think Japan is on the precipice.

    M: What do you think is the cause of Japan’s economic “defeat”?

    TY: I think Japanese people have succumbed to the delusion that we are rich, and so we’re satisfied with how things are and have stopped striving for growth. Japan is poor in both territory and resources, and we’ve been earning an income on exports. Even so, our standard of living has risen, companies are now able to make a certain level of profit just in the domestic market, and with the high yen consumers are able to buy imports cheaply — all leading us into the mistaken belief that Japan is an affluent nation.

    The government continues its useless expenditures and inefficient administration, and is now up to its eyeballs in an expanding deficit. As emerging economies rise and the world economy goes through drastic changes, Japan must open its eyes to the fact that it has lost the economic battle. Japanese people tend to think that Japan is more advanced economically and socially than other Asian countries, but if we continue with that delusion, we will not regain our former vitality.

    M: What do you expect from the government?

    TY: I want politicians to make sure the country does not go bankrupt. The national debt is now almost twice GDP, while annual government expenditures have topped 90 trillion yen against only 30-something trillion yen in tax revenue. Any country would collapse under those conditions. As the population ages, the government has a duty to provide medical and welfare services the people can count on, even if the country is not rich. Money should not be wasted outside these priorities. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration is very hot on distributing child allowances and household income support for farmers, but in a capitalist society, consideration of how companies, individuals and the country itself can earn an income is essential. Just sharing out cash doesn’t work.

    M: How can Japan return to growth?

    TY: By capturing the potential for growth in Asian and other countries. To do that, Japan should reduce tariffs and trade barriers and liberalize trade through signing free trade agreements with as many countries as possible, as well as accept immigration. Protecting the agricultural sector is always an issue with free trade agreements, but if Japan gets a late start, China and South Korea will snatch away Japan’s leadership position in Asian and global trade. If Japan falls behind in trade, the country must inevitably decline.

    The positive sides to immigration are enormous, as immigrants would both increase the population and stimulate the economy. If Japanese come into everyday contact with foreigners from childhood, it would also help alleviate Japanese people’s distaste for internationalization. Europe, the U.S. and all the other advanced nations in the world accept immigrants. As the economy grows more globalized, this is not an age when Japan can get along with Japanese people only.

    M: With Fast Retailing’s own moves toward internationalization in mind, do you feel a sense of danger over Japan’s current state?

    TY: Uniqlo has its roots in Ube, Yamaguchi Prefecture, which used to be a flourishing coal town. But the coal mines shut down, and around the time I was in junior high school, the local school closed, too. Many streets in the commercial district became “shutter streets” (streets lined with empty, shuttered shops), and if you didn’t go outside the city to earn money, there was no way the local economy would recover. Uniqlo made money and grew by doing business in Fukuoka, Osaka and other big cities. The entire Japanese economy is becoming like that, and if companies don’t head out into the world to places like Asia, they cannot grow. Happily, Japan has a full set of economic tools — skilled workers, good products, access to information, and technology. However, if we fail to think about how to make best use of those tools overseas, I don’t think Japan has a future.

    M: So, to make money overseas, there’s no getting around internationalizing your company structure?

    TY: We are making all Japanese staff at our headquarters and all employees at store manager level or higher study English to the point they can get a TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) score of at least 700 points in the next two years. (A perfect score is 990.) The number of our foreign employees is rising, English will be made Fast Retailing’s official language in fiscal 2012, and we are aiming to globalize company management. (Interviewed by Shinpei Ide, Business News Department)”

    (Mainichi Japan) July 25, 2010

  • Great find by John, at least one guy at the top is making sense. Maybe I’ll go shopping today 🙂

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