Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motors, is a lucky man. Lucky he’s living in the 21st Century. Because not so long ago, a Japanese man facing dishonor and public humiliation would have been expected to commit suicide.
Instead, Toyoda may only end up resigning in shame as more and more Toyota vehicles are recalled for serious mechanical and electronic defects. Today, the vaunted Prius was added to the recall list. And there are strong indications that some Corollas will also be recalled for an entirely new problem related to their steering.
Toyota is being savaged by the media. But even allowing for media hype and exaggeration, it’s becoming impossible to minimize the issue. Clearly there are problems, apparently widespread, serious safety problems related to acceleration, braking, and steering. Not exactly your garden variety door-sticking, window-leaking, glove-box-rattling gripes. These are the most basic, critical operating systems in any car. More and more the recalls suggest the possibility of a systemic problem with the company’s whole approach to design, testing, and assembly. And more and more, Toyota’s seemingly reluctant response suggests a lack of concern for safety and consumer confidence, once the company’s hallmark.
Yes, the rather secretive, slow-to-react, not-forthcoming Akio Toyoda is a very lucky man.