Embattled Toyota president, Akio Toyoda, was set to testify to a US Congressional hearings last month. The Congressional hearings will be an important part of Toyota's effort to rebuild its damaged reputation following the millions of safety recalls of its cars.
What has been most damaging for Toyota's reputation is the perception that the OEM has been less than forthcoming about safety issues - a perception reinforced by Toyota's constantly shifting explanations for the safety problems. Toyota has been very successful in portraying itself as being somehow different from a typical large corporation, but the safety case is in danger of undermining that unique image.
JAPAN’S transport minister, Seiji Maehara, expressed relief at Akio Toyoda’s decision to testify “It’s good that he has decided to accept [the invitation]. This is a safety issue on which people’s lives depend and it’s a manufacturers duty to respond firmly,” minister Seiji Maehara told a news conference. “But it’s a shame there was flip-flopping on the decision.”
The results of the Congressional hearings clearly could have enormous impact on Toyota's reputation in the marketplace and on its sales, production, and profits. Toyota's US sales dropped 16% in January to a ten year low whilst Ford and General Motors sales rose. But the case also has potentially important ramifications for Washington legislative and regulatory activity related to entire auto industry.