Sunday, May 2, 2010

Toyota launches division to integrate customer input

TOKYO — Toyota, its reputation battered by global recalls, is setting up a division devoted to feeding customer concerns into the design process to improve quality, the automaker said Friday.
Toyota Motor Corp. has been fighting to win buyer trust after getting slapped with a $16.4 million fine by the U.S. authorities for being slow in reporting defects.

The Japanese automaker has recalled more than 8 million vehicles around the world since October.

Toyota Motor Corp. said Kiyotaka Ise will head the new Design Quality Innovation Division, which was scheduled to start Saturday and is designed to more quickly reflect "customer feedback in designs." Ise formerly oversaw product and Lexus development.

Some of the production methods that have won Toyota worldwide praise for maintaining quality have to do with rank-and-file discipline and empowerment — ensuring that quality is maintained in the factories.

But the recent recalls were not caused by such problems, and instead appear to center around defects that didn't surface until users complained.

Toyota has recalled vehicles for defective gas pedals, faulty floor mats and a software glitch in the braking system.

Last week recalled about 50,000 Sequoia sport utility vehicles from the 2003 model year in the U.S. to fix an unexpected slowing of the vehicle caused by the electronic stability control system.

On Thursday, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee released a draft of what could become legislation to require new cars and trucks to carry black boxes to record crash information — part of Congress' response to Toyota's massive recalls.

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