Toyota Finds Lapse In Training

Automaker said training of workers to maintain quality control failed to keep up with Toyota's rapid growth, and the problem became especially acute after 2002.

TOKYO (AP) -- Toyota's training of workers to maintain quality control failed to keep up with the automaker's rapid growth, company president Akio Toyoda said in an interview with a major Japanese business daily.

Toyoda, grandson of the automaker's founder, said the problem became especially acute after Toyota's global production and sales topped 6 million vehicles in its fiscal year 2002.

Toyota's quality controls have been under fire after massive global recalls starting late last year for defective gas pedals, faulty floor mats and flawed braking affecting more than 8 million vehicles, mostly in North America.

"It has been tough and frustrating emotionally for me, but we must accept it as an inevitable," he told Japan's top business daily The Nikkei in a front-page interview published Thursday.

Toyoda was widely criticized for being invisible when the quality woes surfaced last year. He has appeared since then at news conferences in Japan. He attended a U.S. congressional hearing last month on Toyota's recalls.

He has also appeared on a Japanese TV news show, as well as on CNN's "Larry King Live" in the U.S.

Earlier this week, he wrote in his Japanese blog for the first time since the recall troubles hit, apologizing to customers.

Writing under his handle Morizo, he said Toyota will "take seriously, accept humbly and respond sincerely" to criticism.

In the Nikkei interview, he promised to beef up quality controls, including promoting non-Japanese employees, to better respond to different customer needs, to become a "small Toyota," instead of focusing on sales expansion.

Entering an alliance with other automakers was not a priority with Toyota, and strengthening networking with suppliers and dealers is more important, he said. The decision on recalls would still remain with officials in Japan, although Toyota plans to become quicker in responding to complaints from overseas drivers, according to Toyoda.

In a move prompted by Toyota's recalls, Japan may require that all new vehicles have brakes that can override the gas pedals.

The requirement under consideration would apply to all cars sold in Japan, Transport Ministry official Kentaro Kai said Thursday. He gave no further details.

Toyota has said it will install a backup safety system in all future models and many current vehicles that can override the accelerator.

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